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Reflections On The International Symposium On Veterinary Hospice Care

The first pet hospice conference’s purpose was to merge the medical aspects of end-of-life care with the psychosocial and spiritual aspects.


Reflections on the International Symposium on Veterinary Hospice CareReflections on the International Symposium on Veterinary Hospice CarebondbeyondPosted: April 28, 2008By Alice Villalobos, DVM

The first pet hospice conference’s purpose was to merge the medical aspects of end-of-life care with the psychosocial and spiritual aspects.

According to Kathryn D. Marocchino, Ph.D., president and founder of the Nikki Hospice Foundation, this collaborative meeting was the first of its kind and brought together a diverse group of health care workers. Marocchino organized the symposium at the University of California, Davis. 

Hospice professionals like Dr. Marrochino, hospice volunteers, nursing and medical staff, psychologists, grief counselors, social workers, bereavement facilitators, death educators, veterinary chaplains, pastoral counselors, animal-health care workers, shelter and SPCA staff, animal communicators, pet cemetery personnel, pet massage therapists and pet-sitters including interested lay people assembled to discuss the medical and emotional aspects of hospice care. 

This unusual group of human-animal bond oriented people sat side by side with general practitioners, specialists, holistic veterinarians, registered technicians, animal nurses, students, practice managers and philanthropists who maintain private or non-profit pet hospice facilities. 

Marrochino’s goal was to develop a comprehensive, broad-based approach to veterinary hospice care. This may not have been achieved in the first meeting, but the first big step was taken.

The medical and nursing aspects of pet hospice, which I call “pawspice,” are very important and many of the veterinary attendees were hoping for more sessions covering these intricate issues. The symposium included sessions that covered topics such as:

  • The relevance of human hospice to veterinary hospice care
  • The mobile hospice veterinarian
  • Pharmacological protocols and pain management
  • Quality of life for pawspice patients
  • Setting up a veterinary hospice facility
  • The value of holistic medicine in veterinary hospice care
  • Working with grieving pet owners and dying companion animals

Marocchino stressed the need for society to have a better understanding and acceptance of the idea of death itself. 

“Understanding the dying process and being present with the companion animals up until the moment of death, whether or not that occurs through euthanasia, is paramount to this kind of comfort care,” Marocchino said.

Speakers included a welcome by Dean Bennie Osburn and a perspective on pet hospice by Associate Dean Don Klingborg. 

Richard Timmins, DVM, the immediate-past president of the American Assn. of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and manager of the Program for Veterinary Family Practice at UC  Davis presented a paper titled “The Human-Animal Bond and the Veterinary Hospice Caregiver.”

Dr. Timmins believes that the wide variety of fields represented by the attendees blend together and generate a global understanding of the need for veterinary hospice care to serve society’s needs.

Using human hospice care as a model, speakers investigated how veterinary professionals and pet-loss counselors can help guide pet owners through the challenges and grief as they take their pets through the dying process. It was stressed that pet hospice practice focus on supportive relationships between the veterinary staff and the pet caregiver.

Dr. Robin Downing and I emphasized the value of palliative care, pain management and quality of life. Downing presented “Pharmacology in Multimodal Pain Management for the Veterinary Hospice Patient” and I presented “Pawspice: A Palliative Program for Quality of Life for Terminal Pets.”

The next conference may have tracked sessions so that veterinarians can select medically oriented sessions and paraprofessionals can select client support, spiritual and pet-loss oriented sessions. 

The Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets and the Assisi International Animal Institute sponsored and organized the symposium. Click here for more information. <HOME>

The first pet hospice conference’s purpose was to merge the medical aspects of end-of-life care with the psychosocial and spiritual aspects. The first pet hospice conference’s purpose was to merge the medical aspects of end-of-life care with the psychosocial and spiritual aspects. hospice, veterinary hospice, Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets 4/23/2012 10:23 AM

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