Hospice Care at Stoney Brook Veterinary Hospital

Hospice Care

Stoney Brook Veterinary Hospital

Hospice care is a stage of medical intervention that is focused on the comfort of the pet and preparing the family emotionally for the loss of their pet. Hospice care is meant to focus on caring rather than curing. At this stage, our goal is to maximize the patients' quality of life regardless of their condition. The focus of palliative care is to relieve and prevent suffering.

Examples of diseases that benefit from hospice care are:

  • Advanced age
  • Cancer
  • Organ failure or chronic disease
  • Severe arthritis
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Neurologic disorders

Hospice care and palliative care rely on input from a variety of sources. The hospice team can include the veterinarian, veterinary technician, nutritionist, healing arts specialist, the family members, the pet sitter, acupuncturist, etc. All can work together to create a plan to relieve pain and suffering.

Our hospice care/palliative care initial consultation will assess your goals, beliefs, concerns, and financial constraints. It is important we are on the same page for the expectations of care and end of life decisions. It is best to have a plan if there is a decline in your pet's condition. A euthanasia plan and the options for body care are discussed ahead of time to reduce stress during the time of crisis.

Thanks to Dr. Alice Villalobos for crafting the quality of life (QOL) scale for pets and Dr. Robin Downing for her compassionate writing on this material. The QOL scale is a wonderful tool for the veterinary staff and family to try to measure a pet's quality of life. The 7 parameters of the scale are:

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Hurt

Are pain and breathing ability being adequately managed?

If pain cannot be controlled, euthanasia is the only reasonable choice. If euthanasia is not an option due to personal/religious beliefs, aggressive pain management with resulting sedation MUST be undertaken.

We will create a schedule of regular professional pain/comfort evaluations.

Hunger

Is your pet eating enough?

If your pet is not willing to eat on his/her own, try hand-feeding. Blended or liquid diets may work. Some patients may consider a feeding tube option. As death approaches, the pet may lose all interest in food. As long as family interactions and the rest of the QOL parameters are reasonable, then this may be ok for a certain amount of time.

Hydration

Is your pet drinking enough and maintaining hydration?

Fluid intake is more important than food. You may use water, electrolyte solutions, low sodium broth, liquid diets, and subcutaneous fluid injections. Some patients have a feeding tube option and can be given liquids through the tube.

Hygiene

Is your pet staying clean and grooming himself/herself?

You may have to consider a short puppy cut or lion cut to keep the hair from matting. Your pet may need to be brushed multiple times a day.

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Stoney Brook Veterinary Hospital

Happiness

Does your pet show interest and happiness in seeing the family, other pets, or other activities?

Our pets are social creatures and they appreciate interaction. With decreased mobility, hearing loss, and vision loss, consider keeping the pets close to family activities. Happiness is the will to live.

Mobility

Does your pet move around without assistance?

Adding carpet to steps or ramps make life a lot easier for your pet. There are special slings if your pet just needs a little boost in the hind end.

More good days than bad days

A bad day= nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty getting up.

If there are many bad days in a row, then quality of life is poor.

Each parameter is scored 1-10 (10 is best). A score above 5 in each category with an overall score >35 suggests an acceptable quality of life. The trend of scores is important and evaluation of dropping scores is critical.

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