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Hospice is end of life care in which the death process is nurtured and death is neither hastened nor postponed. They may die naturally, or may be euthanized. The goal is to allow the animal to be comfortable and pain-free, and all his needs are taken care of until the end. Just as birth is an ordered entry into this life, so is death an ordered exit.

There are now many world-wide hospice providers and many veterinary clinics are beginning to offer this service. While holistic hospice may actually reverse the condition, there may be a lot of care needed while in hospice – to helping the animal move around as needed and shifting positions, taking him to relieve himself/using diapers, keeping him as comfortable as possible.

A holistic perspective of hospice

It has been my privilege to work with BrightHaven for decades and I have learned so much from them. They adopted senior cats, 16 and older, giving them a home for the rest of their lives.  Many were very ill and conventional medicine would put them in the hospice category – incurable and within 6 months of death.

Gail Pope says, “Hospice became a way of life at BrightHaven as we have cared for hundreds of senior and special-needs animals for over two decades. In doing so, we have learned so much about love and the circle of life from our animal loved ones. We focus on achieving a state of wellness, joy or balance whether for continued life or for transition. At BrightHaven we concentrate on helping the “being” to be the best they can possibly be, regardless of age, illness, or type of being–human or animal!”

This focus on the individual, rather than stopping a “disease”, has moved many of the animals (they also have some dogs, horses, and other critters) out of hospice to go on living for many months or years. One lived to 34 and many to 28 to 30.

However old, whatever the current health of your animal is — take hope. Quality of life – for a day, a week or even years – is possible.

Reading the articles on “Holistic Care for a Sick Pet” and “Steps to a Healthy Pet” link is your first step. A briefer version is on BrightHaven’s site. As Gail Pope said, each animal is treated regardless of age, so while these are steps to prevent disease and increase life-spans, they are also the steps (modified to your situation) to improve health at every stage in life.  You will need to modify these suggestions according to what your companion can do at this stage. I would also recommend taking their on-line course which will guide you in ways of living well through the last breath, The BrightHaven Guide to Animal Hospice.

One key listed in both articles is finding an integrative veterinarian with whom to work. There are some, like Dr. Ella Bittel, who specialize in holistic hospice and offers seminars and online courses on holistic animal hospice – Spirits In Transition. Every homeopathic veterinarian (many of whom can consult by phone/Skype) and most holistically trained veterinarians (a few do phone/Skype consults) can both improve quality of life for the time remaining, coach you on any euthanasia decisions, and often can return animals to health.

Other organizations include:

A team-based approach works best for hospice as spiritual, emotional, physical, practical and medical needs are important for the humans and the animals. Animals may stay at home with house call visits from caregivers, or be moved to an animal hospice facility. They may die on their own or need euthanasia. Either is totally fine.

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