Palliative & Hospice Care
Improving quality of life is our goal.
What is Palliative and Hospice Care?
Hospice care traditionally refers to the care given to a terminally ill patient, or the care given at the end of a life. Our goal with pet hospice and palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both you and your pet, for whatever time you have left together. The focus is on keeping your pet comfortable, while supporting you and your family and offering guidance on your pet’s continued care. For some families, this may last for months, for others, only days. Our hospice and palliative care program allows you and your pet to remain together at home during this precious time and avoid stressful repeat visits to the veterinary hospital.
In 2017, Dr. Sara was one of the first veterinarians in the world to receive Certification in Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, a rigorous 16 month course from the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. Dr. Allison completed her program and received certification in August of 2020. All of the doctors at Compassion 4 Paws strive to continually improve the care offered to pets and their families, and remain up to date on the latest knowledge in the field.
What is the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?
While hospice care typically refers to the care given at the end of life, palliative care is comfort care that can be given at any time during a pet's life. Hospice care always involves palliative care, but palliative care doesn't automatically include hospice care, in its traditional sense. It is important to realize that in the later stages of a pet's life, or following a diagnosis of a terminal illness, the goal is to manage discomfort, improve quality of life, and support the family through difficult decisions, regardless of the label of care.
How can in-home Palliative and Hospice Care help my pet?
Dr. Sara and her team tailor their hospice and palliative care to the unique needs of each pet, and work closely with each family to develop a plan that fits. Each situation is a bit different, as each pet is unique. The care plan may involve medications to relieve pain and nausea, fluid therapy and nutritional guidance. Because we are in the place where the pet is most comfortable, we are more likely to observe an accurate picture of their comfort or pain level. A further benefit of in-home visits allows us to offer suggestions to improve the pet’s immediate surroundings. Examples may include raising food bowls, laying carpet runners to help traction or changing litter box style to make it easier for older kitties to get in and out. Our visits also include a quality of life assessment as we provide the tools to help you further assess your pet's level of discomfort, and help you determine the "right" time to say good-bye.
The length of time a pet spends in our care program depends on the individual pet, and may vary between days and months. Some pets, such as dogs with arthritis and mobility issues, may even be kept comfortable and managed for longer periods of time.
Does Hospice Care always lead to Euthanasia?
In some cases, euthanasia may not be desired or needed and the pet may die a natural death at home. This is similar to a true human hospice model. At Compassion 4 Paws we strongly believe that euthanasia should be considered if it is the most compassionate choice to alleviate the pet’s suffering. However, we will support a natural death when appropriate and preferred by an owner.
Initial Palliative/Hospice Care Consultation
This in-home consultation includes:
- Review of your hospice intake form
- Comprehensive review of your pet's medical records
- Thorough physical exam
- Assessment of your pet's environment with recommendations for modifications if applicable
- Quality of life assessment and the tools to help you decide when euthanasia might be considered
- Personalized medical management plan
- A comfort kit in case of emergency, if appropriate
- Pain assessment ("how do I know if my pet is in pain?")
- In-depth discussion of your pet's disease process and expected trajectory
- A discussion surrounding the euthanasia process, and how to prepare for loss
- A discussion regarding your options for aftercare
- Follow-up support
In-home Hospice/Palliative Care Recheck Consultation
*for existing hospice/palliative care patients only*
There may come a time when a new issue arises, or conditions change, and you would like the doctor to revisit you and your pet. During this appointment, she will offer guidance based on your pet's recent history and observations. She will perform an exam which will allow her to compare your pet's physical condition from the previous visit. During this visit, the doctor may be able to offer measures or medications to improve your pet's quality of life, or she may gently recommend you reconsider your "lines in the sand" that suggest it is time to say good-bye. There is no limit on the number of recheck consultations that we may provide for you and your pet; that is dependent on your wishes and need for support and guidance.
Virtual Hospice/Palliative Care Recheck
*for existing hospice/palliative care patients only*
This virtual/online visit is a chance for our doctor to check-in on you and your pet to discuss how they are doing, and address any questions or concerns you may have. The doctor will be able to visually assess your pet, however will obviously be unable to perform a thorough physical exam. This visit may be appropriate for our families who want to discuss their pet's current condition or worries, or perhaps are thinking it is time for euthanasia and would like additional guidance from the doctor.