Dr. Goldberg’s interest in serious illness and palliative care developed while she was working in the emergency/critical care field. She certainly thought that the most advanced, invasive options for diagnostics and treatment were indicated in many cases. However, she felt more could be done for clients in helping them cope with complex illness, terminal diagnoses, evaluating whether intensive care is in the best interests of their pet, and discussing death & the dying process.
What is hospice?
Hospice is the philosophy of care that regards death as a natural process, prioritizes comfort and quality of life over quantity of life as death draws near, and supports the cultural and spiritual aspects of dying. Hospice, simply defined, is palliative care at the end of life.
What is veterinary hospice?
There is not one single definition of veterinary hospice care, and it is Dr. Goldberg’s belief that true “hospice” for animals may not be feasible or ethically defensible, given the unique role of assisted dying in veterinary medicine. However, comprehensive end of life care is critical for companion animal patients and their caregivers. Most people who share their lives with animals have had to make difficult decisions on an animal’s behalf prior to and leading up to death – whether via euthanasia or unassisted death. Because euthanasia is deeply integrated into end of life care for animals, veterinary hospice care is inherently distinct from its human counterpart, even when euthanasia is not elected. Similarities exist in the overall philosophy of hospice, that is: respect for the family unit as “patient” in addition to the dying individual, acceptance that additional medical interventions are unlikely to change the outcome of a disease, desire to alleviate pain and emotional suffering, and focus on comfort and quality of life, rather than aggressive treatment to extend it.
Veterinary hospice care can include all, or some of the following:
- Goals of Care conversations,
- Education regarding death & the dying process,
- Individualized medical care as death draws near,
- Regularly scheduled home visits with provision of pain medications and nursing care,
- Provision of palliative care within a veterinary hospital,
- Palliated but not intentionally hastened death,
- Personalized euthanasia services (often in-home),
- Body care & ritual,
- Memorialization & bereavement support
Whole Animal’s Approach:
Our approach is to completely evaluate each patient and discuss caregiver goals so that an individual care plan may be created. The plan will serve as a framework for care that is tailored to each animal and caregiver(s). It may be referred back to or updated at any time.
Dr. Goldberg feels strongly that good death & dying for our animals is best defined by the ones who know them best – their families. When this occurs in conjunction with high quality medical management, family-centered care is also humane – prioritizing individual animal welfare. She is committed to supporting families through the path that is best for them, providing emotional support for humans and exemplary care for animals.
Services provided by Whole Animal include:
- Individualized hospice/palliative care evaluation, quality of life assessment & goals of care conversation
- Consultation to help navigate treatment options
- In home care, implementation of individual care plan
- Referral to consulting specialists for integrative care – acupuncture, physical therapy, rehabilitation
- In home euthanasia
- Transport and coordination of cremation services
- Bereavement support: licensed professional mental health counseling and referral for long-term support
Veterinary & Animal-Related Organizations
- International Association of Animal Hospice & Palliative Care
- Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets
- Spirits in Transition
- Veterinary Society for Hospice & Palliative Care
Veterinary Teaching Institutions with Hospice Programs
Veterinary Organizations in Support of Hospice
- American Animal Hospital Association
- American Association of Feline Practitioners
- American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians
- American Veterinary Medical Association
Human Hospice Organizations