As a vet, guiding and supporting pet owners in making challenging decisions is one of the hardest aspects of working with end-of-life patients.

Open communication and honesty are crucial to end-of-life discussions.  As a hospice and palliative care vet I help pet owners by providing the clinical knowledge as well as experience, helping to assess quality of life, as well as providing information regarding options available. 

The decisions pet owners make at the end of their companion’s life matter not only to the pet, but to the whole family. Being left with feelings of guilt or unresolved grief can have an impact on their lives for years to come. 

Pet owners are given the hardest task at times of often great emotional struggle. Making life and death decisions can be incredibly confusing, as well as complex, and involves both trying to understand what they want for their pets as well as for themselves. 

Our team deals especially with animal hospice and palliative care, and we are trained to help pet owners make decisions they can feel as comfortable as possible with.

Our role is not to make the decisions for them, but to help provide realistic solutions that are in the best interest of both pet and owner. We consider aspects such as quality of life, pain levels, and “will to live”, and guide pet owners through the very complex and emotional decisions of end-of-life care.

Just like us, pets have social, emotional and physical needs that need to be met for them to have a fulfilling life. 

This article is written in memory of a much loved cat x

Maja Redfern

Maja is clinical director at Dignipets. A mobile veterinary practice that offers palliative and end of life care for every pet in need in the West Midlands. Having completed a certification programme in hospice and palliative care in 2017 Maja advises colleagues and referring practices on pain management for their most difficult geriatric cases. She is a dedicated pet owner (two dogs and three cats) and has developed a reputation amongst wanderers and strays for being the go-to person when lost.