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Some Pet Owners Turn to Hospice Care

Some Pet Owners Turn to Hospice Care

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingWhen a pet has an incurable disease, the traditional route is a quick trip to the vet's for a euthanasia shot, but some owners are now taking care of their pets at home instead.

Scott DeLucchi, Humane Society: "When that animal passes away, people describe it like they've lost a family member, and in some cases worse."

There's a new choice to consider for pet owners: hospice care. The idea is to keep a terminally ill animal as comfortable and pain-free as possible in a familiar environment, at home. With Pet Hospice, pain management is key."

Gary Hurlbut, DVM, Pacifica Pet Hospital: "My first choice is always pills."

Vets can show family members how to keep an animal comfortable.

Gary Hurlbut, DVM: "We do have some animals that we will send home with injectable mediations and teach the owners to give injections, which is easier than pills, especially with cats. It is not really commonly known even among vets what to do with animals, and frankly it is a lot easier to put an animal to sleep."

Finding a hospice vet is one hurdle. Another big one is cost. It's all out of pocket.

Gary Hurlbut, DVM: "Hospice care can get expensive. More and more people are willing to pay for it."

But perhaps the final and biggest hurdle is knowing when to let go.

Gary Hurlbut, DVM: "More people say they waited too long. They were having trouble dealing with these very strong emotions. "

Even with home pet hospice care, euthansia can still play a role.

Gary Hurlbut, DVM: "Sometimes an animal is so sick and in so much pain, it's hard, but it's the right decision."

The cost for pet hospice varies, but painkillers can be expensive. One popular narcotic patch costs 200 dollars a piece and lasts only a few days.

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