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Hospice Care Eases the End for Loyal Pets
Date:8/6/2009

Increasingly, loving owners are choosing it for their animal companions

THURSDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Hospice care isn't just for humans anymore, as more animal owners are making that choice for their terminally ill pets as an alternative to early euthanasia.

For nearly 20 years, a handful of veterinarians has helped animals suffering from incurable diseases, such as heart and kidney failure, to die peacefully at home, not in a hospital cage. But only recently have pet owners and the veterinary profession begun to fully embrace the idea.

The spike in interest is mostly from people who went through the hospice experience with a parent or sibling and decide to do it for their cat or dog, said Kathryn Marocchino, founder of the Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets, an educational and referral service in Vallejo, Calif.

"These are the people who consider pets a part of the family and want to do whatever it takes to be there for them up until the end," she says.

Under the guidance of a veterinarian, owners learn skills necessary to minister to their pets at home, such as administering medication, changing dressings and giving fluids.

Symptoms such as pain are managed through the use of pharmaceuticals and, perhaps, holistic medicine until death occurs naturally or the owners decide to euthanize.

Some ailing animals only survive a few days or weeks; others live for years with supportive care.

About 100 veterinarians nationwide offer end-of-life support as part of their regular services. A few clinics, including the Argus Institute at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, are dedicated solely to end-of-life treatment for animals.

"It is a service, I think, people are going to be asking for more and more," said Marocchino.

The foundation's annual symposium on animal hospice care at the University of California in Davis in September will draw profession
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