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How Can I Care for My Dying Pet at Home?

Hospice is a special philosophy of care designed to provide comfort, support and dignity to animals and their families during life-limiting illness.

 The goal of hospice care is to enhance the quality of living while dying.

  1. Hospice is about love, joy and devotion.
  2. Hospice care can prolong life, but does not hasten death.
  3. Hospice care often embraces both conventional and alternative medicine.
  4. The hospice team comprises specially trained professionals, volunteers and family members.
  5. Hospice addresses all symptoms of a disease, with a special emphasis on controlling pain or discomfort.
  6. Hospice addresses daily emotional and spiritual needs of both the animals and their families.
  7. Hospice offers a variety of bereavement and counseling services to families before and after death.


The picture is BrightHaven’s “Lucy”, whose nickname became Lucy Nightingale as she taught us so much about hospice care for animals. Read Lucy’s story.

The History of Hospice


Hospice is not a place but a concept of care. The word “hospice” stems from the Latin word “hospitium,” meaning guesthouse. In medieval times it was used to describe a place of shelter for weary and sick travelers returning from religious pilgrimages. During the 1960s, Dr. Cicely Saunders, a British physician, began the modern hospice movement by establishing St. Christopher’s Hospice near London. She was inspired by a dying patient who, at the end of life, requested words of comfort, acts of kindness and friendship. Dr. Saunders came to believe and to teach “we do not have to cure to heal.” St. Christopher’s organized a team approach to professional caregiving, and was the first program to use modern pain management techniques to compassionately care for the dying. The first hospice in the United States was established in New Haven, Connecticut in 1974. Today, nearly every community in the nation has a hospice program as part of its healthcare continuum.

Why Animal Hospice?


Animal hospice care is a relatively new philosophy of healthcare in the veterinary world, but in other walks of life and professions it has long and readily been accepted as a normal path for all beings. More and more people are wishing for a natural end to their animals’ lives and seeking out help in this endeavor. BrightHaven is proud to have the experience derived from two decades of helping elder animals have the best quality of life and death possible through intensive caregiving, and most times with a natural ending. We are pleased to announce our new outreach program to the community so we can help those who wish to follow the same path for their own loved ones. This is offered via online resources, educational seminars and email or telephone consultation.

The BrightHaven Vision for Animal Hospice


We look forward to a time when animal lovers from all walks and professions come together to experience love, comfort care, dignity and respect for animals towards the end of their lives.


Gail Pope founded BrightHaven in 1990. BrightHaven’s mission is development and application of holistic senior and special needs animal care, and animal hospice and its philosophy of care. They are dedicated to improving the care and support of animals with a serious or end-of-life illness.


Gail and BrightHaven’s dream is to expand and work towards making this country a place where the elderly, sick and disabled animals are not treated as disposable items, but rather as a respected part of a caring society, consequently helping to make the world a better place for all of us. Day to day costs are enormous: please consider making a donation to help out.


Gail is also proud to serve as a founding member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care.



Please note: The information provided here is intended to supplement the recommendations of your veterinarian. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment based on information on this site. Nothing can replace a complete history and physical examination performed by your veterinarian. -Dr. Jeff