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April 2012

Pet Hospice Expands in Veterinary Care

Following in the footsteps of human hospice, pet hospice is on the rise, becoming more widely available and allowing owners to become more involved in end-of-life care.

“It’s a natural movement forward in veterinary medicine, as we further recognize and honor the human-animal bond,” says Dr. Carrie Donahue of Full Circle In-Home Pet Hospice and Euthanasia in Madison, Wis.

Dr. Donahue completed her undergraduate work in biology at the University of Minnesota and attended St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine. She completed her clinical year at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine where she graduated in 2010.

Dr. Donahue’s interest in pet hospice began when she was asked by a client to perform acupuncture on a dog that could no longer walk.

“From the point of stepping into her home and seeing a dog at the end of his life, I knew I wanted to help in whatever way I could, to make the end of the dog’s life as comfortable as possible,” says Dr. Donahue.

This experience caused her to realize that pets could be assisted in this way if owners are given the support they need to care for their dying pets at home.

Pet hospice care is a relatively new concept, modeled on the practice in human medicine. Hospice focuses on “caring, not curing.”

“Hospice provides a way for owners to give a loving gift to their pets at the end of their life, and it can make a pet’s death a kinder, more intimate experience for both the pets and family,” explains Dr. Donahue.

Dr. Donahue makes it a priority to provide support to the pet and family in whichever way she can. She provides the tools that people need to care for their pets at home, makes therapeutic modalities available and provides treatments as needed.

The most common and most controversial question raised by veterinarians and pet owners alike regarding pet hospice is whether the pet is suffering or not.

“Hospice care does not prolong suffering but rather helps owners identify if their animal is experiencing pain. It provides support in alleviating the pain,” says Dr. Donahue. “Terminal illnesses and the dying process can be experienced with dignity as an animal is allowed to rest at home with its loving family.”

As a pet owner, it may be difficult to determine if hospice care is right for your pet. According to Dr. Donahue, owners should consider hospice when their pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and they have the resources and desire to provide care for their pet at the end of life.

Pet owners considering hospice also need to do their homework before pursuing a decision.

“When owners are considering in-home hospice care, there are several considerations to be evaluated,” adds Dr. Donahue.

These considerations include: who will be available to care for the pet, how much time will be devoted caring for the pet, and what the financial resources are for end-of-life care.

“Hospice care can last for days or weeks or, rarely, months,” says Dr. Donahue. “The cost of pet hospice is very individualized. It will depend on services and supplies provided.”

Dr. Donahue provides numerous services for in-home pet hospice care. The services range from pain management and nutritional therapy to wound care and mental stimulation.

A licensed veterinarian should always be involved in the pet hospice decision making process.

“Veterinarians can help families recognize the full extent of their pet’s disease, what to expect as death approaches and provide information about treatments,” says Dr. Donahue. “Veterinary care also involves recognizing pain and other symptoms of disease, prescribing and administrating medications, anticipating complications, and performing euthanasia.”

Dr. Donahue believes the trend of in-home pet hospice care will continue.

“With their veterinarian’s support, more pet owners will feel empowered to take care of their animals at home,” says Dr. Donahue. “As pet owners become aware that hospice is available, more will seek it out.”

Additional information on pet hospice care can be found online at The International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care ( and The Nikki Pet Hospice Foundation (

As mentioned by Dr. Donahue, “it is never too early to begin planning for end-of-life care.”

Healthy Swine Heading to the Fair

Did you know that veterinarians play a big role in your family fair fun? Behind the scene work and preparation by fair exhibitors and veterinarians ensure your annual trip through the swine barn is enjoyable and safe.

Dr. Jill Janssen from River Valley Veterinary Clinic, Plain, Wis. reminds the public that veterinarians are required to inspect all fair-going animals and provide a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), commonly known as a health certificate.

“It is critical that only healthy animals are allowed at the fair to safeguard the health of other animals as well as fair-goers,” says Dr. Janssen. “This is why a CVI is so important.”

In order to issue a CVI, a veterinarian has to inspect the animal within 30 days of the show, make sure it has a federally approved individual identification, and observe the animal for signs of illness and communicable diseases.

A CVI ensures everyone will be safe as they visit swine at the fair.

“Veterinary inspection is important to public safety because some diseases carried by animals are zoonotic, meaning the disease can be transferred from animals to humans,” says Dr. Janssen.

Issuing a CVI allows the veterinarian to observe the exhibitor’s facilities and animal husbandry practices, as well as offer expert advice

When inspecting swine to ensure they are healthy for the fair, Dr. Janssen observes their body condition, appetite and energy level. Swine should not have signs of respiratory disease, such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose. Their skin should also be free of sores and open wounds.

As with all animals, swine stay healthy by having clean water, a balanced diet and shelter. Vaccination requirements will vary from farm to farm. Deworming is done as needed, or regularly, to ensure swine are free of intestinal parasites.

When taking your annual trip to the fair, you should expect to see swine at finished market weight. According to Dr. Janssen, swine will weigh between 250-290 pounds.

Dr. Janssen truly enjoys the extra work she picks up through fair projects.

“I think 4-H and FFA are great experiences for youth. It teaches them responsibility and animal husbandry.”

The next time you walk through the swine barn, you can be sure all the animals will have been inspected by a veterinarian to confirm they are healthy and safe for you to visit!


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