Veterinary hospice: a compassionate option at the end of a pet's life?
Claire Louise Taylor
In veterinary medicine, palliative care is a relatively recent topic, with the demand for high quality hospice and palliative care for terminally ill companion animals increasing and more owners being attracted to practices that offer such services. Death of an animal is a common occurrence in veterinary practice witnessed by veterinary professionals on a daily basis; despite this, veterinary staff remain apprehensive about approaching the subject of end-of-life care with owners. End-of-life care can be a challenging period for veterinary personnel as most staff have not had any comprehensive training to consistently deliver the best possible end-of-life experience. The complex and delicate issue of end-of-life care can be introduced to the owners following the diagnosis of a terminal illness, allowing the owners to explore alternative veterinary care to euthanasia. It is important that the owners understand that palliative care is not curative but may increase the amount of time that the owners have with a pet following a terminal diagnosis. Owners can experience spiritual conflict when faced with the impending death of a pet and require support from veterinary professionals for assistance during this difficult period. Following the bereavement of a pet, grieving owners often experience disenfranchised grief as it is often trivialised in society, it is understandable then that owners seeking understanding and validation often turn to the veterinary profession for support.
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