Palliative Care or Hospice?

The option of palliative care should be offered to the client when there is a chronic, progressive, or terminal diagnosis. Palliative care consists of symptom and pain management that can be provided along with curative treatment. Palliative care develops a plan and provides guidance for the family in symptom and disease management, pain management, and physical or rehabilitation therapy, which helps minimize the suffering of patients regardless of life stage.

If a client is facing an end-of-life decision for their pet, hospice, which is the end stage of palliative care, can be considered.72 Hospice provides services in addition to palliative care to later-stage, terminally ill patients and their families, such as planning for the decline of the pet with their particular disease, dealing with a crisis that may arise, and how the family would like the animal to die, such as by euthanasia or a palliated death from their disease. Regardless of the disease stage, the clients are empowered to care for their pet, spend quality time with their pet, and deal with anticipatory grief.

For palliative or hospice pets and their families, discussing disease trajectories and the clinical signs of approaching and imminent death is important. A daily and crisis plan should be developed with the goals of providing ongoing care for the patient and support for the family. Finally, a discussion of the plan for death, whether it be euthanasia or palliated death, is needed. If a palliated death is chosen, the use of palliative sedation should be discussed. If euthanasia is the choice, the options could be presented at the initial consultation and further discussed in future follow-up appointments. Clients may opt for a home euthanasia service as these have become more readily available.

The 2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats are generously supported by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, CareCredit, IDEXX, and Zoetis.

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