How to identify candidates for hospice and palliative care

The overarching goal in providing palliative and hospice care is to maximize comfort and minimize suffering for our patients.

Canine and feline patients who are candidates for hospice or palliative care generally have at least one or more of the following conditions: terminal diagnosis; chronic progressive disease (e.g., end-stage renal disease, debilitating osteoarthritis, congestive heart failure); progressive, undiagnosed disease; chronic disability (e.g., neurologic or intervertebral disk disease); or terminal geriatric status, exemplified by wasting or failure to thrive.3,4 When developing a hospice or palliative care treatment plan to be executed by an interdisciplinary team, it can be helpful to assign the patient to one of the following categories:

  1. Diagnosis of life-limiting disease
  2. Decision not to pursue diagnosis or curative treatment
  3. Curative treatment has failed
  4. Signs of chronic illness that interfere with normal routine or quality of life
  5. Progressive illness with complications

These broad case descriptions are useful for managing the client’s expectations as well as developing a treatment plan.