The relationship we have with our pets is unique- they give us companionship and entertainment in exchange for a few meals per day and basic care. However when a pet becomes chronically or terminally ill the complexity of this relationship can quickly escalate. The needs of very ill pets can be quite demanding and complex such that some owners may be unable to provide for their pet’s medical needs.
In the past owners of a terminally or chronically ill pet were given two options- treat or euthanize. However, a new and rapidly growing field of veterinary medicine is offering owners new options when caring for pet life ending illnesses. The Veterinary Hospice Care (VHC) provides end of life care by providing comfort to the patient and emotional support and education to the family.
Hospice focuses on providing comfort for a pet rather than a specific cure for his or her disease. Owners also have needs that must be met. According to Dr. Yaxley founder of the VHC educating owners in end of life care improves the pet and the owner’s wellbeing and the doctor’s success. Because hospice recognizes the patient and the family as the unit of care, it provides support to their mental, spiritual and emotional needs while helping families cope with the pending loss of their loved ones.
The VHC was established in 2011 at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine by founders Page Yaxley, DVM, DACVECC and Katherine Goldberg, DVM. It is the second veterinary academic hospital to offer hospice care with Colorado State University pioneering veterinary hospice. Since the VHCs inception three years ago, it has provided care to over 133 patients and their families.
In the Los Angeles area, several private veterinarians specialize in hospice care including: Lap of Love, Veterinary Home Hospice and Choice Veterinary Care among others.
Hospice provides terminal pets and their owners with compassionate care and guidance as the pet’s life approaches closure. It also provides families with support during their bereavement process. Hospice is not based on heroic medical interventions. Rather it focuses on how to improve the patient’s quality of life and optimize the families time spent with the pet through comprehensive nursing care as well as psychosocial and spiritual care for the patient and family.
If you would like more information on veterinary hospice care, additional information is available at the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and the Veterinary Society for Hospice and Pallative Care at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.