Friday, October 7, 2011

Pet hospice care

The subject of when (or if) to euthanize a pet that is terminally ill or in chronic pain is a touchy one for many. In previous posts, we’ve talked a bit about consulting your veterinarian about situations in which putting your pet to sleep might be the most humane thing to do; however, it’s also important to look at the other side of things, because a lot of veterinarians now offer pet hospice care as an alternative to euthanasia—and some vets even specialize in hospice care.

Pet hospice care works much the same way as hospice for humans; terminally ill pets are given extended care intended to strengthen the quality of life during their last days. In many cases, the pet can receive hospice care while remaining at home with his/her owner.

Additionally, there are times when the best care cannot alleviate the suffering of the dog, cat, bird or other animal, and the animal’s quality of life cannot be improved—at which point, you might want to address the question again with your vet as to whether it is humane to try to keep the animal alive.

As with any end-of-life choice, there are pros and cons to pet hospice care. On the plus side, hospice offers families the chance to spend time with the pet, to cope with the idea of impending death, and to say goodbye.

Additionally, a veterinarian who offers hospice care is likely to be very compassionate, and while there are exceptions (and you should certainly research any pet hospice facility before placing your pet there), there’s a very good chance that your beloved friend will certainly receive compassionate, humane treatment during his/her final days.

On the negative side, extended care for a pet can be costly (and unless you carry some sort of insurance for your pet, you will absorb the expense).
So which choice is right for you and your pet in circumstances like these?

Only you and your vet can make those decisions, and they are admittedly not easy ones to make. If you and your vet feel a pet’s quality of life could be improved through hospice care, or if you have a strong moral or emotional conviction against euthanizing a pet, then pet hospice may be a good alternative for you and your special friend.

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