Today’s Veterinary Business Staff
The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care have teamed up to publish the 2023 Feline Hospice and Palliative Care Guidelines.
Dr. Diane R. Eigner, who co-chaired a task force that updated the resource, said the document underscores “the importance of providing the best possible care and support for our feline companions as they approach the end of their lives.”
“These guidelines emphasize the need for empathy, kindness and understanding during this challenging time for both cats and their human caregivers,” she said.
The document appears in the September issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Details and additional information are at bit.ly/3PZLnM9.
Specific topics include:
- Unit of care: Rather than the feline patient being the only focus of care, the veterinary team must include the cat’s caregivers. This approach pairs veterinarians with social workers, charities and mental health professionals to facilitate open communication about treatment preferences and goals of care.
- Ethical considerations: The guidelines provide the “Four Box Method” to assist hospice and palliative care decision-making. They include respect for autonomy to support decision-making without coercion, non-maleficence to avoid harming the patient, beneficence to act in the patient’s best interest, and justice to ensure equity in treatment recommendations.
- Communication: It should be compassionate and non-judgmental to guide caregivers through the palliative care consultation.
- Five-step hospice and palliative care plan: Recommendations include educating the caregiver about the disease process and delivery of care, developing a personalized plan for the cat and caregiver, and providing emotional support after the cat’s death.
- Quality of life: The guidelines stress frequent and accurate quality-of-life assessments.
- Nutrition and hydration: The guidelines provide strategies to help ensure the feline patient receives adequate support.
- End of life: The guidelines urge that a feline patient’s passing be as peaceful and pain-free as possible.
Task force co-chair Dr. Katrina Breitreiter said the guidelines provide a comprehensive summary of how to approach and support the cat’s and caregiver’s needs.
“This is a valuable resource to any veterinary professional that treats cats in their practice,” she said.