Why should end-of-life care be important to you and your practice team?

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. Animal hospice care seeks to maximize patient comfort while minimizing suffering by utilizing a collaborative and supportive approach with the caregiver client. The goals of animal hospice are perfectly aligned with the veterinary oath and reasons veterinary professionals do what they do.

End-of-life (EOL) care and decision making are medically, emotionally, and ethically challenging for everyone involved. These guidelines will provide your practice team with the framework and tools to better recognize patients’ and pet owners’ needs at this difficult time. Effectively managing the terminal stages of a patient's life is of great important to clinical practice. When the healthcare team and the caregiver recognize that death is a likely outcome for the patient, it is essential to develop a collaborative plan for the time between that recognition and the pet’s death. Some practitioners have found it helpful to consider EOL events as a distinct life stage (juvenile, adult, senior, end of life). These guidelines support, and the authors recommend, that EOL should be designated as the fourth life stage. The benefits of expanding how we think about and deliver EOL care to the pet and pet owner are far reaching.