Old North End Veterinary Clinic
57 North Champlain Street, Burlington, VT 05401
802-658-2202



Killian and Fang

Hospice Care of Pets

Hospice care is the compassionate care of the terminally ill or dying. In veterinary medicine, the word “pawspice” was coined but I prefer to stay away from the term. Pawspice is too cute for me. This is a process that requires earnest and dignified discussion. As a house calls veterinary service, we frequently assist in the care of pets in their final days and hours. We take this responsibility very seriously.

The goal of hospice is to provide palliative care…… to alleviate pain, suffering, discomfort and anxiety associated with a terminal condition or advanced age. With people, a fear of dying or the unknown may be a factor. This is not an issue with pets. We have no reason to think animals fear death any more than an animal worries about something that might happen tomorrow.

Animals may not worry but they do experience pain, and they are programmed to hide it. They also experience hunger, nausea, and anxiety. These are all conditions that can be treated, even when a disease or condition cannot be cured. It has been said many times because it is true: death is inevitable but suffering is not.

Our goal is not to prolong life but to alleviate discomfort, pain, nausea, anxiety, and dehydration for as long as it is humane, and to do this in a comfortable (home) environment. One rule in hospice care is “no more diagnostics.” At this time in a life, we treat symptoms, not lab results. I will not recommend diagnostics (x-rays, blood work, ultrasound) unless you decide you want more information. We have medications for pain, nausea, anorexia, appetite stimulation, diarrhea, anxiety, and inflammation, and fluids can be given for dehydration which, even by itself, is uncomfortable. I will discuss the possible side effects of any medicine prescribed but once a pet is in hospice, long term side effects are of little consequence. The goal is simple: Relief. Today.

We will not perform procedures or provide medication when further care is only to extend the life for the benefit of the human when there is no hope for relief for the pet. We will discuss your options and expectations. Sometimes, when a diagnosis is unexpected and the prognosis is very dire, our goal may be to alleviate symptoms for just one day to give a family a few hours to say goodbye. Other times, we can achieve a comfortable life for an extended period with frequent conversations or visits, as needed for the pet’s changing condition.

In the end, we hope to provide comfort to both the animal and their humans during the pet’s last days on this earth. And, when it is time, we can assist with a peaceful euthanasia. (Click Here)


HOW DOES HOSPICE WORK?

Call our clinic and leave a message requesting hospice care. Becky or Crystal will call to arrange an appointment. Typically, appointments are at your home but it can be at the Old North End Clinic, if your pet can travel.

At the first appointment, it is best if you have copies of your pet’s current medical records, if there has been a recent vet visit. This helps me know exactly what conditions we are addressing. I will discuss with you what to expect from the progression of the disease. If it is old age, we’ll address that, including associated ailments and frailties. We will discuss signs of pain, quality of life, and will develop a plan for your pet’s pain control, nutrition, hydration, and when appropriate, hygiene, wound management, and other therapies available (e.g. acupuncture, laser). I may also discuss simple environmental changes, in the home, that might help.

When appropriate, I will put together a home care kit for your pet. Each kit is patient dependent, designed to help one specific patient. A kit might contain something for pain, for nausea, for anxiety, for seizures, or for better sleep. If there are wounds or lesions, we will address wound care. If possible and necessary, I will teach you to give your pet fluids subcutaneously to prevent dehydration. Together, we’ll put together a short or longer term strategy for you and your pet.

We will also go over your plans for end of life care. This is for when medication and home care no longer provide relief. In spite of all our efforts and wishes, death is both inevitable and unpredictable. To achieve a peaceful death, without suffering, requires planning. I strongly believe that hope is not a plan. We cannot just hope that an animal dies in his sleep.


Dear Old Fang
Blu with lymphoma at age five