At-a-glance highlights

For many pet owners, the events surrounding their pet’s end of life are as important and meaningful as the sum of all the care provided by the practice team during the lifetime of that pet.

The authors have proposed a new life stage for pets: juvenile, adult, senior, and end of life. The successful management of each life stage improves a pet’s quality of life as well as the bond their owner has with your hospital.

After the loss of a pet, 30% of pet owners experience significant grief and 50% will doubt their decision following euthanasia.1,2 Providing regular, empathetic communication and non-judgmental support during this time can be an invaluable service to your clients.

How clients view the healthcare team’s response following the loss of a pet is a critical factor in their continued advocacy for and loyalty to the practice.

Periodic follow-up initiated by the healthcare team is vital to addressing and responding to concerns stemming from the decisions associated with the hospice/end-of-life treatment plan or euthanasia.

Conversations about EOL, death, and grief with a bereaved client are never easy. There are many resources available for healthcare professionals to improve their communication skills and comfort with these sensitive topics.

Healthcare team members who work with EOL patients and their owners and are immersed in an environment of intense emotional and physical suffering, often of extended duration, with little group awareness and support, are at higher risk of compassion fatigue. Strategies exist to recognize compassion fatigue in order to maintain a high level of professionalism.