MOORESVILLE – Contemplating the impending loss of a beloved pet may very well be one of the most difficult situations a family will face. Helping to navigate such situations, local veterinarian Dr. Keith Tillman, 53, has dedicated his practice exclusively to in-home pet hospice care and euthanasia.

Tillman entered the field of veterinary medicine at 37 in a midlife career change. He and his wife, Deb, who is a licensed vet tech, moved to Mooresvillle from Silver Spring, Md., in 2008.

Initiating a small private practice here, his career path changed again when their Labrador/boxer mix, Cooper, began to suffer from a debilitating arthritic condition.

“Because Cooper had always been anxious in a car and even more so in the vet’s office, we chose to help her make the transition in the comfort of our own home surrounded by the people who loved her,” Keith Tillman said. “It was such a blessing to us to see Cooper have a peaceful passing that Deb and I became strong advocates of at-home euthanasia. We decided then to offer that service to others, and the result is Comfort at Home Mobile Pet Hospice and Euthanasia.”

Most of my patients are not very mobile anymore and may not even be comfortable making a car ride. They may be in pain or suffering from nausea, and their home is a safe and familiar place.

“The primary goal of hospice care is maintaining quality of life, and when that quality is no longer there, we may reach a point where we say that we love them too much to watch them struggle,” Tillman said. “It is time to help our pet find peace. My role as a vet is to be an advocate for the pet that can’t speak for itself.

“I can spend as much time as necessary to deal compassionately with the situation, and an initial hospice call can take upward of a few hours. These counseling sessions are very powerful, and I try to embrace what the families are going through. I want to be sure they have a clear idea of our goals and the process which may lead to euthanasia.”

Tillman is now certified in acupuncture for pets, a palliative treatment that is a valuable adjunct to hospice care.

“It’s not for every pet in every situation, but pets often get very relaxed and go into a nap mode,” he said.

Following euthanasia, Dr. Tillman offers the family suggestions on where and how to find grief support, from online resources to pet loss support groups, as well as a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in pet loss.

After losing two beloved pets in the past year, Tillman and Deb found themselves without a dog for the first time in 25 years.

Their family now includes Carmen, a nine-month-old Terrier mix and three cats, Rowdy Rascal, Kelly and Callie.

“I grew up with dogs and cats and the odd hamster here and there,” Tillman said, “so I guess my life is destined to be bound up with the animals I love.”

For more information about Comfort at Home, go to www.comfortathomepet.com or call 704-517-4934.

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