Most people are familiar with the concept of hospice and palliative care in human medicine. Hospice and palliative care are growing areas of veterinary medicine as well. Hospice and palliative care generally refers to care provided to patients after a diagnosis of a terminal or incurable illness. The goal of hospice and palliative care is to provide your pet with a good quality of life free of pain and suffering during their final days to months. This care is focused on providing comfort, management of pain, and relief of anxiety. It is not focused on providing a cure. This type of care focuses on the partnership between the pet, the family members, and the veterinary team. We educate you on your pet’s medical condition, and what to expect in the last weeks, days, and hours of your pets life. We counsel you on how to assess your pet’s quality of life, and when and how to determine when euthanasia may be the best option for your loved one. If a natural death is preferred, we will work with you to develop a plan to help you and your pet through the transition.
Veterinary hospice care includes, but is not limited to:
- Education: First and foremost, we want to provide you with the education and resources necessary to understand your pet’s condition. We will provide you with written instructions tailored to your individual pet’s care. For some disease conditions, we have brochures or client education handouts available.
- Pain management: We focus on providing a multi-modal pain management program for your pet.
- Nutritional and fluid support: We will discuss the best method of nutritional and fluid support for your pet. This may involve subcutaneous fluid therapy as well as assisted feeding via nasogastric tube or syringe feeding.
- Wound care and bandaging: Some patients may require regular wound care or bandaging. Our veterinary team will provide you with the instructional training to provide this care at home.
- Anti-anxiety and behavioral modification medication: Many senior patients develop anxiety or other behavioral changes. We will discuss these changes with you and explore treatment options for your pet.
- Management of incontinence: Some pets develop incontinence. We will discuss methods of management specific to your pet’s condition.
While all of our doctors provide hospice and palliative care, Dr. Jennifer Blair and Dr. Patricia Novak have a special interest in this area of practice. Both are members of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC), an organization dedicated to promoting the knowledge of, and developing guidelines for, comfort-oriented care to companion animals as they approach the end of life.
In addition, Dr. Blair will be pursuing advanced training in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and acupuncture beginning in June 2015. Our goal is to be able to provide a blend of both traditional Western and Eastern medicine for your pet at St. Francis.
When the time approaches for your pet to transition from this life, we will discuss the options available to you for humane euthanasia. Many of our clients prefer at-home euthanasia within the comforts of your pet’s own home. We will also help counsel you on the options available for after-care of your pet.