Colorado State University’s Pet Hospice Program has expanded its number of volunteers to be able to care for more terminally ill patients. The program, coordinated by the Argus Institute at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, provides hospice services and consultation to community members free of charge within a 30-mile radius of the hospital. The program is expanding the number of student volunteers, from 26 to 36, who are trained to offer hospice care to ill pets
The Pet Hospice Program connects veterinary students with people whose dog or cat is terminally ill, yet still able to be cared for at home. While students cannot perform advanced care at a client’s home or euthanasia, they can assist with basic support and can be a liaison between the patient’s family and the attending veterinarian. Students help monitor the pet’s vital signs, pain level and level of comfort, eating and drinking habits and general quality of life. They work closely with the family’s veterinarian to help implement the veterinarian’s plan for the pet. They offer emotional support to the families as well.
Because the service is free and run by student volunteers, the hospice has had to limit its caseload to 10 patients at a time. With the expanded number of students at the end of the year, they can now care for up to 15 patients at one time. The students who volunteer with the program are provided with specialized training similar to nurses who serve in human hospice programs.
“Through pet hospice, families are able to keep their pet comfortable and connected to the family at home during the pet’s last days,” said Gail Bishop, coordinator for the program. “Because only animals with terminal illnesses are accepted into the program, virtually all cases in pet hospice end in euthanasia when the pet’s illness has progressed to a point beyond a comfortable quality of life. In addition to providing basic care, hospice student volunteers educate pet owners about their pet’s deteriorating health and their own grief. They provide support before, during and after the pet’s euthanasia.”
Since the inception of the program in 2003, the Pet Hospice Program has helped 90 patients and their families and worked with 22 local veterinary clinics. As a result of the program, more than 120 veterinary students have received training and experience. CSU has the only university-based, veterinary-student led pet hospice program in the world.
For more information about the Pet Hospice Program, call (970) 219-7335 during regular weekday business hours or (970) 219-7336 after hours. Information also is available online at http://www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu/pethospice.htm