As veterinarians and pet owners, we are fortunate to live in a time where the understanding of animal diseases and options for diagnosis and treatment are far more advanced than ever before. As a result, we also live in a time where the cost to provide the new gold-standard care is also higher.
There probably isn’t a topic more controversial in veterinary medicine than euthanasia. A veterinary license provides us with the legal authority to humanely end the lives of our animal patients. And although this is allowed, and most often medically necessary, it does not come without cost.
We all know about hospice care for humans, but what about hospice care for animals? This seems to be more widely recognized now in veterinary medicine. When you think of hospice for humans, you think of terminal patients that have 24 hour nursing care for palliation until death. For animals, it is more of a recognition that an animal does have a terminal disease, and helps to open up a dialogue with owners about what to expect for their pet so they are prepared and have a plan in place to keep them comfortable as long as possible.
Hospice care is based on accepting death as a part of life; helping an owner to make a plan they are comfortable with that encompasses their own beliefs, whether or not that includes euthanasia in the end. Questions that may help owners plan for this decision include:
- What exactly happens during euthanasia?
- What are my personal options for the euthanasia procedure? Should I plan for it to be done at home, or at the hospital? If there is a specific doctor I wish to perform the procedure, what days is he/she available? What if I have an emergency? Who should I call?