One of the many things I love as a veterinarian is the opportunity to learn. As with many professions, mine is very dynamic – to be stagnant would be a disservice to my patients and clients. I returned last week from the 3rd Annual IAAHPC conference in Denver with a wealth of knowledge.
The IAAHPC is the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. This is a phenomenal group of individuals – veterinarians, veterinary technicians, human health care providers, spiritual and grief counselors, and many more. They all came together for three wonderful days of lectures and camaraderie.
That does the IAAHPC do?
The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care is dedicated to promoting knowledge of, and developing guidelines for, comfort-oriented care to companion animals as they approach the end of life.
IAAHPC promotes hospice/palliative care for animal companions as an alternative to premature euthanasia and as an alternative to prolonged suffering which can result either from isolating an animal in intensive care or from inadequately treating the animal at home.
IAAHPC emphasizes the terminally ill animal’s quality of life and recognizes that hospice/palliative care provides the animal’s family precious quality time with the animal, and helps the family cope with the approaching death of their beloved companion. –www.iaahpc.org
Most of us are familiar with hospice care for humans. What does it mean for our animal friends? The definition that I feel best represents what hospice care should entail was stated by Dr. Amir Shanan, founder of IAAHPC. He states that “Animal hospice is care for nonhumans with life-limiting illness, focused on the patient’s and family’s needs, on living life as fully as possible until the time of death (with or without intervention) and on the end of life as an opportunity for closure and growth.”
“Palliative care” is often used interchangeably with ‘comfort care’. Palliative care focuses on relieving the patient’s symptoms – pain, nausea, anxiety, constipation, etc. Palliative care is always a component of hospice care but patients can receive palliative care while they continue to undergo active treatment. We want to relieve adverse symptoms to provide the best quality of life at any stage.
I feel very fortunate I was able to attend this conference – I learned so much valuable information. A few of the topics included – nutritional support at end-of-life care, palliative care and cancer, supplements, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, and pain medication (my favorite talk). It was so wonderful to be among a group of like-minded people who all strive towards the same goal – the comfort and peace of our animal companions. I have already marked my calendar for the 4th Annual IAAHPC Conference October 9-12, 2014 in Indianapolis.