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Posted on Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Local vet to discuss how pets with painful conditions and chronic or terminal illness can be helped by animal hospice

By Lorrie Shaw


Flickr photo by kalin.fe

Dying peacefully and comfortably is something that we strive for with our human loved ones, and the focus on hospice care for end-of-life is an integral part of the process.

The trend is growing for our four-legged friends as well. And one area veterinarian believes that talking about end-of-life needs is something that's important to address from kitten- or puppyhood, as planning ahead can make all of the difference.

Dr. Monica Turenne, DVM, CVA will be presenting a talk this coming weekend in Ann Arbor to address the topic of animal hospice in hopes to open up dialogue about this important area of sharing life with pets.

"There isn't a really good definition of animal hospice," notes Turenne, who is a mobile vet and owner Four Paws Veterinary Wellness in Ann Arbor.

Turenne emphasizes that keeping that definition as open as possible is a good idea, as hospice can really encompass a broad range of time and options: palliative measures, comfort care — as well as addressing the final days of a pet's life.

Pets with chronic, painful and/or terminal diagnoses benefit from animal hospice.

Comfort is an especially important topic within animal hospice, as understanding how animal's manifest pain more readily — and how a clinician can help with ways to mitigate pain have come a long way.

"Euthanasia isn't the only option when a pet is ill or at the end of their life," adds Turenne.

Starting out with a consultation as early as possible, and talking about a pet's needs is the first step. Then, creating a hospice plan that is personalized for the pet and the family comes into play. Depending on the needs and health of the animal, Turenne makes periodic check-ins with the family to assess any changes that may needed in care.

Several factors come into play during the planning stages, like philosophical and financial considerations, as well as preparing the humans for the transition. Anticipatory grief is very much a part of the process for those who share life with pets that are nearing end-of-life.

"It's all about empowering people to better care for their pets."

All of this, ideally done when a pet is healthy and doing fine: humans are in a better position mentally to think about how they would like to address issues with mobility, pain and the like.

Turenne concluded our conversation by saying that she's finding that people really want to be involved as much as they can with their pet's overall wellness and that it's a great thing — they know their animal better than anyone. That's crucial during hospice.

"Pet owners are really intuitive when it comes their animals."

The free event will be held on Sunday, March 10 from 2-3 p.m. in the Crazy Wisdom Community Room, 114 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor.

Turenne will further explain the growing field of animal hospice, and cases will be presented. Open discussion is encouraged. Call 734-385-7161 for more information.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.



Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

Our vet was extremely cooperative when it was time for our dog to go. This was a few years back. He kept saying when it is time I will let you know. It was her time but the family members could not get to her fast enough so he drugged her up and the spouse brought her home. Then we sent her back to the vet a few days later and let her go in peace. I am glad vets are seeing the light on this one.

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

jns131, Thanks for sharing your story. I can imagine how hard that period of time was for your family. I am glad that pet hospice is becoming more mainstream. It's a very holistic process, so to speak and there are so many facets: from diagnosis of a disease or the natural process of aging, anticipatory grief, right on through comfort and supportive care and transition. We can't forget about what happens after: not only do we as humans experience grief, but so commonly, the pets in the house do as well. Acknowledging that and traversing through it takes mindfulness and care. My conversation on that with Colleen O'Brien, MSW in 2011 was just wonderful. Read that here: Thanks for sharing. I know that there are a lot of folks out there who might find it too hard to expand on their experience and you likely gave them some comfort. :)