Pets provide unconditional love and support, are always happy to see us, and don’t hold grudges. It’s no wonder they are considered family members. And, as with your two-legged family members, you may find yourself facing some difficult decisions when your four-legged family members start to age. 

Whether you are dealing with a beloved pet’s chronic illness or their declining quality of life, making decisions about medical care can be difficult. Luckily, veterinary medicine is changing in a special way to address these concerns.

Hospice care for pets

Although the foundations of modern hospice services were developed in the 1950s, the idea of hospice in human medicine has been around for centuries. Hospice care, which is designed for those who are terminally ill, centers on pain control and emotional support of loved ones. This special care makes a seamless transition into veterinary medicine, as many families look for opportunities to spend time at home with their pets in their final days.

Before the rise of veterinary hospice care, a pet’s terminal diagnosis often led to immediate euthanasia. Now, veterinary hospice focuses on palliative care during the time between diagnosis and euthanasia or natural death.

Why choose hospice care for a pet?

Aggressive diagnostics and treatments aren’t always the right choice for a pet diagnosed with a terminal illness. These measures may increase stress and cause prolonged pain and suffering. A wonderful way to show a pet love and compassion as the end of life nears, hospice care: 

  • Gives families an option between aggressive treatment and immediate euthanasia
  • Helps to ease a pet’s pain
  • Allows pets to live their last days in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by loving family members
  • Allows families to truly feel that they have done everything possible to keep their pets comfortable and happy in their final days
  • Gives families the time needed to spoil their pets and say goodbye in their own time and space

Hospice care at Stack Veterinary Hospital

At Stack Veterinary Hospital, we know how difficult it can be to make decisions about end-of-life care. After all, we are pet owners, too. Our team members have all had to come to terms with their own pet’s mortality, and it’s a confusing and painful time. That’s why we are dedicated to helping you make the decisions that are best for your family members, whether two- or four-legged.

Our hospice and palliative care services include:

  • Offering consultations for end-of-life care
  • Evaluating a pet’s foremost health needs, and their social and emotional well-being
  • Educating families and offering support through the end-of-life stage
  • Anticipatory pet-loss coaching, which involves giving families coping skills, emotional support, and self-care, and preparation in anticipation of the pet’s loss
  • Pet-bereavement coaching to support grieving family members as they cope with their pet’s loss

Sally Van Ostrand, our hospice and palliative care liaison, has been part of the Stack Veterinary Hospital team for 15 years and is certified in veterinary hospice and palliative care. Her mission is to guide you and your pet through the challenges that accompany old age and chronic illness. If you have questions about our hospice services, you can email Sally at

In addition to coordinating hospice and palliative care for pet owners, Sally also runs our pet loss support group. Losing a pet is like losing a family member, and sharing your story and meeting other people who are also navigating the loss of a beloved pet can help the healing process. Our pet loss support group is a safe and welcoming space to talk about your loss with people who share your pain. 

Advancements in veterinary medicine have lengthened our pet’s lifespans, but we will all eventually experience the painful loss of a four-legged family member. The Stack Veterinary Hospital team is here to help if your pet has received a terminal diagnosis, or if you’re concerned that their quality of life is suffering. Our goal is to ensure a comfortable, happy life for your beloved pet, from their first days to their last.