How to care for and support a dying animal

Free Video of Dr. Karen Becker interviewing holistic veterinarian Ella Bittel for the 1/18/15 edition of the newsletter. Click here to view the 25 min. long video as well as the printed article which is available in both english and spanish.

Will your veterinarian support you in hospice care? Questions may help to find out.

“Hospice” has become a buzz word of sorts in animal care. This has lead to a rather indiscriminate use of the term. Those looking for hospice support do well to engage in conversation with possible local animal hospice providers to find out about their perspectives and level of experience. We advise to do this in advance of a possible need, without the time pressure and emotional challenge that often sets in when decisions are to be made for an animal once it is diagnosed as terminally ill. Click here to view the questions.

Special-Needs Care or Hospice Certificate

We offer this downloadable form to those who have an animal receiving special needs care and/or hospice and to veterinarians who feel their clients could benefit from it. The intended use of the form is for animal caregivers to be able to address the concerns of family members, friends or neighbors if they question an animal’s care, given its appearance or condition. For example, some people are unaware that an old animal can be rather skinny even if it is still eating well. In that kind of a situation it might be helpful to show the form, explaining that the animal is under veterinary care and that what they are observing can be normal symptoms for the animal’s condition, also reassuring them that pain management gets implemented if needed.

Click here to download this form.

If the animal is in an area (e.g. pasture, yard, car) that can be viewed by others, consider also posting the form so that it is clearly displayed. If you offer animal hospice services and would like to distribute the form with your logo visible, please feel free to e-mail us and we will provide you with an according version of this form.

PEACEFUL, the Quality of Dying Check List

PEACEFUL, the Quality of Dying Check list, is designed to determine acceptable quality of life for an animal in hospice care to continue the normal dying process. This document is authored by GRACE. On the contrary, Quality of Life scales are used in veterinary medicine to determine when to euthanize an animal. They are based on the belief that the usual signs of the normal dying process are unacceptable. This Quality of Dying checklist is designed for animals who receive hospice care to maintain their comfort all the way through an unhastened death. It is informed by the experiences of dying humans, which taught hospice that certain symptoms, even though they can be difficult for the family to witness, are actually not causing discomfort to the patient.

Click here to download this list.

GRACE Animal Hospice – important documents

GRACE Animal Hospice is a collaborative effort of the founders of Brighthaven, Spirits in Transition, and The Nikki Hospice Foundation of Pets. On this website you can find amongst other things the Foundational Principles of Hospice Care as we apply them to animals. Under Terminology there are detailed suggestions to veterinarians how to properly use the word “Hospice” when offering services. Since these suggestions have not been widely adopted by the veterinary profession, this document can also give insight to non-professional animal caregivers when cautiously navigating services advertised as veterinary hospice support.

Why is it important to distinguish the term “Hospice” from other types of End-of-Life Care?

The notion that it is superfluous to understand the difference between hospice and other types of end-of-life care for animals is prevalent among those viewing and advertising hospice as just another word for palliative care ending with euthanasia. The price paid for such approach can be high, for both the animal and its caregiver, as well as for our society. This is a succinct yet not all-encompassing list of the consequences when the term “hospice” is used without understanding and/or respect for the basic hospice values that have made human hospice the treasured resource it is today. Click here to view the list.

SPIRITS in Transition Seminar Brochure

Click here to view the full seminar brochure as PDF, (file size: 1.3MB). This requires Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or later. Please click here to download the newest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you have trouble downloading the seminar brochure, please contact us at

Free 1 hr Video Recording “Walking our Talk in Animal End-of-Life Care”

This video is made available for free due to the very positive feed back of the audience after Ella Bittel’s presentation held during the 3rd International Symposium on Veterinary Hospice Care held in Davis, CA in July 2012. It explores the far-reaching impact it can have on animal caregivers and their animals when terminology used in veterinary end-of-life care is applied loosely as commonly happens. Included is a contemplation of the significance of the will to live of special-needs, geriatric or terminally ill animals.

The presentation is offered in 2 parts for greater ease of use.

Part 1 Part 2


SPIRITS in Transition Audio Recordings

Dreamvisions Online Radio Show November 2018

Sally Morgan interviewed Ella Bittel on “Dr. Judy Morgan’s Naturally Healthy Pets” Dreamvisions online radio show. Topics include defining animal hospice, reasons why people choose hospice for their animal, the #1 concern people are afraid of when choosing hospice for their pets, what a veterinary hospice service needs to provide, benefits of using integrative care during hospice and before and what people report after having given hospice to their animal. Run time 48 min.

Note: We clarified after the interview that the support network in the Boston area Sally referred to is unfortunately no longer in existence.

Teleconference One Heart Healing Center, November 13, 2014

This is our animal care dedicated contribution to November being dedicated “National Hospice Palliative Care Month”. Sandy Rakowitz from One Heart Healing Center interviews holistic veterinarian Ella Bittel on topics like ‘Ways that Tellington TTouch, Essential Oils, Flower Essences, Chinese Medicine and other holistic approaches are so useful in End-of-Life Care and Hospice for Animals’, ‘Crucial Planning Tips for times when your animal needs a lot of care – that you can begin to incorporate NOW’ and ‘WHEN is a good time to start Hospice or End-of-Life Care for animal companions”.

Get comfy with a cup of tea for this almost 2 hr long recording.

Click here to listen.

AHVMA Conference 2014

The three hours of lectures given by Ella Bittel at the annual conference of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association in 2014 are: 1) (How) It can be done: Special Needs Care and Complementary Treatment Options for Animals With Mobility Issues, 2) (How) It can be done: Special Needs Care and Complementary Treatment Options for Animals with Incontinence and 3) (How) it can be done: Conquering Breathing Difficulties in End-of-Life Care for Animals

At the moment of this update, the individual sessions have not yet been posted for purchase. To check whether they are now available or to purchase the complete set or recordings of all speakers at this conference CD audio recordings click here.

AHVMA Conference 2012

In 2012 Ella Bittel presented at the annual conference of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association on the following topics: 1) Riding the roller coaster: Loss of appetite in end-of-life care, 2) The Do’s and Don’ts in Animal Hospice, 3) End-of-life care, professional politics and personal predicament. Aside from these sessions on end-of-life care she also presented on Headache in Animals – Recognition and Treatment.

CD audio recordings can be purchased here. The product codes are S11, S5, S19,and S72 (headache).

AHVMA Conference 2010

Ella gave three hours of lecture at the annual conference of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The session titles are: 1) Re-evaluating common reasons for euthanasia, 2) Integrating hospice services in your practice, and 3) Understanding the stages of dying and their significance in animal hospice care.

CD audio recordings can be purchased here. The product codes are G6, H6 and I6.

Integrative Health Pet Expo, September 2009

The CD of Ella’s 50 min. speech on “Caring for our Animal Companions through the End of Life” in Fitchburg, MA can be purchased here under code S8, “Hospice Care for Animals”. In this presentation Ella gives an overview of current approaches to end-of-life care for animals in the United States.

Internet Radio Show January 2008

The Internet Radio Show Animal Talk Naturally featured Hospice for Animals: SPIRITS in Transition on January 9th, 2008. (Show #129)

You can listen to the recording here.

AHVMA Conference 2007

Ella gave three hours of lecture at the annual conference of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association on how we can support ourselves and other animal caretakers through the time of caring for terminally ill animals.

CD audio recordings can be purchased here. Unfortunately, due to the mic cutting out the quality of the recordings is compromised. Still, listeners found value in the content.

Font Resize