Katy was a 10-year old beagle diagnosed with lymphoma and the beloved pet of the Pearl family. Her cancer returned after seven months of treatment. Pet Hospice volunteers visited weekly to care for Katy and help her family say goodbye. Katy is pictured with her “Mom,” Gabrielle Pearl. Photo courtesy of: Pet Hospice Program, Argus Institute, College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital, Colorado State University.
Animal hospice enables owners to provide in-home, end-of-life care for their pets when finding a cure is no longer an option. BY SHARON PFLAUMER
he same spring Kathleen Cooney, DVM, graduated from vet school at Colorado State University, she said goodbye to her family’s15-year-old yellow lab, McKenzie, who passed away peacefully under the aspen tree in the front yard. The experience triggered a change in her thinking about the kind of veterinary medicine she ultimately wanted to practice. It became the foundation for her belief that when pets reach the end of their life, they should be cared for at home, while surrounded by the family who loved them. Dr. Cooney’s in-home work treating pets with a cancer diagnosis, during the next two years, further reinforced this belief and led to her interest in providing animal hospice care. In 2006, she Many families want a started Home keepsake paw print after to Heaven, a the death of their pet. mobile veterinary Photo courtesy of Kathleen practice based in Cooney, DVM. Loveland, CO that
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Sally, a dying yellow lab, shown tucked in for comfort. Many animals don’t require this but she seemed better supported by it. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Cooney, DVM.
specializes in animal hospice and in-home euthanasia. Its staff of eight veterinarians now provides end-of-life care for between 50 and 65 pets each week.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Dr. Cooney’s practice is part of a growing movement within veterinary medicine that’s given rise to networks of mobile veterinarians who only provide end-of-
life care to pets. Some list themselves as in-home euthanasia services only. Others provide varying degrees of hospice care that, in some instances, is strikingly similar to that offered by hospice providers for humans. (Eighty-four percent of owners refer to themselves as their pet’s “Mom” or “Dad” according to an American Animal Hospital Association Survey of 1,200 pet owners in the United States and Canada. Given their status