AAHA, pet hospice group announce end-of-life guidelines for veterinary patients

December 6, 2016

Help for the most challenging stage of pet ownership, for both clients and veterinary staff.

Assistance for that last moment of a human-animal bond. (Getty Images)Minimized suffering, maximized comfort for veterinary patients. A cooperative partnership with pet owners during a difficult time. Support for team members helping pets achieve a good death. These are the goals of the end-of-life guidelines developed by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC).

The 2016 AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines, available online here, are sponsored by the AAHA Foundation, Aratana Therapeutics, Ceva Animal Health and MWI Animal Health/AAHA MARKETLink. They're designed to provide veterinary teams with the framework and tools to develop a comprehensive, collaborative end-of-life plan and better recognize the needs of patients, clients and team members. The end-of-life plan may involve hospice and palliative care or humane euthanasia.

“End-of-life decisions are medically, emotionally and ethically challenging for everyone involved,” says Brenda Stevens, DVM, DABVP, co-chair of the task force that authored the guidelines, in a release. “After the loss of a pet, studies show 30 percent of pet owners experience significant grief and 50 percent will doubt their decision following euthanasia. In addition, team members who work with end-of-life patients and their owners have a higher risk of developing compassion fatigue.”

The guidelines review developing a hospice plan, including the aid of an Animal Hospice Care Pyramid that consists of three levels-physical, social and emotional. For example, an important part of the physical level of the pyramid is pain management. The guidelines advocate multimodal management in the form of pharmacologic management, environmental modification, diet and gentle handling techniques.

In addition, the guidelines cover being cognizant of bioethical considerations, discussing euthanasia versus natural death with clients, supporting grieving clients, avoiding compassion fatigue and more.