College’s Pet Hospice Program Offers Care, Comfort to Animals and Owners
The Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine, a unique service of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences that assists grieving pet owners while teaching veterinary students about the emotional needs of their clients, has launched its Pet Hospice program. The hospice cares for terminally ill animals and assists their owners during the illness and death of their pet, and is the first of its kind at a university veterinary program. The program is run by Colorado State veterinary student volunteers.
"We are excited to be the first university program of its kind to provide such a valuable resource to our community," said Gail Bishop, the co-founder of the program and faculty advisor at Colorado State's Argus Institute.
Pet Hospice connects advanced veterinary students with families whose dog or cat is terminally ill, operating on the same philosophy that human hospice programs embrace: death is a part of life, and terminal illness and the dying process can be experienced with dignity and a level of comfort and peace as an animal rests at home with its family.
"Our Pet Hospice program provides a way for people to bring their pet home for their final days," said Christie Long, a veterinary students and hospice team co-manager. "People often want to make sure that their pet is able to feel connected to their family and physically comfortable and cared for by an expert during the final stages of their illness."
Through the program, 30 student volunteers provide information to help pet owners make educated decisions about their pet's health, provide emotional support and grief education to the pet owners, monitor the pet's health while helping to minimize the animal's pain, and provide physical comfort.
The Pet Hospice program has formed a network with local veterinarians through which animals and their owners will be referred. Students at Colorado State who volunteer for the program are provided with specialized training similar to training provided to nurses serving in human hospice programs.
The service currently is free to owners with terminally ill pets, but, because it is a volunteer service, only has the capacity for 10 cases at a time. Each Pet Hospice case is cared for by two veterinary student volunteers who visit the pet regularly at home - from daily to every other day -- to help the family look after the pet's needs.
"The loss of a pet is a traumatic and heart-felt loss to many, many people. People experience a profound sense of grief when losing a pet," said Dr. Susan Plaza, medical advisor and veterinarian at Colorado State. "In the United States, many people feel that their pet is a member of the family. However, they may also feel uncomfortable openly expressing their grief over the illness and eventual death of their pet to family members, friends, coworkers and others close to them. Our students help them understand that their grief is normal and understandable, and provide them with an outlet for expressing their feelings.
For more information about the Pet Hospice program at Colorado State, call 970-219-7335 during business hours on weekdays, or 970-219-7336 after hours, or visit their Web site at www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu.