Thursday, May 31, 2012

Veterinary Hospital Starts Michigan's First Pet Hospice To Care For Aging And Terminally Ill Pets

In 2007,  when  my Angel Bobo was facing the final days of his life, just prior to turning 18, (he passed one day after his 18th birthday), I was faced with many agonizing decisions. Wanting to preserve his dignity and lessen his suffering,  and after his communication to ME " that yes it was time," (which he told me AFTER I held him and told him I would be ok,  and to please not worry. Bobo's life was spent protecting me and I knew he would never cross the bridge without knowing I would be ok),  I chose to help him cross the bridge in the safety and love of our home, on our couch.

Bobo had been ill with feline heart issues and deteriorating kidney function for two years prior to the day I made the heartbreaking decision. In one sense, I was blessed that his worst days didn't go on for months, so had a Pet Hospice existed at that time I am not sure it would have been a necessity for me. Bobo had become deaf, he was inactive, his breathing labored, my formerly "I-live-for-my-Mama-and-for-food" cat had stopped eating. My beloved Bobo   no longer had a good quality of life. Had things been different and Pet Hospice existed, I might have looked into it.

The Cat Practice hospice in Birmingham, Michigan,  will offer end-of-life care, modeled after human hospice that alleviates physical discomfort and provides a caring end-of-life experience for the pet and the pet’s family. Like human hospice, The Cat Practice hospice is for families whose pets face an incurable condition, but can still enjoy quality of life.  Instead of curative treatment, pets receive palliative, or comfort care, that includes medication for pain and discomfort, physical affection, favorite foods and extra time with family members.

In 2011, Troy resident Maryann Clark faced a difficult decision when her  17-year-old brown tabby cat Rocky was diagnosed with heart disease, and in 2009 when her 16-year-old calico Purrdy developed kidney failure and heart disease.   For many pet owners with seriously ill or aging pets, euthanasia has been the only choice.
Clark instead wanted her felines to live as long as possible assuming that they were still active
 and could enjoy good quality of life.  

Pets in the hospice program receive care at home under the direction of The Cat Practice veterinary hospice nurse Laura Kramek.  Families are taught how to administer care and have a regular pipeline in to Kramek for guidance and support. They also get reduced pricing on office visits and pet pain medications.  Psychologist Dr. Camille Greenwald, who works with The Cat Practice, is available for grief counseling.   Future plans include a memory wall on the hospital’s website for remembering deceased pets.

“Cats are living 20 years and more,” says Kramek.  “Conditions once considered untreatable – kidney failure, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease – can all be managed today." To help pet owners prepare for caring for an aging pet, The Cat Practice will hold parts 3 and 4 of a 4 part workshop series, Pet Hospice Care (June 13), and Greenwald on Pet Loss and Grieving (June 27).  Donation is $10 per workshop or $25 for the series with proceeds going to The Cat Practice’s Rufus Memorial Feline Fund for cats in need.  To register, go to 
or call 248-540-3390.

 "Emotionally speaking, losing a pet is not very different than losing anyone else we love,” says Dr. Greenwald.  “Therefore, having some understanding of the normal grieving process and commonly associated feelings can help people navigate their way through what is a painful but very natural and normal life process."

“Pets touch people’s lives and hearts in so many ways,” says Kramek.  “Today, saying good bye can be a time to continue this bond.  As long as a pet is comfortable and still enjoys quality of life, pet families have choices and that is what we want to give them.” 

While The Cat Practice just recently formalized its hospice program, the hospital has been providing clients and their felines with options for end-of-life care for a number of years.   In fact, it was clients asking for alternatives that led to the program.

Laura Kramek

About Laura Kramek
Kramek is a veterinary hospice nurse and licensed veterinary technician (LVT) with a special interest in geriatric pets, pet hospice and end-of-life care.  She works closely with pet families to help them know all of their options.  Kramek has been with The Cat Practice since 1993 and is a graduate of Michigan State University.   She and her husband live in Dearborn Heights with their two cats Epoisses and Pinot.

About Camille Greenwald, PhD.
Dr. Greenwald is a licensed clinical psychologist.  She has been in private practice in Birmingham for 20-plus years, and has served as a consultant at William Beaumont Hospital.  She is a graduate of Wayne State University and the University of Detroit and is also a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association.  Dr. Greenwald, a life-long cat owner, shares her home with her family and three cats: Caspurr, Henry and Bill who is geriatric.

 About The Cat Practice
The Cat Practice, Michigan’s first cats-only veterinary hospital, opened in 1981.  Open seven days a week and evenings, The Cat Practice provides advanced preventative and medical care with an emphasis on early detection to help cats live longer, better and healthier lives.  Located at 875 South Worth in Birmingham, Michigan, The Cat Practice cares for feline purebred and mixed breeds from around southeastern Michigan.   For information go to or call 

I am interested in hearing your thoughts. If a Pet Hospice existed in your area, would it be something that you would consider?


  1. For me, if the Pet Hospice is to keep a pet who is still able to enjoy quality of life (with some help), comfortable, then yes, I would consider it.

  2. Ditto the above!
    Best wishes Molly

  3. I certainly WOULD consider a Pet Hospice - there's nothing like this in our area but I think it's a very kind, caring type of service to offer those of us who would love to keep our pets who are preparing to cross the rainbow bridge comfortable and at home.

    Pam (with Sam on my lap)

  4. I agree with Hilary - what an amazing idea! Great post that I know I'll be thinking about for quite awhile.

  5. It's nice to know this exists for those who need it! Take care

  6. What a caring, understanding, and loving concept this is! I would absolutely look to such a place, were one available to me, if my furbaby needed such services.

  7. I'm so happy to see that the concept of pet hospice is gaining wider acceptance. I chose hospice care for Buckley when she was in the final stages of her heart disease, and was fortunate to have a vet who embraced this concept, even though her practice did not have a formal hospice program. It's wonderful to see a veterinary hospital with such a program - especially a cat practice.

    Thank you for spreading the word about this important topic, Caren!

  8. Excellent article Caren. Wish they would have had something like that years ago.

  9. I think this is an amazing program! I definitely hope that more pet hospices are developed throughout the country. I have known people who have been in hospice, and I know that they were able to enjoy their life more in the program receiving palliative care than they would have otherwise.

    I would definitely use a hospice if it were available in my area and would benefit my babies.

    Thank you so much for sharing such great information, Caren. I really enjoy reading your blog :)

  10. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it's not for me to choose what is best for you and your pet. On the other hand, I've read several blogs where vets and former vet staff discuss practices that are more interested in making money than in ethical care, so I would be doing alot of homework before I decided to use such a program.

  11. @rumpy I think it is important "to do our homework" on any type of care we are seeking for our pet. It is always good to research practices and alternate points of view.

    @Sierra thank you!! That was quite kind! If I can have one person who enjoys my blog then I am happy! I agree with you about hospice as well.

    @Mario thank you! If done properly it is a soothing option.

    @Ingrid you are welcome! Having read Buckley's Story I know you are blessed to have a "forward-thinking" vet long before it was in vogue to do so! Thank you!

    Thank you everyone for your comments and thoughts!

  12. I totally agree with Whisspy. If it helps them have a good quality life, then I think it is a great idea. I think a lot of people keep their pets alive for their own happiness. One can usually tell when it is time to go to the bridge for your fur baby.

  13. What a wonderful idea! I'd never thought of this but I really love this idea.

  14. Wow, what a wonderful service. I hope that someday there are pet hospices all over the country.

  15. This sounds to be a place we can ask help when our fur babies face such illness. It's great to know there is a place like this. I definitely want my babies to have a full happy life.

  16. We have some vets in the Chicago area who offer pet hospice care. It's not widespread, nor readily known, but surely gaining in popularity.
    I think most pet guardians would eagerly welcome any opportunities to allow their pets a comfortable, happy end-of-life experience (I would!)

  17. I am not sure how I would feel, while I think it is a great idea I wonder how I would feel not having Jasper at home. Mixed feelings I think. Oh I think I added the follow by email button you asked me to add but not sure if I did it right. Hugs GJ xx

  18. This is really interesting. You come up with the best articles.

    Nubbin wiggles,

  19. Yes we definitely would.
    This is a service I think more people would absolutely use. There can be inconsistency in a vet practice and for them dealing with the end of life care is different. We would so welcome a service like this in our area.

  20. @Marg, I completely agree.

    @Abby I think many would have to agree with you

    @Oskar thanks so much!!!!!

    @Ginger Jasper, I have to agree with you. The not having him at home part is something I am not sure that I could deal with either. I was waiting for someone to say that and I am glad that you did. Thanks so much for telling me you installed the email follow. I will be right over to sign up! xoxoxo

    @Brian me too and YOU make MY heart smile!

    @Kim no surprise that Chicago would be on the cutting edge! Chicago is great for everything! I am torn about it...mostly due to what GJ mentioned

    @Tamago, yep we all do!! :)

    @meowmeowmans I couldn't agree more. I would like to see them where the pet could remain in the owner's home though. Kind of like regular Hospice does. Regular Hospice gives you the option. If they have that option then I am all for it!

    @Priscilla it most definitely is!

  21. Caren - really great post and very interesting. Pet Hospice is not something I've heard of before.

  22. I saw this about the pet hospice on Fox2 last weekend. It's a good idea, but I agree with the others, it would be nice to have the cat remain in the home.

    Island Cats' mom

  23. I'm not sure if I'd do it or not. While I love the idea, my cats are afraid of other places, so would they feel comfortable there? What about sleeping arrangements? They love sleeping in my bed. When my mom was diagnosed with leukemia a couple months ago, we asked about palliative care. They would treat her symptoms, but not the disease. Maybe it is different with cancers?

  24. Caren, this was a great post. I would be interested in home hospice only. I would not want my furbabies to be anywhere but home, surrounded by family, if they were sick.

  25. I think this is a great option for pet parents, especially those of us who have chronically ill and/or senior fur babies. If this were a residential hospice program it would indeed be difficult to not have one's cat at home with them, but as is stated in the article, the cats in the hospice program receive care 'at home' under the care of a veterinary hospice nurse.
    The pet parent is taught how to administer medicines in between visits and advice from hospice staff. This seems to be modeled after human hospice programs today that provide care to the individual at home, where it is viewed as most sympathetic and beneficial. I would consider and most likely use it for the comfort and dignity of my cats in their final days.

  26. Very interesting article and premise Caren - thank you for sharing. I really liked reading the comments from your readers and feel like my comment on the subject would be a combination of all of the above!

  27. one of the main reasons i support puffy paws kitty haven is because they provide hospice care. it costs more time and money than euthanasia, and those cats don't generate funds like adoptables do.