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Animal Hospice & Palliative Care Glossary

Definitions and Terminology for Caregivers, Caregiving Families, and Providers Working with Animal End-of-Life Care
This Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (AHPC) Glossary’s goal is to establish an inclusive set of definitions that supports the varied needs and beliefs of caregivers, caregiving families, and providers working with animal end-of-life care. It has been modified from the glossary published by the AAHA/IAAHPC Guidelines Task Force in 2013.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL):  daily activities that a patient normally performs (related to hygiene, exercise, play, eating and drinking, etc.,) and which may require support in order to maintain Quality of Life (QOL).

Animal Hospice (also known as Pet Hospice): ­­ a philosophy and/or a program of care that addresses the physical, emotional, and social needs of animals in the advanced stages of a progressive, life-limiting illness, disability, or age-related decline. Animal Hospice is inclusive of life ending by hospice-supported natural death or euthanasia. Animal hospice also addresses the psychosocial and spiritual needs of human caregivers in preparation for the death of the animal and their subsequent grief. Animal hospice care is provided by an interdisciplinary team with animal medical care under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

Animal Hospice Team:  an interdisciplinary team of providers working together to support animal patients and their caregivers through the animals’ dying process and after death (see hospice interdisciplinary team below). In addition to a licensed veterinarian acting as its medical director, the team may include veterinary nurses/ technicians and veterinary assistants; rehabilitation, complementary and alternative therapists; social workers, grief counselors, and other mental health professionals; pharmacists; pet sitters; spiritual counselors and clergy;  community volunteers; and others.

Pet Parent:  the animal’s human companion, often considered a parent. Being a pet parent means being responsible for another living being. They need to be fed, walked, cared for, and loved every day. Pet parents are dedicated to their pet's well-being and consider their fur-child one of their own and a family member.

Caregiver:¬† the caregiver may be a professional or a parent, in fact, anyone directly involved in the animal's daily care and decision-making surrounding the animal and its health care. The term ‚ÄúCaregiving Family‚ÄĚ may be used to designate multiple people assuming the responsibilities of providing for the animal‚Äôs physical, emotional, and social needs.

Curative Care:  treatment with the intent and expectation that the patient will recover from the disease process.

(The) End of Life (EOL):  the period that begins with a shift in care from curative to solely comfort measures in an animal patient whose condition is declining through aging or illness. The EOL period culminates in death through either hospice-supported natural death or euthanasia.

End-of-Life Care:  care that attends to the physical, emotional, social, and (when present) spiritual needs of patients in the final hours or days of their lives, and, more broadly, of all patients with a terminal condition that has become advanced, progressive, and incurable.

Euthanasia-assisted Death (EAD): death that comes as a result of an intentionally planned euthanasia procedure, leading to the termination of life through humane, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-approved methods that cause as little pain, discomfort, and anxiety as possible, for the purpose of relieving an animal’s suffering.

Hospice Interdisciplinary Team (IDT):  a team comprised of individuals with diverse training and education, collaborating with the family of an animal hospice and palliative care patient to determine the mission, establish treatment goals, and plan and deliver care (see animal hospice team above). Team members collaborate to address patient and caregiver problems that are too complex to be addressed effectively by any one discipline or by multiple disciplines approaching the problem independently of each other. Team members coordinate overlapping roles to serve the patient and caregiver effectively and efficiently.

Hospice-supported Natural Death (HSND):  death of an animal who has been supported by one or more of a wide range of viable palliative care measures, including the treatment of pain and other signs of discomfort, allowing the animal to die in his or her own good time, without hastening or postponing the process.

Meaning of Life:  the mental experience of animals in being engaged with their environment and being emotionally connected in their primary social relationships.

Medical Crisis:  a sudden onset or intensification of a symptom or disease, or an unstable clinical state in which a highly undesirable outcome is a distinct possibility, demanding immediate decision and/or action to prevent further deterioration and to restore stability.

Mental Health:  an important determinant of Quality of Life (QOL) in both humans and animals, which includes psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

Natural Death:  death that occurs in its own time without euthanasia, accident, or an act of violence.

Palliative Care:¬† a program of care that supports or improves the patient‚Äės QOL by relieving suffering. This term can be used when treating curable or chronic conditions, as well as during end-of-life care.

Palliative Sedation:  the controlled administration of medications that reduce consciousness in Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (AHPC) patients whose intolerable pain and suffering are unresponsive to interventions less suppressive of consciousness. Its express and sole purpose is to relieve these patients’ intolerable pain and suffering. Veterinary palliative sedation is administered on the recommendation of the patient’s IDT, which must include a licensed veterinarian sufficiently trained in AHPC. Imminent death is not a prerequisite.

Patient:¬† the animal receiving palliative and/or end-of-life care. The terms, ‚Äúanimal,‚ÄĚ "animal patient," and ‚Äúcompanion animal‚ÄĚ can be used interchangeably with ‚Äúpatient.‚ÄĚ

Practitioner/Animal Hospice Practitioner:  a member of the AHPC team who is trained and skilled in providing a particular type of care for the animal patient (animal service practitioner) and/or a human caregiver (family service practitioner).

Quality of Life (QOL):  the overall sense of well-being of an individual animal, taking into account physical, social, and psycho-emotional components, as perceived and experienced by the animal.

Quality of Life Assessment:  the assessment made by an animal hospice provider or caregiver of an animal patient’s overall view of his or her well-being, considering the totality of an animal’s feelings, experiences, and preferences, as demonstrated by the animal. QOL assessments indicate the balance between the animal’s illness-related levels of comfort and discomfort.

Suffering:  an unpleasant or painful mental experience, feeling, emotion, or sensation; an umbrella term that covers a wide range of negative subjective experiences, physical and/or emotional in nature, and varies in both intensity and duration, which may be experienced by sentient beings. Intolerable suffering is experienced when stressors exceed an animal’s capacity for coping and adaptation, resulting in perceived helplessness, hopelessness, and exhaustion of cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial resources.


So, What's Next?

Are you interested in Animal Hospice Education or Animal Hospice Continuing Education? If so, click here on the buttons below to learn more about our Curriculum for our Animal Hospice Certification Program and/or the Animal Hospice Courses offered at the Animal Hospice University.

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