Veterinary Pet Hospice

Illness and death do not happen because medicine fails. They happen because it is the natural progression of life.

~ Dr. Dani McVety

Please note that our in-home hospice services are currently on hold, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to support the increased demand for peaceful euthanasia at home. We do, however, offer a Teleadvice service that will connect you to one of our knowledgeable hospice veterinarians via phone or video chat.

What is veterinary dog hospice and cat hospice?

Veterinary hospice for dogs and cats is a family-focused, medically supervised, team-oriented service that is dedicated to maintaining the comfort and quality of life for terminally ill or senior pets until a natural death occurs or the family elects euthanasia.

Originally modeled after human hospice, this specific type of care is focused on the comfort of your pet, not on finding a cure for their illness or disease. Please note that veterinary hospice does not include any blood work or diagnostic services. Our goal is to maintain the bond between humans and animals while focusing on comfort.

Hearing the dreaded words “there’s nothing else we can do” doesn’t mean that your only option is euthanasia. Veterinary hospice care is a unique approach to the needs your pet has at the end of their life. This approach focuses specifically on managing symptoms and maintaining their happiness for as long as possible.

Why choose veterinary hospice?

You might have already received your pet’s diagnosis of a terminal illness or are managing advanced aging in your pet (see Geriatric Care). Or maybe you need to buy some time before your family has a chance to say goodbye. Whatever your case may be, we promise we’ve heard it all.

There is always more we can do to help ease the process of death. Pain medications with proper instructions on dosages, along with a specific and powerful symptom management protocol, are essential tools for easing everyone’s peace of mind.

Hospice care revolves around the client-doctor relationship while adding interdisciplinary supplemental services to help support the family. The most important aspect of hospice care is education about your pet’s medical condition, and this is what our veterinarians spend the most time on.

You deserve to have all the information you can get in order to make the best decision for your family and your pet. And, while we cannot make that decision for you, we can assist you by sharing our medical knowledge to help you make a plan that meets the needs of your pet and respects the wishes of your family.

Veterinary hospice care may include, but is not limited to...

  • Education about the end-stage disease process
  • Pain recognition and treatment
  • Subcutaneous fluids
  • Supplementary nutrition
  • Management of incontinence
  • Bandage and wound care

When it comes to the end-of-life stage for your pet, there are many things that can be done at home to make them more comfortable. Visit the Resource Center on our website to get more information. We also encourage you to speak with your family’s veterinarian about additional comfort-oriented care for your pet.

And if you'd find it helpful to connect with other families who have been through this difficult process, please visit our Facebook page to read their posts and listen to their stories.

Reaching the end together.

Choosing a natural death

When euthanasia isn’t an option for personal or religious reasons, a “natural passing” is typically selected in its place.

Before you decide a natural passing is right for your family, there are some very important things to note. If you are not in the mind space to hear sensitive information, we encourage you to skip this section, as you might find it upsetting.

A true “natural death” is not quick or painless. In nature, predators remove the weakest or slowest animal from the pack, and they do this by force and violence. But our pets are not in a natural environment—if they were, most would not reach old age. Therefore, a “natural passing” is really more like an “unassisted biological death.”

While it’s true that some pets (and humans) will simply close their eyes and not wake up, that’s rarely the case. Medical euthanasia allows your pet to “go to sleep and not wake up,” whereas Mother Nature doesn't. The kind of natural death a pet will experience is dependent upon the primary disease the pet has been diagnosed with. For example, heart failure results in the lungs filling up with fluid, and therefore—please read this with caution—a pet drowning to death. In short, death occurs when the brain fails to receive adequate levels of oxygen. And as you may know or can imagine, how this happens—how long it takes to fully occur and the mental state of your pet during this process—isn't an easy thing to witness.

Please keep in mind that, although the above paints a gloomy picture of unassisted biological death, it is intended to address the most common reasons why families shy away from euthanasia. However, death will occur whether or not euthanasia is chosen. Death is the opposite of birth, not the opposite of life, and our species passes away without these medications every day.

Please note: Although not the primary goal of veterinary hospice, an unassisted death can be honored and supported the same way euthanasia is.

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