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Main Street Pet Care- End of Life Care Pt. 2- June 17, 2014

Dr. Ben Leavens talks about the grief in dealing with the loss of a pet and ways to memorialize them after they have passed.
WHAT IS PET HOSPICE CARE AND WHAT ARE ITS BENEFITS? WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF PET HOSPICE CARE?

HOSPICE CARE-ALSO CALLED PALLIATIVE CARE-IS AN OPTION FOR PET PARENTS WHO WANT TO ENGAGE IN AN EXTENDED GOOD-BYE OR ARE OPPOSED TO EUTHANASIA. PET HOSPICE IS AN OPTION IF YOUR PET IS SUFFERING FROM A TERMINAL ILLNESS AND A CURE IS NOT POSSIBLE. THE FOCUS IS TO MAKE A PET'S FINAL DAYS OR WEEKS MORE PLEASANT WITH THE PROPER USE OF PAIN MEDICATIONS, DIETARY STRATEGIES AND HUMAN INTERACTION. PET HOSPICE IS NOT A PLACE, BUT A PERSONAL CHOICE AND PHILOSOPHY BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT DEATH IS A PART OF LIFE AND CAN BE DIGNIFIED. THE GOAL OF PET HOSPICE IS NOT TO CURE YOUR PET'S ILLNESS BUT RATHER TO ENSURE A PEACEFUL END-OF-LIFE EXPERIENCE.

A PARTICIPATING VETERINARIAN WILL TEACH PET PARENTS HOW TO PROVIDE INTENSIVE HOME CARE TO KEEP AN ILL PET AS COMFORTABLE AS POSSIBLE. EVERY PET PARENT SHOULD ALSO HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN, WHICH MAY INCLUDE EUTHANASIA, IN CASE THE ANIMAL'S SUFFERING GETS OUT OF CONTROL.

IS HOSPICE CARE THE RIGHT COURSE FOR MY PET?

ALTHOUGH HOSPICE CARE IS A GROWING AREA OF VETERINARY MEDICINE, WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO PROLONG THE SUFFERING OF PETS WHO ARE IN PAIN OR EXPERIENCING POOR QUALITY OF LIFE. IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO FACE LOSING A PET, BUT OUR CHOICES MUST NOT BE CLOUDED BY FEAR OF THE GRIEF WE WILL EXPERIENCE.

HOW IS PET HOSPICE DIFFERENT FROM HUMAN HOSPICE CARE?

HUMAN HOSPICE CARE IS AVAILABLE TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE ACCEPTED THE FACT THAT THEY ARE TERMINALLY ILL AND WANT TO STOP FURTHER MEDICAL TREATMENT AIMED AT A CURE. HOSPICE CARE ALLOWS A PERSON TO BE RELIEVED OF PAIN IN A MORE COMFORTABLE AND LESS EXPENSIVE SETTING THAN A HOSPITAL.

HUMAN PATIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES WHO OPT FOR HOSPICE CARE HAVE A MORE DEVELOPED SUPPORT SYSTEM THAN PET PARENTS. WHEN A PET PARENT CHOOSES HOSPICE CARE BUT CANNOT CARE FOR HIS PET AT HOME, THERE ARE FEW PLACES THAT WILL BOARD AND NURSE THE ANIMAL. IT MAY ALSO BE MORE DIFFICULT TO FIND A LOCAL VETERINARIAN WHO IS AN EXPERT IN PET HOSPICE CARE.

WILL MY PET SHOW SIGNS THAT HE IS READY TO PASS AWAY?

TO BE AS AWARE AS POSSIBLE OF YOUR PET'S CONDITION, YOU SHOULD:

BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE SIGNS OF PHYSICAL SUFFERING TYPICAL OF YOUR PET'S AGE AND/OR ILLNESS. YOUR VETERINARIAN IS THE BEST SOURCE OF THIS INFORMATION.

PREVENT UNNECESSARY SUFFERING IN YOUR TERMINALLY ILL, INJURED OR AGED ANIMAL BY FINDING WAYS TO ASSESS YOUR PET'S QUALITY OF LIFE. WITH YOUR VET'S HELP, FIGURE OUT THE SIGNS OF A GOOD DAY COMPARED TO A BAD DAY AND KEEP A RECORD OF HOW OFTEN THE SIGNS OF PAIN APPEAR.

BE AS INFORMED AS YOU CAN ABOUT YOUR PET'S BEHAVIOR. BEING UNAWARE OR UNABLE TO ASSESS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS WILL EXHAUST FAMILY MEMBERS AND PUT YOUR PET AT RISK OF LINGERING LONGER THAN IS COMFORTABLE.

WHAT IS EUTHANASIA?

EUTHANASIA PROVIDES A PAINLESS, PEACEFUL END FOR A PET WHO WOULD OTHERWISE CONTINUE TO SUFFER. YOUR VETERINARIAN HAS SPECIAL TRAINING TO PROVIDE YOUR PET WITH A HUMANE AND GENTLE DEATH. DURING THE PROCEDURE, YOUR VET MAY INJECT YOUR PET WITH A SEDATIVE FOLLOWED BY A SPECIAL MEDICATION. THE ANIMAL EXPERIENCES NO AWARENESS OF THE END OF LIFE-THE PROCESS IS AKIN TO UNDERGOING GENERAL ANESTHESIA FOR A SURGICAL PROCEDURE AND TAKES ABOUT 10 TO 20 SECONDS.

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO EUTHANIZE MY PET?

YOUR VETERINARIAN IS REALLY THE BEST PERSON TO ADVISE YOU ON WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT TO EUTHANIZE. INFORMATION FROM MEDICAL TESTS IS OFTEN MORE ACCURATE THAN WHAT A PET OWNER CAN OBSERVE, AND PET OWNERS OFTEN DELAY THE MOMENT OF EUTHANASIA IN ANTICIPATION OF GRIEF.

OBSERVING AND KEEPING AN ACCURATE RECORD OF YOUR PET IN HIS DAILY ACTIVITIES CAN HELP YOU TO DECIDE. IF YOU OBSERVE THAT MOMENTS OF DISCOMFORT OUTWEIGH HIS CAPACITY TO ENJOY LIFE, IT IS TIME TO EUTHANIZE, EVEN IF YOUR PET STILL EXPERIENCES PLEASURE IN EATING OR SOCIALIZING. IF YOUR PET IS IN PAIN, YOUR MAIN GOAL SHOULD BE TO MINIMIZE HIS SUFFERING.

WILL MY OTHER PETS GRIEVE A PET WHO HAS PASSED AWAY?

AFTER THE LOSS OF A COMPANION ANIMAL, MANY PEOPLE OBSERVE A CHANGE IN THEIR SURVIVING PET'S BEHAVIOR. SOMETIMES THE PET APPEARS DEPRESSED AND SHOWS DIMINISHED INTEREST IN PLAY OR FOOD, AND IT OFTEN HELPS TO SIMPLY GIVE YOUR SURVIVING PET SOME EXTRA ATTENTION AND LOVE. IF YOUR ANIMAL COMPANION APPEARS UPSET, CHECK WITH A VETERINARIAN TO MAKE SURE THERE IS NO UNDERLYING MEDICAL PROBLEM CAUSING HIS BEHAVIOR.

WE HAVE BEEN STUDYING SOME WORK THAT DOCUMENTS THAT PETS CAN RECOGNIZE DEATH IN A COMPANION ANIMAL. CATS, DOGS AND HORSES WHO SEE THE DECEASED BODY OF AN ANIMAL THEY KNEW COULD ADJUST VERY WELL AND SPEND LESS TIME SEARCHING AND GRIEVING THAN PETS WHO DID NOT SEEN THEIR COMPANION'S REMAINS.

WHERE CAN I GET ADVICE OR COUNSELING ABOUT THE LOSS OF MY PET?

IT IS AS NATURAL AND NECESSARY TO GRIEVE FOR THE LOSS OF AN ANIMAL FRIEND AS IT IS FOR ANY LOVED ONE WHO DIES. THE GRIEVING PROCESS OFTEN BEGINS BEFORE YOUR PET HAS PASSED AWAY, SO IT'S IMPORTANT TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND SEEK HELP IF YOU NEED IT.

THE ASPCA PET LOSS SUPPORT PROGRAM IS THERE TO HELP IF YOUR PET HAS DIED OR IF HE IS ILL, INJURED OR ELDERLY. BY CALLING THE ASPCA PET LOSS HOTLINE AT (877) 474-3310, YOU WILL RECEIVE SUPPORT IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:

ASSISTANCE WITH THE DECISION TO EUTHANIZE, COMFORT AND SUPPORT AT THE TIME OF EUTHANASIA, HELP WITH GRIEVING THE LOSS, ADVICE ON DEALING WITH CHILDREN, THE ELDERLY OR DISABLED INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE FACING A DEATH OF A COMPANION ANIMAL, HELPING THE SURVIVING ANIMALS IN THE HOUSEHOLD TO COPE, AND ASSISTANCE IN ESTABLISHING A RELATIONSHIP WITH A NEW PET

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS WHEN AN ANIMAL IS EUTHANIZED?

YOUR VETERINARIAN HAS SPECIAL TRAINING TO PROVIDE YOUR PET WITH A HUMANE AND GENTLE DEATH THROUGH THE USE OF MEDICATIONS. THESE DRUGS FUNCTION IN SUCH A FASHION THAT THE ANIMAL EXPERIENCES NO AWARENESS OF THE END OF LIFE. THE PROCESS IS AKIN TO UNDERGOING GENERAL ANESTHESIA FOR A SURGICAL PROCEDURE. THE PROCESS TAKES ABOUT 10 TO 20 SECONDS. THE VETERINARIAN THEN CHECKS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE ANIMAL'S HEART HAS STOPPED. WITH THIS PROCEDURE, THERE IS NO SUFFERING.

SOME PEOPLE CHOSE TO BE PRESENT WHEN THEIR PET IS EUTHANIZED, AND SOME CANNOT STAND THE THOUGHT.

IS THERE A "RIGHT TIME" TO EUTHANIZE AN ANIMAL? AND HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN THAT IS?

IF YOUR ANIMAL HAS EPISODES OF OBVIOUS SUFFERING DURING THE DAY OR NIGHT, IT IS APPROPRIATE TO PLAN A EUTHANASIA RIGHT AWAY. SOMETIMES AN ANIMAL WILL CONTINUE TO EAT OR DRINK IN SPITE OF PAIN, PANTING OR DISORIENTATION. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE HOW MUCH YOUR PET IS SUFFERING, KEEP A DAILY RECORD OR THE GOOD TIMES VERSUS THE BAD TIMES. THEN YOU CAN DECIDE WHEN THE QUALITY OF LIFE IS SO POOR THAT IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO GIVE HIM THE GIFT OF 'GOOD DEATH.' IT IS IMPORTANT TO ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN FOR THE EXACT SIGNS OF SUFFERING LIKELY TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE CONDITION OR DISEASE THAT YOUR PET HAS.

SOMETIMES PEOPLE ARE TEMPTED TO DELAY THE MOMENT OF EUTHANASIA, BECAUSE WE ANTICIPATE OUR INTENSE GRIEF. UNFORTUNATELY, WE MAY REGRET THAT WE ALLOWED THE PET TO LINGER TOO LONG.

IS IT NORMAL FOR ME TO FEEL SO ANGRY/SAD/CONFUSED AFTER MY PET HAS DIED?

THERE ARE MANY FORMS OF GRIEF THAT ARE COMPLETELY NORMAL. THE MOST DISTRESSING ARE HALLUCINATION-TYPE EXPERIENCES THAT LEAVE AN IMPRESSION THAT YOU ARE HEARING FAMILIAR SOUNDS OF YOUR PET WALKING OR CALLING. SOME PEOPLE EVEN THINK THAT THEY SEE THEIR PET OUT OF THE CORNER OF THEIR EYE, ESPECIALLY AFTER JUST WAKING UP. OFTEN, IT IS THE MOST RESPONSIBLE OWNERS WHO FEEL GUILTY AND CONFUSED ABOUT THE CHOICES THEY MADE REGARDING THE END OF THEIR PET'S LIFE. OCCASIONALLY, A PERSON MAY FEEL TEMPORARILY ANGRY WITH THEIR VETERINARIAN OR OTHERS INVOLVED IN END-OF-LIFE ISSUES. THESE FEELINGS OF ANGER MAY BE OUR ATTEMPTS TO DISTRACT FROM THE ULTIMATE ENCOUNTER WITH THE SADNESS OF THE LOSS.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS I CAN DO TO WORK THROUGH MY GRIEF?

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO RECOGNIZE THAT THE LOSS OF A BELOVED PET IS A SERIOUS EVENT THAT SOCIETY DOES NOT ALWAYS RESPECT. YOUR FIRST TASK IS TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE REST AND NUTRITION YOU NEED, EVEN WHEN YOU FEEL DISTRACTED. YOUR CONCENTRATION MAY BE IMPAIRED, TOO, SO THAT YOU NEED TO TAKE EXTRA CARE WITH DRIVING AND CROSSING THE STREET. GRIEF IS A NORMAL PROCESS, AND TIME REALLY DOES HEAL.

SOMETIMES IT HELPS TO CREATE A SPECIAL PLACE IN YOUR HOME TO WHICH YOU CAN GO WHEN YOU WANT TO REMEMBER YOUR PET. ALTHOUGH REMEMBERING MAY BE PAINFUL AT FIRST, EVENTUALLY THAT PAIN WILL TURN INTO SWEET MEMORIES.

HOW LONG SHOULD WE WAIT UNTIL WE GET ANOTHER PET FOR THE FAMILY?

THE TIMING OF A NEW PET IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE.

WHEN YOU'RE READY, YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE DOGS AND CATS IN YOUR LOCAL SHELTER OR PET STORE. IF YOU FEEL ATTRACTED TO A NEW PET, DON'T WORRY THAT IT IS A BETRAYAL OF THE LOST ANIMAL. YOUR ABILITY TO GIVE A GOOD HOME TO A NEW PET IS REALLY A COMPLIMENT TO YOUR PREVIOUS RELATIONSHIP.

HELPING YOUR CHILD WHEN THE FAMILY PET DIES

FACING THE DEATH OF A FAMILY PET CAN BE ONE OF THE MOST TRAUMATIC EVENTS IN A CHILD'S YOUNG LIFE. THE ASPCA PET LOSS SUPPORT PROGRAM CAN PROVIDE ADVICE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH THE YOUNG MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY. IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO CONTACT US RIGHT AWAY, THE FOLLOWING TIPS MAY HELP:

UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR CHILD MAY FEEL A VARIETY OF EMOTIONS-FROM EMPTINESS AND SADNESS TO GUILT AND ANGER AT FRIENDS WHOSE PETS ARE STILL ALIVE. YOUR CHILDREN MAY WORRY THAT THE ANIMAL'S DEATH IS THEIR FAULT, AND MAY WONDER WHAT HAPPENS TO ANIMALS AFTER THEY DIE. SOME KIDS MAY EVEN WORRY THAT OTHER CHILDREN AND CLASSMATES WILL RIDICULE THEM FOR LOVING THEIR PET SO MUCH.

HERE ARE A FEW ACTIVITIES THAT MAY HELP YOUR CHILD DEAL WITH HIS OR HER GRIEF:

IT MAY HELP SOME CHILDREN TO DRAW A PICTURE OF THEIR PET, OR WRITE A LETTER TO THEIR PET.

SOMETIMES IT CAN HELP TO HAVE A MEMORIAL SERVICE, INCLUDING THE ENTIRE FAMILY AND FRIENDS WHO KNEW YOUR PET. IF YOU HAVE A BACKYARD, YOU CAN PLANT A TREE OR FLOWERS IN YOUR PET'S HONOR. YOUR CHILDREN MAY WANT TO HELP YOU PLAN THIS.

IT MAY MAKE SOME CHILDREN BETTER TO KEEP SOMETHING THAT THEIR PET REALLY LOVED-SUCH AS A COLLAR, TAG OR FAVORITE TOY.

YOU AND YOUR CHILD CAN GATHER UP PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOUR PET TO MAKE INTO A PHOTO ALBUM. THIS CAN BE ARRANGED CHRONOLOGICALLY, STARTING WITH PICTURES OF WHEN THE ANIMAL WAS A BABY. YOUR CHILD CAN ALSO INCLUDE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR PET'S FAVORITE TOYS, TREATS AND THINGS TO DO.

SITTING DOWN WITH THE FAMILY AND SHARING MEMORIES OF YOUR PET CAN MAKE YOUR CHILDREN SAD--BUT IT CAN MAKE THEM LAUGH, TOO, AND WILL HELP YOUR CHILD UNDERSTAND THAT EVERYONE IS FEELING THE LOSS AS WELL.

ALTHOUGH YOUR CHILD MAY NOT FEEL LIKE IT, IT CAN HELP TO ENGAGE IN HIS OR HER REGULAR ACTIVITIES-SUCH AS GOING TO PRACTICE OR REHEARSAL AFTER SCHOOL, PLAYING OUTSIDE OR GOING FOR A BIKE RIDE.
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