As a veterinarian specializing in end of life pet issues and in-home euthanasia I am often asked about veterinary hospice. People typically go to a hospice setting when they have been diagnosed with a terminal disease process, with no hope for a cure, to provide them with medical care to keep them as comfortable as possible until death occurs. Many times, you will hear the term “palliative care” which is treating symptoms of a disease (pain, nausea, etc.) but not the disease itself. Palliative care is comfort care, designed to make the patient comfortable.
Comfort care, in my opinion, defines hospice care for our pets. The goals are to help pets be pain free, to control nausea, prevent dehydration, and to provide nutrition. Comfort care may also include wound care, assisting with elimination, providing a comfortable, clean resting area, and assisting pets with mobility. Pets are not comfortable when they are struggling to breathe, so adjusting medication or veterinary intervention to ensure pets are breathing well is an important aspect of comfort care.
There are a variety of options for comfort care at home, including oral medications, injectable medications, topical medications, bandaging, fluids given under the skin and so forth. Your veterinarian can prescribe these medications for your pet, and there are veterinary technicians and assistants in the Madison area who will come to your home to provide assistance if you are unable to administer medication. There are some measures that require a visit to a veterinary hospital- placing a feeding tube, having intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics, and getting supplemental oxygen to name a few.
The big difference between human and veterinary hospice care
The big difference between human and veterinary hospice care is that we can provide a peaceful euthanasia for our pets when all our best efforts are no longer enough to keep our pet comfortable and happy. Every pet will eventually get to the point where comfort care is not enough to control pain, nausea, difficulty breathing, and other debilitating symptoms. My quality of life scale, JOURNEYS, is meant to help people decide when the time is right for euthanasia. I have been honored to assist families with their pet’s final journey, in the comfort and privacy of their own home. My hope is that every pet will pass peacefully at home surrounded by those they love before they are suffering and uncomfortable and unhappy.