Forty years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her landmark book On Death and Dying observed “maybe at the end of our days, when we have worked and given, enjoyed ourselves and suffered, we are going back to the stage that we started out with and the circle of life is closed.”21 Just as human life expectancy has steadily increased over the last 4 or 5 decades, animal life expectancy has increased, including that of zoologic species. With this has come a need for humans to openly and frankly deal with end-of-life issues for themselves and for their animals, including those in zoos. By necessity, zoos have been dealing with problems such as aggressive pain management and triage, and efforts to incorporate end-of-life care into zoologic medicine. But these efforts have yet to include formal acknowledgment that they are a basic form of hospice. Hospice for humans, and now for companion animals, includes much more than pain relief and geriatric care. This article reviews the concepts and basic practices of hospice and the closely related field of palliative care, their relatively recent application to companion animal care, potential applications to zoologic medicine, and the ways this could provide opportunities for personal growth of zoo visitors and staff, including veterinary staff.
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