Pet Hospice Frequently Asked Questions

Healing Heart Pet Hospice is located in NE Wisconsin.

What makes hospice care different from the care my pet would otherwise receive?

Hospice is a concept of caring that emphasizes palliative rather than curative treatment.  This type of care is provided to pets that have a limited life expectancy.  Hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process.  Hospice provides personalized services where professional medical care is given and sophisticated symptom relief provided for end of life pets.

How do I decide if it is time for hospice care?

Exploring hospice care is always an appropriate option when treatment is not being pursued or treatment has been sought but, the pet will not recover, thereby, benefiting greatly with end of life palliative measures.

Ideally, the time to enter hospice care is before the bad days outnumber the good so that your pet can receive the most benefit from your Hospice Team.

Will my pet have to stay at the vet clinic or can hospice care be done in the home?

There are many differently structured programs around the country, but most emphasize minimizing hospital stays.  Healing Heart Pet Hospice, here in Northeast Wisconsin, mirrors human hospice closely in that hospice care takes place in the family’s home so that the pet can stay in familiar surroundings.  Trained, Licensed CVT’s make home visits to facilitate professional care. 

Is hospice care the same thing as euthanasia?

Hospice care neither hastens nor postpones death.  Euthanasia has been an acceptable option in veterinary medicine.  However, one of the jobs of the Hospice Team is to be respectful of each family’s sensitive value system and to gently guide a family in their decisions regarding their pet’s transition.  This is just one of the many reasons it is so important to have a knowledgeable and professional Hospice Team.

How expensive is hospice care?

The cost of care is dependent on many factors:

  • Individual disease process
  • The family’s comfort zone of delivering care
  • Number of visits needed
  • Location

These are just a few of the factors involved.  But, the Hospice Team should make every effort to keep the cost affordable, for instance, by empowering the pet family in the care process and scripting medications to pharmacies that are price competitive. 

Can I provide hospice care on my own?

In Hospice care we use the term “Circle of Care”.  This care is all encompassing and nurtures the end of life pet as well as honor the bond shared with their family.  The Hospice Team is an extension of the pet family and, if requested, the primary veterinarian, in providing education and care for families.  Most families are relieved to have the assistance of licensed professionals in the field of palliative care to assist them in the care of their pet as well as receiving the emotional and, sometimes, spiritual support they most often need while caring for their pet.

Is hospice care only provided for pets with cancer?

Certainly, cancer is one of the more common disease processes benefiting from Hospice and palliative end of life care, but other diseases, such as central nervous system conditions, non oxygen dependent cardiac conditions, renal failure and endocrine disorders are but a few of the conditions that will benefit.

If you do not have a Pet Hospice in your area, talk to your vet about end of life care.

If I don’t have a pet hospice facility in my area, what can I do to help my pet?

The field of Veterinary Hospice is gaining widespread exposure with the assistance of organizations such as The International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, The American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and The Nikki Hospice Foundation to name a few.  If you’ve searched your area and have not found a veterinary hospice program talk to your primary veterinarian.  She/he may be familiar with these organizations or may have a special interest in this area to assist you in caring for your end of life pet.

How can I get my vet to start offering hospice services?

There is a lack of shared education in the veterinary community and general public about pet hospice services.  Dr. Amir Shanan of Compassionate Veterinary Care in Chicago and the founder of the IAAHPC said it correctly in a recent interview when he stated, “There’s a Catch 22 right now because pet owners don’t ask about hospice services and veterinarians don’t offer information because, they say, pet owners aren’t asking about it.”  There is a responsibility on both the part of the veterinarian and the pet parent to question and share knowledge as related to end of life care, which is a completion of the commitment we make to our pets.  Ask your primary veterinarian about hospice care for your pet and encourage them to seek out information on the subject of end of life care and talk to professionals in the field.

Why should more pet owners be aware of the benefits of hospice?

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of having your veterinarian deliver the devastating news that your pet has a life limiting illness you know the mixtures of feelings that rush through you after the numbness has worn off:  sad, alone, dread and fear are just a few.  The big question at hand is, “What now?”  This is the time to take a deep breath and gather solid, reputable information to help you decide the “what now” question.  You will, no doubt, be presented with options of treatment plans, alternative treatment plans and somewhere in this list will come the option of euthanasia.  Those involved in Veterinary Hospice recognize that there are many situations where a pet is terminal, but not unlike people, not ready to “leave” yet.  We respect the fact that we have a more sophisticated and educated society that appreciates the fact that we can share quality of care with our pets before the time comes to say goodbye.  As we say, “When a cure is not possible, you still have compassionate options.”

Hospice care is not about waving a white flag or giving up hope.  It may, however, mean redefining it – hope of a kinder, gentler death with more good days than bad toward the end of time here on earth, hope that the days before death can be filled with rich and memorable experiences and hope that this can be accomplished with an experienced “Circle of Care” team of professionals.

Georgia's Legacy thanks Valarie Hajek Adams, Director of Healing Heart Pet Hospice, for providing the expert answers to these Frequently Asked Questions. 

 This website is not intended to replace the advice of a veterinary professional, and is for informational purposes only.   Please seek the advice of your veterinarian or a veterinary specialist before giving your dog any supplements or pursuing any alternative cancer therapies. 

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