Pet hospice: Bridging the last stages of terminal illness and euthanasia - DVM
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Pet hospice: Bridging the last stages of terminal illness and euthanasia


Compassionate Veterinary Care, Chicago

Other veterinarians, like Dr. Amir Shanan, are at different places on the pet hospice path. Shanan and his wife, Liat, share a common vision that spans from combining pet hospice, pet home euthanasia, pet memorials, burial and cremation, bereavement counseling and more for pet owners who face end-of-life decisions. Amir says this is a very emotional time for pet owners, who often find him when their veterinarians tell them there are no treatment options left for their pets. His greatest frustration is that he could do so much more to help make the last stage of a pet's life easier for owners if given the opportunity to see the patients sooner.

Shanan has a conventional companion-animal practice on the near north side of Chicago. He believes so much in the need for this type of service, he hired an associate to see patients at the hospital so that he could devote time to developing pet hospice into a referral service for northern Illinois. Sometimes, he says, when he goes out on calls, he discovers that euthanasia can be delayed. He offers those clients the option of pet hospice care. Other times, euthanasia is the only option, and he performs this service for them.

Pet hospice requires training in end-of-life communication and grief support as well as creative treatment modalities to keep pets comfortable within the realm of what their owners can manage. Shanan spends a lot of time educating clients about the progression of their pets' diseases, what to expect and what they can do to help their pets. Shanan says he is always touched by the gratitude pet owner's express when he can give them ways to extend their pets' lives. A few more weeks, days, and, sometimes, hours can make a very meaningful difference. In the hope of encouraging hospice referrals from local practices, Shanan started visiting nearby emergency practices to explain pet hospice to veterinarians and hospital teams. He encourages doctors to refer patients to him while there is still time to help them and their owners in a pet-hospice program.

"Most veterinarians agree with the goals of pet hospice once they understand that hospice care allows the pet to enjoy the last days of life in familiar surroundings in the company of loved ones and that it allows the family to have more time with their pet and prepare for the loss of this beloved family member," Shanan says. Most pet hospitals and ER practices, he says, lack the time and training necessary to provide the clients effective emotional support and the ongoing medical attention that pets in hospice need.

This pet hospice program fills that gap and gives them a way to offer hospice care for pets near the end of their lives.

To help veterinarians who want to know more about pet hospice care, Shanan founded the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). The IAAHPC is planning to publish guidelines for pet hospice care for veterinarians and other pet hospice professionals later this year. Shanan feels that pet hospice care demands such specialized skills that it should become a recognized specialty in veterinary medicine.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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