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Hospice Helps Cope with Loss

End of life care. We don’t like to think about it, but this is a part of life that we all must face at some point. And no matter how many times we go through the process, it never gets any easier to say goodbye.

When I was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, my parents had never been through the death of a fur kid before.

From the earliest days of my diagnosis, they wondered how they would know when my time had arrived. Would it be dramatic? Would I slowly deteriorate? Would we have time to say goodbye?

They found tips to help measure my quality of life, talked to my vet, and when it became clear that no amount of medical intervention was going to make me feel better, we all knew it was time to say goodbye.

But sometimes end of life decisions aren’t so clear. When things look murky, finding someone who can help guide you through the process is something to consider. That’s when animal hospice care is a good idea.

Hospice Care for Dogs?

In an article called “Hospice Care for Dogs” (Dog’s Life Magazine, November 2010) author Kyra Kirkwood says hospice care is:

“A type of care system or facility that focuses on providing comfort and support to patients nearing the end of their lives. It doesn’t prolong life or cure any disease; it is palliative care.

Hospice care focuses on keeping pain to a minimum and letting the last months, weeks or days be as peaceful and dignified as possible. It’s about quality of life, not quantity. It’s about living the rest of the days as pain-free and humanely as possible. A team of qualified professionals, from doctors to counselors, work with the patient and family to provide this.

Hospice care also focuses on the loved ones left behind. Bereavement and counseling services are often part of hospice programs, which can take place in the patient’s home or in a medical-type facility.

Now, this same operating model is being used with dogs. Hospice care, which almost always takes place at the dog’s home, allows pet guardians to enjoy the time left with a pet, wrap their minds around the diagnosis and eventual outcome, and say goodbye. It’s about making the most of what is left, and then letting go.”

In her article, Kirkwood says that “Hospice care is relatively simple. It involves the use of pain medications to keep the dog comfortable, fluids for hydration, and possibly other services such as:

  1. Nutritional assessment and recommendations (perhaps a feeding tube or other feeding assistance, too).
  2. Steroids to decrease inflammation and increase appetite.
  3. Acupuncture, massage therapy and acupressure.
  4. Subcutaneous fluids and anti-nausea medication. These are done at home, most often by the guardian.”

We strongly encourage pet pawrents to read Kirkwood’s fantastic article to learn more about how hospice can help make a heart wrenching time of life just a little bit easier for the family. Even if you don’t need it now, if you have pets, at some point you will want to refer to it, so be sure to bookmark it.

Have you been through hospice with an animal before? If so, how did it work for you? Would you recommend it to others?

We would love to hear your experiences.

One Response to “Hospice Helps Cope with Loss”

  1. what a great article. this is definitely something we all need to be ‘thinking’ about, even though it’s hard. hopefully it will become more mainstream to have hospice care considered as part of our vet’s practice.

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