Q: My dog is old, and I worry about what her life will be like toward the end. Is there such a thing as hospice care for pets?
A: There is, and you are a wonderful pet parent for thinking of it. End-of-life care is a way to ensure that you have more time with your beloved dog while also preventing suffering.
Pet hospice — or "pawspice," as veterinary oncologist Dr. Alice Villalobos calls it — allows you time to make decisions about treatment or euthanasia for animals with a terminal illness and to prepare yourself emotionally for their death.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers guidelines to practices that wish to offer such services to their clients and patients, but hospice is different for every pet and family. Some animals may be able to live at home and be cared for by family members, while others may benefit from staying in a facility that offers care, comfort and quality of life. Even in a facility, you can still be involved in your animal's care.
To enter a pet hospice facility, patients must have a terminal illness with a short life expectancy, according to the AVMA. The end-of-life care team is made of a veterinarian and staff who are trained in palliative care and pain management for animals with terminal illnesses. They will also act as advocates for the animals in their care. Staff may also include counselors who can guide you in evaluating your pet's quality of life and help you when it's time to make the decision to give your dog a painless exit from life through euthanasia.
Your veterinarian may be able to refer you to a pet hospice facility certified by the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care.
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