At Home Hospice and Euthanasia
I have been trying to write this article for a long time but as you can imagine it is a difficult topic. It is difficult for you to think about and difficult for me to write about. Almost every pet owner will at some point be faced with decisions regarding end-of life. As difficult as it is, it definitely is important to consider. Now that I am mostly practicing in a house call capacity I have become even more involved in this aspect of the profession. I have always been touched deeply by the end of life of our pets and have been fortunate to help so many transition and spend their final days with as much dignity and comfort as possible.
We have come a long way in veterinary medicine. We are able to treat pet patients in a similar manner to human patients providing the latest in medical advancements and technologies. The big difference is the ability to decide when enough is enough; to decide when it is time to let go. We can decide if humane euthanasia is the best thing for our pets. There is no exact formula to make this decision. Over the years I have been honoured to assist many pets in their final days and each time has been a unique experience. We each need to consider what is the best thing for us and our furry friends. As a veterinarian I can not make these decisions for you but I can assist you in the decision making process. A good resource to follow is the “HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale”. This scale assess pain, hunger, hygiene, hydration, happiness and mobility and compares the good and bad days.
If your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or is suffering from chronic pain or disease there are many options you can pursue. It is best to discuss these with your veterinarian. Most of our pets are part of our families and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect throughout their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. There are specialist veterinarians to whom you can be referred for most issues or you can work with your own veterinarian to find the best treatment plan that fits your budget and your lifestyle.
Hospice is an option that more and more people are considering. End of Life Care does not necessarily need to mean aggressive treatment or immediate euthanasia. There can be a more gentle, supportive way as well. I have been treating pets in hospice for many years without officially calling it that. Hospice includes support and compassionate care for pets and their families near the end of life. It may include palliative care, such as pain or anti-anxiety medication, fluid and nutritional support, hygienic and mobility support and quality of life discussions. For some more information on what hospice is and what it is not check out this article in Psychology today on Animal Hospice.
Most veterinarians are equipped to aid in hospice but a house call veterinarian is especially prepared to help in this instance. The house call veterinarian is able to observe your pet in their own environment and therefore able to get a more accurate assessment of their condition. The house call veterinarian can also help with issues that may be specific to your home. They can observe, feeding and stairs and make recommendations which make the most sense for your pet and your home. You can eliminate the stress of travel and the clinic with a house call veterinarian and your house call vet can work with your regular vet to ensure that your pet is cared for in the best possible manner.
When end of life is imminent and hospice is no longer an option you still have choices. Some people still choose to take their pets to a clinic as this feels right to them but for others they want something different. Maybe something more intimate, more private or maybe a house full of friends and relatives. Some people chose to have their pet pass alone with just themselves in their living rooms, or outside under a favourite tree, by a rambling stream, or maybe their favourite spot in the barn. Maybe they want to light candles and play music, or maybe they just want to hear the tick of the clock in the hallway, or the breeze blowing through the trees. Whatever you decide, the choice is yours and we will work with you to help ease the transition as best as we can. When a pet is euthanized at home it is also helpful for other pets to see that he has passed. It is felt that this helps the surviving pets through the grieving process as well.
At Caledon-Vaughan Veterinary House Call Services we work with petsabove to assist in aftercare and Peartree Impressions to help memorialize your pet. You can visit these sites if you are interested in different options to preserve your pets memory.
Please feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.
Janet Henderson DVM