How to create a hospice program at your veterinary clinic


Consider offering palliative and hospice care as option for terminal veterinary patients and their owners.

Your clients don't want to see their pets suffer, and neither do you. Adding a palliative and hospice care program can help you preserve the precious family-pet relationship and advocate for pets with terminal conditions. If palliative and hospice care fits with your practice's mission statement, it may be time to consider adding this service. And if your practice isn't interested in offering palliative and hospice care, you may be able to find other practices in your area to refer your clients for this service.

To add comprehensive end-of-life care to your services, you need a hospice and palliative care champion on your team. This person will work with the management team to initiate palliative and hospice care services and will enlist the help of other team members to design the program.

Before you launch a program in your practice, here are some of the questions you need to consider:

  • Are you going to offer hospice and palliative care at the practice and in the pet owner's home?

  • Which doctor at your hospital will oversee patient care?

  • Which team members will help provide the service?

  • How will you charge for the service?

  • What additional equipment do you need to offer this care?

  • What additional supplies do you need?

  • What are the medical protocols you must write?

  • What are the communication protocols you must write?

  • Who will write the necessary protocols for your practice?

  • What team training will you need?

  • Who will conduct the necessary training for your team?

  • What handouts must you develop?

  • Who will write the necessary handouts to support this care?

  • What bereavement services will you add, and who will be responsible for them?

  • How will you accept and handle referrals from other veterinary practices?

  • How—and when—will you launch this program at your practice?

We owe it to our patients to prevent their suffering and to provide a comfortable quality of life to the end. Palliative and hospice care can be extremely rewarding for any team members who participate. It allows us to bring our care of patients full circle.

Sharon DeNayer is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager at Windsor Veterinary Clinic P.C. in Windsor, Colo., where she has helped create the hospital's hospice and palliative care program. DeNayer also serves as the practice's bereavement companion. To share your thoughts on this article, visit

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