An Interview with Dr. Sara Render Hopkins, DVM, CVA, CHPV

Dr. Sara Render Hopkins is the founder of Compassion 4 Paws, an in-home acupuncture, hospice, and euthanasia practice based in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Sara is certified in veterinary acupuncture through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and was one of the first veterinarians to become certified in Animal Hospice and Palliative Care through the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAPHC), where she currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors. She has spent her professional career providing pets with compassionate acupuncture, hospice, and palliative care.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Sara about her passion for providing pets with dignified end-of-life care. We also asked her a few questions about how she uses Pawprint Oxygen products in her practice to improve patient outcomes. To learn more about Pawprint Oxygen please visit https://pawprintoxygen.com/for-vets/.

Pawprint Oxygen: As an in-home hospice and palliative care veterinarian, what is the typical profile of the patients you see?

Dr. Sara: “We see a wide variety of patients… from those whose pet owners are struggling with the decision of when to say goodbye, to those who need more assistance managing their chronic diseases. A lot of our patients are already well-managed from their regular vet, but many times we can tweak or add things in to better their care… We are really starting to grow the hospice portion of our practice.”

What is the transition like from the primary or referring veterinarian to the at-home hospice and palliative care provider?

“It really varies. Most of our patients, by the time their veterinarian refers to us, are in the later stages of life. Some owners don’t want to go back to their regular vet or they just don’t want to go into the clinic anymore, but some do. We take guidance from the owner, we see if they want us to interact with their primary care vet. We then work with them and collaborate together to make a plan. We are there to supplement their veterinary care – we don’t do blood work or diagnostics, so if testing is needed, we send them back to the referring vet. It has become a collaborative relationship over the years and having the certification program [for hospice and palliative care offered through the IAAHPC] has definitely given credibility to the field. There is so much to hospice. It is not just dispensing medication…we are helping the pets, along with their families. We are usually [in peoples’ homes] for a good hour and a half and then there are follow-ups, correspondences, and monitoring.”

While receiving hospice and palliative care in the home setting, how are pets typically interacting with you? 

“The care we provide is so beneficial, as pets are much more relaxed in their own environment. As a result, I am able to interact with them on a much more personal level than in a clinic where they can be scared or nervous…If an animal is panting, or shaking, and its ears are down and back in a brick and mortar practice, the behavior may be dismissed as nervousness. But, if I am in a home for an hour and a half and I see those signs, or observe a dog getting up and shifting in different positions, I can really point out to the owners that this is what I am seeing. Is this typical of how Fluffy is every day? And if the owners say yes, we will have the conversation on how we might be able to manage her pain a little bit better.”

How do you envision oxygen being used as a therapy option for hospice and palliative care pets?

“People want to have a plan in place if there is an emergency with their pet. Oxygen provides relief because if their pet goes into respiratory distress, they are better equipped to help their pet. Anytime we are dealing with an illness that has a respiratory component, whether it’s cancer in the lungs or congestive heart failure, an animal can be okay until they are not okay. This process can be fast and it can be terrifying. It’s scary for the animal, and horrible for the pet owner so it’s helpful to have some oxygen on hand so that [the owner] can give their pet some relief. This gives them time to gather their thoughts and come up with a next plan. It is really, really important.”

Do you have an example of a time when using Pawprint Oxygen Canisters has helped to improve a patient’s outcome or quality of life?

“Oxygen has been very valuable for many of our clients. For example, we have one family who has a little dog who has seizures and after each seizure the dog gets really panicky and distressed, so they will use the oxygen in that postictal period to give the dog relief. She is on oxygen for five minutes and then she is back to normal…I [also] have a client with a cat with asthma, so they are equipped with the Pawprint Oxygen Starter Kit and have that on hand. Their next door neighbor happened to have a cat who was also a hospice patient of mine. He started to have mini strokes and was having labored breathing, so my asthmatic cat owners rushed next door to the hospice patient and used the oxygen intermittently on him until I was able to get there to euthanize him. Not only was the kitty more comfortable, but the owner was grateful to offer some relief.”

What do you think your practice and the field of hospice and palliative care for pets will look like in the next 10 years?

“I think the field in general is growing as more and more people are recognizing these in-home services are an option. Our practice has been expanding, and I would like to continue to grow in the future. I would love to set up a physical space for clients and have a sort of comfort center. For example, this would be great for people who don’t want to go to the vet for euthanasia, but also don’t want it done at their house… Additionally, this would give us office and storage space so we could more readily keep something like an oxygen concentrator. It would also be great to have a licensed vet tech so that we could offer more services. For example, we could have an oxygen concentrator that we could rent out and the vet tech could be responsible for going to homes and setting it up. The technician could be another layer of support for our families.”

To learn more about Dr. Sarah please visit her practice’s website at https://compassion4paws.com/

Pawprint Oxygen does not provide veterinary advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian with questions regarding your pet’s health.

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