Terminal Illness / Veterinary Hospice Care

Due to increased demand, we are currently not able to take any more hospice cases till November 2023.

By careful managing of symptoms, we help many families achieve quality time with their pet after a terminal or life-limiting diagnosis.

We are dedicated to giving pets and their families quality time together towards the end of their life journey. With hospice care at home, we can address symptoms such as pain, nausea, anxiety and loss of appetite to make sure you and your pet are able to enjoy life together- even with a diagnosis of a terminal or life limiting disease.

What is hospice care?

Hospice care isn’t a place, it’s a way of thinking and a way of treating an individual with a life limiting or terminal illness. It takes the focus away from trying to cure a disease and puts all focus on enjoying the time there is remaining.

Veterinary hospice care focuses on symptom management, providing comfort and quality of life when there is no cure. Veterinary hospice care is about meeting your needs as well as your pet’s needs. This gives you as a pet owner a voice to help prioritise in the medical care of your pet, but also in addressing your social and emotional needs, and in some cases spiritual needs. Our team can work with your family vet to provide the best possible care.

The main difference between palliative care and hospice care is while palliative care can be applied to any stage of disease, hospice care is focused on caring for pets that are in advanced stages of a life limiting illness.

Conditions we see for hospice care include for example (but not limited to):

  • Advanced arthritis and mobility problems
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Liver failure
  • Cancer, such as lymphoma, bone cancer or tumours of the spleen.
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Old age and unspecified disease
  • Dementia/cognitive dysfunction

When formulating a plan for your pet we focus on maintaining quality of life, so that you and your pet can carry on enjoying life together for as long as possible.

Whether there simply is no cure, or you don’t feel pursuing more aggressive treatment is the right choice for you and your pet, we will work with you to ensure you and your pet are both happy. We use quality of life assessments and pain assessments to ensure your pet has good quality of life. When the time comes for euthanasia, your pet will be able to stay at home for a gentle and dignified ending day or night. Home hospice consultations are only available during normal working hours however if your pet is in crisis and needs to be put to sleep at home, we have a 7/7 service for emergencies.

What does a home visit involve?


The veterinary hospice care visits are carried out by one of our Dignipets vets. They normally take around 1- 1 ½ hours and we ask for all the carers of the pet to be present if possible.

If your pet has been seen by your family vet or a referral centre, we would ask you for your permission to request their clinical history. The home visit includes a clinical examination, disease education, pain and quality of life assessment, home environment assessment, as well as a discussion regarding your wishes and concerns, to try to assess the best way to move forward.

We will also be able to prescribe (pain) medication at the time of the visit but this is not included in the visit fee. Depending on your pet’s condition we would request you to fill in ongoing questionnaires to assess your pet’s welfare and response to medication and care. This is to allow our team to stay updated on your pet’s condition, and to ensure we pick up on any changes as quickly as possible. This could be required daily, weekly or monthly depending on your pet’s needs.

At the time of the visit we will ask about your communication preferences. You will also receive a written report, and, on request, we can send a copy to your family vet. Ongoing support is a vital part of our services. Our nurse will then work closely with you and play an important role in navigating you through the advice and treatment given.

What are crisis kits?


A crisis kit is essentially medication intended to be used only in case of a sudden crisis in a terminally ill pet. It is something we very often leave with a pet owner at the time of the initial consultation.

It’s also called a “just in case” kit in human medicine. Crisis kits form an important part of caring for pets with terminal illness. They help by giving peace of mind and reassurance that if things got worse very quickly, there is something the pet owner can give to help their pet, while waiting for one of our vets to arrive. We often use quite strong medication in our kits, as the goal is to minimise any feeling of pain, distress or shortness of breath. The medication we use specifically targets these feelings, and although they may not remove the symptoms completely the pet is likely to feel a lot better.

Each crisis kit will vary depending on the pet’s condition, and on the symptoms we anticipate may occur in a sudden crisis situation. Some of the pets we have dispensed kits to have been pets with bone tumours, internal tumours, heart failure and other conditions that can cause sudden severe pain. The medication could be in tablet form, powder, liquid or injection, all depending on what the owner is comfortable with giving, and the pet’s illness and temperament. As veterinary surgeons we do take special precautions when dispensing these crisis kits, and we give both written instructions as well as an explanation on how to use the medications and demonstrating how to handle them and administer them correctly.

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