Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is the only teaching hospital in the country to offer pet hospice services.
The service, which began in 2004, offers free in-house hospice care for pet owners in the Fort Collins area. The program is suited for pets with terminal illnesses, and the hospice team provides basic nursing services, quality-of-life assessments, end-of-life arrangements and emotional support. The role of the hospice is also to act as a bridge between clients and veterinarians.
“A lot of people appreciate an extra pair of ears, eyes and heart to help them with the decision (to euthanize their pets),” said Gail Bishop, co-founder and adviser for the program. “For anyone who needs that extra support, the program is great.”
The program also allows veterinary students to gain real-world experience. All of the volunteers in the program are students, and they are able to learn skills outside of the hospital.
“It’s a great way to build communication skills,” said Mark Jeon, a second-year veterinary student and manager of the program. “It offers experiences other than sitting in a classroom.”
The volunteers are also able to learn to deal with some of the more emotional aspects of the career.
“That compassion fatigue is pretty common in the vet world,” said Cara Peterson, a third-year veterinary student and manager in the program. “I think this program exposes us to that in a big way early on, so that we learn to deal with these things.”
Peterson said the first time she went into a house on a case after working as a vet tech for five years was much more upsetting than she expected. She said seeing how much people care about their pets makes the job much more intense than simply working in the lab.
The program has an average of 15 to 20 clients a year, but Bishop said they have plenty of room for more.
Anyone interested in the program can get more information by calling 970-219-7335 or by visiting the website.
“I think we really sanction the human-animal bond,” Bishop said. “The students have a heart of gold and can help implement that plan of care.”
Collegian Reporter Chapman Croskell can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Nescwick.