The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) is a mouthful to say but they provide a valuable service to animals.  They promote comfort care to address the physical, psychological, and social needs of animals with chronic and/or life limiting diseases.  They also promote the physical, emotional, and spiritual support for the caregivers of these animals.  Education of professional and advance research in the field of animal hospice and palliative care is also an important part of their mission.   


We spoke with Coleen Ellis, their Executive Director who shared with us that hospice exists to provide support and care for patients in the last phases of an incurable disease, or at the natural end of life.  Dying is recognized as a normal process by hospice.  It can also be an opportunity for growth. For humans, hospice services are limited to patients who have decided not to experience any further curative treatments.  For animals, it is the management of palliative care for patients who may die within days or weeks.     

Both hospice and palliative care are approaches to provide for a loved animal when the goal shifts from cure to comfort.  Both involve an interdisciplinary team of providers who can offer comprehensive care on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels and can include veterinarians, animal and family services providers.  Animal hospice is not a place, but instead a philosophy.  As pet parents we want to know we did all we could to support our beloved animal companion during this time of transition, while still creating cherished memories.  

The types of diseases or conditions that would warrant hospice or palliative care include cancer, organ failure, osteoarthritis, cognitive dysfunctions, failure to thrive, senior pets approaching their natural end of life and any life-limiting condition that may be unacceptable to the caregiver or the pet.  Caring for an aging, ill or dying pet is like caring for a child or aged adult.  You want to ensure the highest degree of comfort possible.   

IAAHPC tell us that when facing the loss of a loved pet you may be overwhelmed with all the decisions and information.  As a result, hospice providers encourage caregivers to make a plan that begins with their values, goals and beliefs for their animals and their families.  Your care team will assist you in assessing qualify of life for you and your pet while identifying mileposts that signal the appropriate time to enact your plan.  Your plan may include euthanasia or hospice-supported natural death – both of which are humane options for our loved animal companions.   

To prepare for the loss of your pet, pet loss professional can help you explore aftercare options such as cremation, burial and memorial or celebration of life services.  Pet funeral homes provide a full range of services to help you make the best decision for your family.   

Animal Care Trust USA, Inc., supports the work of IAAHPC and its mission.  Consider a Pet Trust for your loved pet that outlines all of your wishes and desires for your pet’s lifetime, even when you can’t be there.