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It’s never easy accepting your dog’s (or cat's) life is nearing the end. Accepting a diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness is difficult. Dogs are true family members; and when the end of life is inevitable it is possible to maintain the best possible quality of life before they die. Just as human’s conditions necessitate a shift from treatment or cure to one of providing comfort, the same option is available for dogs. The mission of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) is dedicated to promoting knowledge of, and developing guidelines for, comfort-oriented care to companion animals as they approach the end of life.

The goal of palliative care is achievement of the best quality of life for patients and their families." [The World Health Organization, 1990.] Palliative care can go on as long as it is needed, for months and even for years.

Hospice Care for animals has been described as "management of palliative care patients who have progressed such that death will likely occur within a period of days to weeks"; however, the distinction between hospice and palliative care for animals has not yet been sharply defined.

Hospice exists to provide support and care for patients in the last phases of incurable disease, or at the natural end of life. Hospice definitely incorporates all of palliative care; and is defined as a philosophy, a specialized program of care, and in some instances, an actual place for the dying.

The IAAHPC website provides educational, in-depth information, and has a detailed FAQ page for pet parents new to this idea or help in making the best decisions for a beloved dog. It also includes a list of providers, some who may offer in-home euthanasia. Allowing a dog to die at home, with family members who have cared and loved the dog minimizes further trauma by not being in a foreign location, as well as allowing other pets in the home to offer their personal good-bye. Many veterinarians have advised family members that other pets within the home are already aware of the suffering and allowing them to say good-bye is beneficial to all pets in the home.

To help ease the suffering of a pet, and owner’s anguish, at-home animal hospice care may be an option. Take the time to research options and deliver a peaceful option when it’s time for the dog to make the final transition.

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