Animal or Pet Hospice is Palliative or Comfort Care for pets who are experiencing end of life either because of old age or a terminal illness. Its goal is to maximize the pet's Quality of Life (QOL) until such time as the pet passes peacefully on its own or the pet's suffering is unremitting and the pet parent makes the decision to end this suffering by having his/her pet euthanized. Euthanasia means Mercy Killing and is meant to be used as a last resort to end unproductive suffering. It is NOT for killing an animal simply because there is no room for it at a shelter or because it hasn't been adopted or because you no longer want to have the pet or because you can't afford medical attention for your pet.
Pet Hospice involves pain management, symptom management, adjustments to the environment to allow the pet as much mobility and enjoyment of his/her life as possible. It is also extremely beneficial for the pet parent(s) as it allows him/her to plan ahead, to enjoy those last days/weeks/months/years with their pet and to have a support team there to help them with their pet and who will be there for them after the loss.
Animal Hospice is a team effort. The pet owner, the pet's veterinarian and the animal chaplain work together to maximize the pets QOL and to support the pet parent while the pet is in hospice care and, later, in deciding when it may be time to consider Euthanasia for your pet. The animal chaplain can be with you and your beloved pet while the veterinarian helps your pet die without pain. And when your pet dies the animal chaplain will be there by your side to offer comfort, funeral services, bereavement & grief support.
Quality of Life or QOL is your pets ability to perform and enjoy his/her normal life activities. This includes, but isn't limited to your pet . . .
-being able to walk or stand without assistance (with or without medication).
-not experiencing pain (or his/her pain is able to be controlled at least 75% of the time).
-having no medical issues beyond routine preventative care.
-not experiencing coughing, wheezing or exercise intolerance -or- only has occasional bouts of the above (less than 2 minutes) and/or responds well to medication to keep it under control.
-being able to urinate, defecate and groom themselves without assistance -or- with only minimal assistance from you.
-eating and drinking normally -or- at least only eating slightly less than usual of their regular food. S/he may be eating more slowly, but eats all his/her food.
-enjoys you, the family and other pets.
-still enjoys those activities that brings him/her pleasure.
Now that you have a better understanding of what Pet/Animal Hospice is and how Quality of Life is defined you can use the FLOW CHART shown on the "Flow Chart Tab" to determine if Hospice Care is appropriate and when Euthanasia may be the most humane and loving gift you can give your beloved pet.
Remember, though, Hospice Care may extend your pets QOL and the time you get to spend with your pet, but eventually, when your pet's QOL is diminished and his/her suffering increases then the Euthanasia Option may have to be revisited. Some pets just lie down and pass away quietly. Others may need their pet parent(s) to make the decision to end their suffering. Either way you will be doing the best you can for your pet.
Working as a team with your Veterinarian and Animal Chaplain (or spiritual advisor) you will be able to make the most informed and best decision(s) for your pet's care right up to his/her last breath at the end of life.
www.vet.osu.edu/honoringthebond (information from the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center including QOL assessments)
http://www.aahanet.org (AAHA is the American Animal Hospital Association. Can answer many petrelated questions)
http://www.aplb.org/resources/quality-of-life_scale.php (The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. Has a QOL scale)