Veterinary professionals’ experiences with human caregivers when providing animal hospice and palliative care

Heath C. Hoffmann and George E. Dickinson

College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

A significant role in veterinary medical practices is the provision of end-of-life (EOL) care to pets and their clients. Yet, U.S. veterinarians report being dissatisfied with the level of training they receive on EOL issues in their veterinary medical programs (Dickinson et al., 2011). At the same time, the ubiquity of veterinary information on the Internet (e.g., “Dr. Google”) has the potential for instilling pet owners with a false sense of expertise that veterinarians must then negotiate when providing EOL care. In this context, we surveyed 86 veterinary members of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) to explore whether and/or how veterinary medical information clients obtain from the Internet impacts the veterinarians’ delivery of EOL care to those clients’ pets; we similarly investigate the information that veterinarians prefer their clients knew before meeting with them to provide EOL care. In light of the inherent challenges of EOL veterinary care outlined above, we learn from veterinarians what they feel are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of providing palliative and hospice care. Using qualitative thematic coding, our results show, in sum, that veterinary information from the Internet is both helpful and harmful to veterinarian interactions with clients; veterinarians wished clients understood the value of hospice and palliative care as an EOL care option and that grief is normal; and veterinarians report a most positive aspect of dealing with these issues is the gratitude clients show for helping their pets die peacefully.

 

Keywords: veterinarians, end-of-life knowledge of clients, rewards of animal hospice and palliative care

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Keywords: end-of-life knowledge of clients, rewards of animal hospice and palliative care, veterinarians
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