Is Veterinary Hospice Care Right For Your Pet?
Dr Emma Clark, our wonderful in-house vet, answers all your questions about hospice care - also known as end of life or palliative care - and how it can be beneficial for you and your pet.
What Exactly Is ‘Veterinary Hospice Care’?
Put simply, it is home care for pets at the end of their lives.
The goal is to make them as comfortable as possible in the time they have remaining in a familiar place and ensure the end is as peaceful as it can be.
The measures we put in place for the patient often involve medicines but there can be other changes, for example, environmental or dietary, to improve the quality of life for both the pet and their caregivers.
Isn’t This A Really Difficult Time?
We know that furry friends are very much part of your family. So when they start to struggle in their older years we understand that you can become anxious about contacting a vet.
Some owners may fear that if they do contact the vet, they will be expected to have investigations done when all they want is to make their pet’s last days peaceful and pain-free.
It is completely normal to feel a little worried. But at this phase of a pet's journey, end of life discussions and hospice care are important as they ensure that the last days or months are as peaceful and happy as possible.
Those last moments should not be a struggle but days full of love and the opportunity to really spoil and celebrate a pet’s life.
At Roundwood vets, it is our job to help you to feel that your views are being heard and that you are involved in the end-of-life choices for your pet.
How Do Roundwood's Pet Hospice Services Work?
Although every situation varies depending on the pet’s wellbeing and the families’ wishes, it is common for our vet to undertake the following steps together:
Discuss the concerns you have about your pet
Consider possible diagnoses and treatments that are best for your pet and your family
Agree on the right course of action
Put into action a plan.
Families interested in our service first need to book an appointment.
Depending on the problem, we will schedule either a video call or an in-person consultation, either in practice or at home.
The law states that we cannot prescribe medication or make diagnoses remotely if we have not seen your pet before or if we haven't seen them for 12 months. If this is the case for your pet and they need medication we’ll always have to examine that pet in person.
If, after an initial conversation, we decide together that euthanasia is the best option for your pet and your family, we can either do this at the practice or home. We will work in partnership with you to provide support every step of the way.
Which Is Better: To Have A Pet Put To Sleep At Home Or In Practice?
If that time has come, it depends on the pet and the family; we will work with you to find what is best.
One of the benefits of in-home euthanasia is that it is peaceful, in familiar surroundings for the pet. So for example, a pet can stay on their favourite bed, blanket, or sofa. Maybe the garden is where your family would like to say goodbye? With an in-home visit, we can be very adaptable - where ever works best for you and your pet.
Because the animal is at home, they tend to be more relaxed. This is especially true for cats, who don’t particularly enjoy being put in the carrier and taken to the clinic.
During euthanasia appointments at the practice, some owners, understandably, become emotional but feel they have to hold it together until they get home. If you say goodbye to a pet at home then you can express your true emotions in your own way.
So euthanasia being at home has many benefits. But it's not for all families and you may not want the association of a certain spot in the house being linked with the passing of your pet, so you may opt to say goodbye in the practice.
What Happens After My Pet Is Put Down?
Their body is prepared for its final resting - cremation or burial
Momentos are made, should you wish
We will be in touch to support you throughout
To explain these in a little more detail: after a pet has been put down (euthanased), the body can either be cremated or buried.
There is a dedicated garden of remembrance at our partner pet crematorium for owners who choose standard cremation or burial.
If you decide to have your pet individually cremated and their ashes returned, there are several options for the presentation of the ashes. They can be scattered or buried. Alternatively, owners can use their pet’s ashes to create objects (such as jewellery or paintings) by which to remember them.
We will let you know when they are ready for collection. It usually takes 2-3 weeks to receive the ashes back from the crematorium.
At Roundwood Vets, we have a remembrance book in our reception to which owners can contribute. We also send a card with an ink print of the animal’s paw and nose (we call it the last kiss) a couple of weeks later.
You can expect a follow-up call to check in on how you are doing from one of the team and we have specially trained members of staff who can provide bereavement support when needed.
How Is Veterinary Hospice Care Different With Roundwood?
Veterinary hospice care should be about making the time you have left with your pet, as well as the final act of saying goodbye, as peaceful and joyful as possible.
Dealing with the passing of a pet is hard, but it is part of the cycle of life and it can be done with tenderness and compassion which means you remember your pet’s last moments for all the right reasons.
Ultimately our role is to support families during this difficult time in their lives. We are the team who, when there is much upset and emotion, hope to make the end of life memories positive and long-lasting.
Dr Emma has a personal interest and expertise in senior pets, taking care of many of our senior and geriatric patients. She is passionate about providing high-quality care for pets struggling with chronic or terminal ailments, given her own experiences as both a pet owner and clinician.