June 23, 2015

Considering Pets’ Needs at the End of Life


The hospice model focuses on caring not just for the patient, but for the patient’s family as well. And for many people, “family” includes the furred and feathered. That’s why it is important to integrate care and consideration for pets into the end-of-life journey.

Pets are therapeutic.

Their touch comforts. They serve as welcome distractions. And, importantly, pets don’t look at their owners differently because they are sick, instead offering a calming, unconditional love. Because of these therapeutic benefits, it’s best to keep pets and owners together for as long as possible.

Pets require continued care.

Illness and limited mobility make it difficult to provide adequate care for animals. At Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG), volunteers often walk patients’ dogs. Caregivers and loved ones can also help by bringing pet treats or offering to take pets to the veterinarian.

Pets need advance planning, too.

Advance planning is not just for people. It’s important to plan ahead so that pets have a loving home after an owner dies. Today, there are many ways to ensure quality care for animals, including:

Pet Trusts: Many states, including North Carolina, allow people to set up trusts for animals through a life insurance company. A pet trust provides money for a designated caretaker to cover pet care expenses, and it ensures that the money will be spent only on the pet’s needs.

Wills: Pets can often be included in wills. A caretaker will need to be designated, and it’s essential that the designated caretaker agree beforehand to care for the pet(s). Whether you set up a will or a trust, you must provide a reasonable amount of money to cover food, grooming, vet care and additional expenses.

Pet placement programs: Many pet rescue groups and sanctuaries offer pet care and placement programs so pets are cared for after an owner dies.

HPCG can also help make arrangements for pets. Learn more about planning ahead for pets here, fill out this form or call 336.621.2500 for more information.