The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes that clients facing terminal illness in companion animals may desire veterinary hospice care for their animals. As offered within the context of veterinary practice, and as consistent with veterinary practice acts, veterinary hospice gives clients time to make decisions regarding a companion animal with a terminal illness or condition and to prepare for the pending death of the animal. The AVMA views veterinary hospice as care that will allow a terminally ill animal to live comfortably at home or in a facility, and does not believe that such care precludes euthanasia. The comfort of the animal must always be considered when veterinary hospice care is provided. As is the case in human hospice programs, patients must have a terminal illness with a short life expectancy. The veterinary hospice team consists of the veterinarian and trained staff who provide expertise in palliative care and pain control for such terminally ill animals. Maximizing the benefits of veterinary hospice requires that family/household members participate in the care of the patient.
Although veterinarians and their staff also benefit from veterinary hospice by assisting in the respectful closure of each unique human-animal bond hospice services provided by veterinarians are time consuming and require a considerable commitment to the medical needs of the patient and to the emotional needs of the client. Not all veterinarians are in a position to offer these services. Veterinarians or veterinary hospitals that are unable to offer hospice care should be prepared to refer clients to another veterinarian who can offer these services. Referring this activity does not infer that excellent care is not being delivered by the referring veterinarian, but provides more options for the client desiring to access veterinary hospice.
A number of issues should be addressed when veterinary hospice care is provided: