As with human hospice, pet hospice is a model for quality, compassionate care for pets facing an end-of-life diagnosis. Hospice care involves a coordinated team approach providing expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored specifically to the needs of the pet and the wishes of the pet family members. Central to pet hospice care is the belief that our pets have the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that those who love them will receive the necessary psychosocial and spiritual support.
This coordination of care continues throughout the care of the pet and continues with grief support following the passing of the pet.
What are the key components that incorporate the “hospice philosophy of care”?
1. The pet owner acknowledges that their pet is dying and is ready to make realistic plans to maintain the highest quality of life for their beloved pet.
2. Veterinary care is provided, using every resource available, to keep the pet free of pain and comfortable with the best quality of life possible.
3. Hospice care provides the psychosocial and spiritual support for all pet family members and provides continuing supportive services for the pet family members as needed following the pets’ passing.
Is Peaceful Passing for Pets supported by the veterinary community?
Absolutely. Peaceful Passing for Pets admission process is initiated by a referral from a Veterinarian.
Peaceful Passing for Pets’ Care Coordinators work alongside the Veterinarian serving as an extension of their services from the initial referral throughout the care of the pet while on hospice.
Our procedure is:
• Veterinarians initiate referrals to Peaceful Passing for Pets
• Peaceful Passing for Pets Care Coordinators make an initial home visit
• The Care Coordinators, in conjunction with the Veterinarian, will develop a Plan of Care
Initially we will pilot our services with eleven veterinary clinics/hospitals in the Twin Cities area. The starting date will be determined based on our fundraising status. As our services unfold we will update our website with names of veterinarians who refer to Peaceful Passing for Pets.
When is hospice care right for our pet and family?
- When a terminal diagnosis by your Veterinarian has been given
- When the focus of treatment has changed from aggressively treating the illness to providing comfort measures
Who is the primary caregiver and what are the responsibilities of the primary caregiver?
When your pet is on hospice care, you will be asked to identify a person as the primary caregiver, usually the pet owner. The primary caregiver is responsible for providing your pet’s daily care with assistance from the hospice team.
The primary caregiver ensures that care is provided 24 hours a day. Often this means sharing the responsibility of care with other family members, friends, or hired caregivers. Your hospice team does not provide 24-hour in home coverage and cannot replace care from those who love your pet.
The primary caregiver is an important member of the hospice team. Team members depend upon her/his observations of the pets’ daily progress and needs. S/he is included in all decision making regarding care.
What is a hospice “Plan of Care”?
A Hospice Plan of Care is an individualized plan based on a comprehensive assessment of the pet patient and the family members by the Veterinarian and the multidisciplinary team.
Care planning occurs as the members of the interdisciplinary team (Veterinarian, Care Coordinator, Social Worker, Chaplain, Therapists and Volunteers) share the findings of their discipline-specific assessments of the patient and family needs.
The perspectives of the disciplines that make up the hospice team and the individualized pet/family needs combine to create a framework for the Hospice Plan of Care (POC).
The blending of these assessments into one cohesive plan for the care of the terminally ill pet and family is the essence of hospice care planning. The uniqueness of this approach to care planning has been part of the hospice movement from its beginning.
Is euthanasia an option when a pet is on hospice care?
The focus for any pet receiving hospice care is a peaceful passing with pain and symptoms well managed.
If pain and other symptoms cannot be well managed, and a pet on hospice care is suffering, then the humane option of euthanasia is inclusive within the philosophy of pet hospice.
The American Veterinary Medical Association Hospice Guidelines “views veterinary hospice as care that will allow a terminally ill animal to live comfortably at home or in a facility, and does not believe that such care precludes euthanasia. The comfort of the animal must always be considered when veterinary hospice care is provided.”
When is the best time to learn about hospice care?
The best time to learn about hospice is before there is a crisis in your pet’s health.
Becoming knowledgeable about pet hospice care, what support it can provide and what services are available through it, will allow you the opportunity to think through the issues and discuss your preferences with your Veterinarian long before you are faced with the real decision.
What kind of diagnoses, diseases or conditions would be appropriate for hospice care?
The diagnoses, diseases or conditions that most frequently warrant hospice care include but are not limited to:
- Incurable organ failure
- Progressive neurological conditions, including dementia
- Elderly pet reaching end of life
What is palliative care?
Palliative care and hospice care are two separate concepts, though they are frequently confused and are used interchangeably because of their significant overlap.
Palliative care is the active total care for patients who are facing a serious illness that is not responding to curative treatment and has, as its’ primary focus, the relief from pain and other debilitating symptoms. Palliative care is not focused on curing the illness; rather it is focused on the best quality of life possible addressing psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. Palliative care can go on as long as it is needed, for months or years.
Animal palliative care guides animals’ caregivers (their human family members or owners) in making plans for living well based on the animals’ needs and on the caregivers’ needs and goals for care while providing caregivers emotional and spiritual support and guidance.