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What is Animal Hospice?

March 12, 2013 3 comments

Definition

Merriam-Webster(.com) defines hospice as, “a facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill.”  The definition of animal hospice will often depend on who you ask and what they have to offer you.  To compare to animal hospice, break down the (human) definition into ints components:

16yo dog, Oscar

  • a facility or program
  • to provide a caring environment
  • meeting the physical and emotional needs
  • terminally ill

All of the above can be met when supporting our pets with animal hospice.

Facility or Program

Hospice is a philosophy and care plan more than a place.  While human hospice facilities exist for patients in hospice that are medically too fragile to stay home, may families utilize skilled nursing facilities with the added support of a hospice support team that come to the facility.  As of this writing, there are no known animal hospice facilities to board and provide 24/7 care.  There are veterinary clinics, including 24 hour clinics that support hospice services compliment the hospitalization.  Animal sanctuaries may also support animal hospice.  As these require the pet parent to give up their pet, it is not considered a hospice facility as a resource for care.

A caring environment

For humans, hospice often happens at home.  For an elder man, not recovering well after a heart attack, hospice is in the hospital.  For a woman in a care facility for her dementia, hospice is in the facility.  It is important to note that hospice can happen anywhere.  In this regard, the animals are no different.  In most cases, hospice for our pets will happen at home.  If a dog is hospitalized when his cancer creeps into his lungs, hospice can happen at the vet clinic.  When a cat is hit by a car and a veterinarian can get her comfortable until the kids get out of school to come say goodbye via in-home euthanasia, this is also animal hospice.

Meeting the physical and emotional needs

The physical and emotional needs of the animal being met is the activity that one might consider hospice on a logistical level.  This is also the part of the definition that defines a team.  At Animal RN, we believe that animal hospice starts first with pain management and identification.   Once pain is addressed, then we can get into details on the hospice plan and creating a team to help support the individual.  By utilizing a team, families are able to provide quality, loving care while saving money and assuring comfort.  The emotional needs component is a wonderful variable that changes from one family to the next.  What we know from work with humans and our experience is that joy is an important part of life.  As we age, what brings us joy shifts.  That joy is what makes the effort of hospice so worth it.  Its not about extending life, its about living.  As one woman described her experience with her dog in hospice, its not about adding time, its about the time being precious.

Terminally ill

The diagnosis or suspicion of a terminal illness is the difference between animal hospice and palliation.  Hospice means we have the diagnosis or a high likely-hood determined by a veterinarian.  To simplify, palliation is the application of the hospice philosophy without a confirmed terminal diagnosis or limited (6 month) prognosis.

For most people, the terminology doesn’t matter.  Call it what you want, so long as your taking outstanding care of the animal.  The terminology may play a bigger role in the future as pet insurance and more veterinarians get involved in animal hospice and palliation.

At Animal RN, our definition of animal hospice and how we support it everyday is so much deeper and more involved than the dissection of this one definition.  To find out more, subscribe to this blog or check out our website http://www.animalrn.com.

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