General practitioners can play an integral role in client education and awareness of in-home end-of-life care services
Imagine being the loving owner of an 11-year-old, 100-lb mastiff who suddenly dies at home. You knew your beloved pet was naturally nearing life’s end and have been mentally preparing to make a euthanasia decision. However, you now have no way to transport him to your veterinarian or local emergency hospital. What do you do?
With the advancement of veterinary medicine and incredible care our patients receive, they are living longer, more fulfilling lives. While the above scenario is unfortunate, it is becoming more common for the clients we serve. The availability of in-home end-of-life veterinary care is becoming more widespread, but few clients realize that this kind of care is an option for their beloved pets as they are nearing life’s end.
Many end-of-life care providers have received advanced training in hospice and palliative care through the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. They can offer services that traditional brick-and-mortar practices are unable to provide. Hospice cases often take extra time to manage, which is something traditional practices don’t always have the luxury of carving out in their schedules. Here are just a few end-of-life care specialty services that can be offered to pet parents.
For clients who are feeling unsure of their pet’s end-of-life care options, scheduling a virtual appointment with an end-of-life care expert may be helpful. These providers have unique training and experience to provide tailored recommendations on appropriate next steps based on the condition of the pet and goals of the family.
Many clients, and even some veterinarians, may presume that home hospice care for pets is like home hospice care for human patients, but this isn’t the case. When the focus of patient care shifts from treatment to comfort, they may be a good candidate for hospice care. The specialized training and unique perspective that in-home end-of-life veterinary care providers can bring to these cases can often improve the quality of life for both the pet and their caregivers. End-of-life care providers will often take an integrative approach to the pet’s care, leveraging both traditional Western medicine and alternative therapies such as food and herbal therapies, acupuncture, massage techniques, and environmental modifications that can have a huge impact for the pet. Making clients aware of this option earlier in their pet’s end-of-life care journey allows the family to explore this option for themselves and their pet.
There are countless benefits to the family and pet during an at-home goodbye experience. Many clients appreciate the added privacy, slower timeline, increased comfort for both the pet and family, the option to memorialize their pet through ceremony, and so much more. If veterinary professionals aren’t bringing up in-home euthanasia as an end-of-life care option, the family may not know this choice exists. In-home euthanasia is an opportunity to create a beautiful last memory with our beloved pets, and one that many clients say they will treasure forever.
Often, when a pet passes at home, the family is unsure how to proceed. It may be difficult to transport the pet due to their size or the emotional distress of the task.
Many end-of-life care veterinary practices can facilitate pickup, transport, and aftercare as part of their services. End-of-life care specialty practices are prepared with the equipment and support for families experiencing the loss of a pet naturally or unexpectedly at home.
Many end-of-life care specialty practices offer materials, additional grief support staff, and resources to help families who either are dealing with anticipatory grief or have lost a pet. This service is something that most traditional practices do not offer but that can be incredibly supportive for clients.
If you have an at-home end-of-life care provider in your area that you trust, a referral to help manage your patients who are nearing life’s end can go a long way in demonstrating your commitment to the absolute best care for your clients. It will also likely bond them to your practice when the time comes to welcome a new family member.
Chelsea McGivney, DVM, is the general manager of Caring Pathways, a national at-home end-of-life veterinary practice. Her desire to celebrate the human-animal bond has driven her to educate and inform both veterinarians and pet parents about the benefits of in-home end-of-life care.