It happens to every pet owner; at some point in your relationship you have to make the decision to end a companion’s suffering. It’s never an easy decision or one that you make with any degree of surety and the questions always remain, did I do the right thing? Was it necessary now?

The compassionate act of veterinary euthanasia is wrought with angst, second guessing and self recrimination all because there is no readily available alternative. A companion animal’s quality of life is a subjective opinion that hinges on our human understanding of what life, comfort and happiness really are. We can project our own feelings onto the animal and make an emotional decision but we can never see through its eyes or feel with its heart. At best euthanasia is a sedative to our own emotional and physical turmoil; at worst it is a compassionate decision that is made either too early or too late.

But what if there was an alternative? What is we had the means to communicate with our best friend in his time of need? What if we could be certain that prolonging life had value for your best friend and meant that your relationship could continue for some time into the future, perhaps changed but still rich and meaningful for both of you?

Compassionate veterinary hospice is extended veterinary care that like its human medical counterpart is able to care for, comfort and extend the meaningful relationship between family and loved ones as end of life approaches.

There are many forms of hospice care for companion animals the main distinction being venue. A veterinary practice which provides onsite care is the form most often available in veterinary clinics, home visitation by a hospice veterinarian and or technician is a relatively new concept and one that as more veterinarians opt to specialize their practice is finding its way into more communities.

However alternatives exist most notably a small number of privately run hospice shelters that provide a home like setting with round the clock care including veterinary on call supervision plus the opportunity for family visitation. These organizations are often staffed by volunteers and may run the gamut from private for profit institutions to charitable rescues providing final care for rescued and or abandoned animals.

As veterinary education opportunities expand and the pet industry evolves to meet a growing demand for more and better services in the five areas of the human/animal bond: veterinary care, nutrition, wellness, shelter and life enrichment owners will have a much wider array of pet services available to them.

Pet hospitals like Chicago’s Animal Emergency & Treatment Center, AETC and Tampa Bay’s Veterinary Specialists with facilities in Tampa, Sarasota and most recently New York will gradually expand to provide not only excellent emergency medical and diagnostic services but by their very existence these institutions will serve to encourage an even larger community of pet wellness industries.

Services like pet chiropractic treatment, reiki, acupuncture clinics and dental specialties will expand to meet the rising demand for companion animal health care and so too will the need for compassionate veterinary hospice.

This weekend the Second Annual Symposium on Veterinary Hospice Care convenes at the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in Davis, California.

Among the goals of the symposium is the model by which an international association of Veterinary Hospice should be framed; what purposes, standards of practice and professional qualifications should be included and in what role should veterinary hospice emerge in order to best serve the community as a whole.

We’ll be writing about these and other topics live from the symposium beginning Saturday the 5th as well as taking your questions/comments via Twitter. Tweet us using your Twitter account or join the conversation via our Taxi dog Twitter gadget at