Pet hospice service offers pets and their owners comfort during illness

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Losing a pet, or getting a dire diagnosis, can be devastating for their owners.

In the past, families had few options outside of humane euthanasia.

But now the same palliative and hospice care afforded humans is also being provided for pets.

“And we don’t extend life just to extend it, we extend it to have quality,” said Kris Payden, Co-founder of Joy Cares, one of the first Pet Hospice services in the country located in NE Ohio.

The idea came when Payden was working as a registered veterinary technician at a local animal hospital.

“Animals would come in and be very stressed to have their treatments and sitting in the waiting room the owners would be stressed out also,” said Kris.

Joy Cares employs about two dozen bonded and registered technicians who cover four counties: Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina and Summit.

They work with local veterinarians and travel to the patient's home, administering the same treatments the pet would have received in clinic, including IV fluids, medications and other holistic therapies.

Dr. Gretchen Zarle, with Bartels Pet Hospital in Brecksville, says the positive impact has been significant and provides the patient with much more comprehensive care that might not be possible in a busy office setting.

“We don’t always have time to have a twice daily phone report,” said Dr. Zarle. “She can come back to me and we can change things so it’s really hands on... it’s really great.”

Costs vary and depend on the individual's care plan, which is discussed during the first visit which runs about $35 dollars. Owners who have used the service say it’s worth every penny.

Kim Gamellia’s 17-year-old cat Capri was diagnosed renal disease, and her health was rapidly declining when she called Joy Cares.

“I just didn’t feel it was time,” said Kim.

Now, after several months of bi-weekly treatments, Capri is back to her old self.

Kim says the long-term prognosis is uncertain, but as long as Capri is happy and enjoying life they will keep fighting for her.

“We are taking it one day at a time,” says Kim, “But her quality of life is excellent, it’s gone from one extreme to the other.”