what is hospice care for dogs2

What is Hospice Care For Dogs

What is hospice care for dogs

You’re familiar with hospice care as it applies to humans, but what is hospice care for dogs?

“Simply put, hospice care focuses on providing the best quality of life possible for a pet with a terminal disease or condition until the pet dies or is euthanized.” This is a snippet of a longer definition provided by The American Veterinary Medical Association.    

It is an approach to “end of life care” that focuses exclusively on making a dog’s final days or weeks as comfortable and pain free as possible using medications, therapies, diet, and of course the companionship of their humans.  

A quick note

I will be referring to dogs simply because of the focus of my website, but the information in this post will help no matter what type of pet you have.

A painful topic indeed

No matter how much time has passed, I vividly remember how I felt the moment my vet would tell me there was nothing more he could do. It’s devastating because not only do I have to say goodbye, I had to find the strength to what is hospice care for petssay the words that would end the life of a beloved companion.

For all except my one cat TT, the right decision was to put them down immediately. TT had cancer and when the tumour no longer responded to chemo, rather than put him through trying a third, fourth and fifth drug, we decided the kindest thing would be to leave him in peace. He was not in any pain, and had a very good quality of life until one day a couple of months later he had what appeared to be a stroke. We rushed him to the vet and put him to sleep.

When is hospice considered?

Before you make plans for hospice care you must first determine if, ethically, it is the right course of action. I realise how hopeful it sounds but it is not an option in every case, and cannot automatically be justified simply because you are not ready to say goodbye.

Here are a few scenarios where hospice may be an option:

  • When your dog is reaching the end stages of a terminal illness, there’s nothing more that can be done medically but he can still enjoy quality of life.
  • The cost of continuing treatment is so steep, the parents cannot justify it when no cure is expected.
  • The parents wish to stop painful treatments and focus instead on having their dog live out his life in the comfort of his home, surrounded by loved ones.
  • Some time is needed to say a proper goodbye.
  • The chance to avoid making an irreversible decision while standing in the vet’s office still in shock.
  • Perhaps you have a bucket list of things you’d like to do with your dog that you never got around to doing.
  • Would like the chance to take him to the beach one last time, for example.
  • Maybe you need more time together for closure.
  • Other family members may like to spend some time with the dog.   
  • The only option for anyone opposed to euthanasia.

What are the goals of hospice care?

In a nutshell, it is about keeping your dog pain free and comfortable until the time comes when he no longer has a good quality of life, and it’s time to say goodbye.

How long does hospice care last?

If you just needed a few extra days to prepare yourself, there’s your answer. Otherwise, depending on your dog’s condition it can be weeks or even months.

What are some of the benefits?

The benefits can go hand in hand with some of the scenarios I listed above in the section “when is hospice considered.”

In addition…

  • Caring for a dog at home removes the stress of transporting a sick dog back and forth.  
  • An even deeper bond than already exists may develop as a result of such a hands on approach to care. It may even be therapeutic.
  • Your dog can die comfortably at home in familiar surroundings.

This is very important

Hospice is not a substitute for euthanasia, but rather the chance for your dog to remain with you when there is no longer anything that can be done, keeping him comfortable until it is time to say goodbye.

Where does hospice care take place?

In your home.

Is it ethical?

I don’t ask this question in the greater philosophical sense, but rather specifically as it relates to your dog. Just because hospice care is available, it does not mean it is right in every situation.

When faced with the heart wrenching task of having to say goodbye, it can be difficult to separate our not wanting to experience that pain from doing what’s best for our pet.

It is wrong and yes, unethical, to prolong another living being’s suffering in order to delay our own.

Believe me I don’t mean this in any harsh way. I have said goodbye too many times, and as sick as I felt because I couldn’t do anything to save them, the only thing that mattered was they did not suffer. That belief is the only way I was ever able to let them go.

Is hospice care the right choice for you and your family?

The first step would be to have a talk with your vet about your dog’s condition, how far advanced his illness is, is he in pain and of course quality of life.

If your vet does not offer hospice care, you may want to have this same discussion with a veterinarian that does. Not every vet may see it as an option, so best to speak with someone experienced and more qualified to answer. Be is hospice care for dogs the right choicesure to have all your dog’s medical records transferred over before a meeting.

How to find hospice care

If your vet doesn’t offer it, ask if he knows who does. Otherwise an internet search in your area and The International Association For Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) should help.

I recommend you do some reading about the various services on offer so you’re better informed before you meet the caregivers. Of course they’ll explain everything, I suggest this research because it’s something I would do.

Questions to ask and information to gather

I have compiled a list of questions you may want to ask during your appointment.   

  • How long have you/your practice been offering hospice care?
  • What is the severity of my dog’s illness?
  • Is it/will it be painful as it progresses?
  • Questions to ask about hospice care for dogsCan it be managed well with medication?
  • What kind of pain management is offered?
  • Do you provide alternative therapies such as supplements, remedies, acupuncture…
  • How can I be sure he won’t suffer?
  • Will my dog be doped up and out of it or still “himself?”
  • What kind of care and support can you offer my dog?
  • How flexible are you in terms of what you’re willing to do and what I should be doing?
  • How often will a vet or other team member visit to assess the dog?
  • What happens if I need help out of hours?
  • If you (the vet) is away, is there someone else experienced enough in hospice care to help?
  • How will I know when it’s time to let him go?
  • What kind of commitment is required of me/my family?
  • How long will my dog have before he can no longer be kept comfortable?
  • How much time do you think we have with him?
  • How long is each visit?
  • Will care be available 24/7?
  • Is euthanasia at home an option?
  • Do you offer grief support?

And of course the question most of us ask our trusted vets – what would you do?

Cost

It always comes down to money doesn’t it?

Fees will vary by practice and the services you require. Having a vet or other professional come to your home will always cost more than going to their office.

During your meeting be very clear about costs. They need to spell it out for you, and don’t assume anything. The last thing you want is to be hit with a shocking great bill. What are the costs for the various team members who can you afford the cost of holistic care for dogscome? Must it always be the most senior person or can a more junior, equally competent person perform the same task at a lower rate?

Do the charges vary depending on the time of day? Day of the week?

You may be able to do some of the things on your own, saving money to pay for what you can’t. For example, if your dog needs injections you could be taught how to do it, then use that money for something like acupuncture or another type of therapy that only a professional could perform.

Be honest with yourself about budget and how much you are willing/able to spend.

Who is on a hospice care team?

A veterinarian and trained staff who are experts in palliative care and pain control/management. Depending on the support you’re interested in receiving they could include professionals in massage therapy, acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, Reiki…    

What does hospice provide?

Everyone’s needs are different but help can include:

  • An in-depth explanation of your pet’s medical condition, including what to expect in the last weeks, days and hours
  • A detailed care plan
  • Training on how to provide home medical care – i.e. administer medications, injections, iv fluids
  • Training on recognising changes in behaviour (sleeping patterns and willingness/ability to eat), help in identifying pain levels and when to call for help
  • What kind of care does hospice provideOn call vets for emergencies
  • Personalised diet/supplements
  • In home care
  • Pain relief
  • Changing bandages
  • Taking temperature
  • Keeping your pet clean
  • Euthanasia (in home or at the practice) with an explanation of the process
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, Reiki…

Discuss with your vet how much you are able to do on your own, and what you prefer a team member to do.

What other services does hospice provide for pet parents?

In addition to the help and training I’ve listed above, hospice also offers:

Help in adjusting to the idea of losing a loved one

Extra time to make decisions without feeling rushed, standing in your vet’s office with a waiting room full of people

An opportunity to discuss, in advance, how and where you would like to say goodbye to your dog – what kind of environment you would like to create, who should be there, cremation or burial

Pet loss grief support and counselling

What will be expected of you?

Know in advance it’s a lot of work, and the participation of family members is a critical part of providing your dog with the best care possible. It requires a 100% commitment.

You will be your pet’s caregiver, but how much you do will depend on what you are comfortable doing.  

Even if you’re able to hire others to do most of the caregiving, you will still have to ensure your dog has someone around 24/7. He can take a turn for the worse very quickly so you need to be ready to take action in an emergency.

Other very important things you can offer your dog include:

  • Keeping his environment as stress free as possible
  • Ensuring he is warm enough
  • Surround him with his favourite things whether that’s a blanket, a toy…
  • Do some fun things your dog loves to do and will look forward to. That may even cheer him up
  • The company of his loved ones
  • If a dog has limited mobility there is a chance of bedsores so make sure he’s lying on a soft padded bed
  • Provide traction and avoid mishaps by covering slippery floors with carpeting
  • If he’s able to go for short walks, don’t keep him trapped in the house – a change of scenery and some fresh air may do him good. If he’s having trouble walking use a sling or a stroller. Speak to your vet first to make sure it’s okay
  • You must have an emergency plan in place should your dog take a sudden turn and immediate euthanasia is necessary

When is the right time to let my dog go?

Sometimes the answer is clear cut, other times it isn’t – much like the answer I’m giving you now.

You’ll be spending lots of quality time with your dog and you’ll come to see what his new “normal” is and what isn’t. He will have good days and bad days and you’ll need to know the difference to prevent any suffering. Your vet will help you figure that out. 

Natural death or euthanasia?

I know it’s tough to read this but it’s part of this whole process. Did you want your dog to pass naturally, or will you be making a decision on when to euthanise him?

It’s best to learn what they each entail in order to make a better informed decision.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is a humane, painless and peaceful way for your pet to pass. Your vet will inject a sedative than a medication that will stop his heart. In all the times I’ve been with my pets they never experienced any pain and passed peacefully in seconds.

It can be performed in the office or your home. Many pet parents choose the home option as it is less stressful for their pet, and he can be surrounded by everything familiar and everyone he loves.

Natural death

For those who for, whatever reason, disagree with euthanasia or prefer to let nature take its course, a natural death is what they will opt for.

You must have a brutally frank conversation with your vet about what “natural death” means. Don’t expect your dog to gently close his eyes and leave this world. That’s what happens as a result of euthanasia not nature.

Allowing your dog to die naturally usually means a lingering and painful death. Yes it can be managed with drugs, but is this really what you want your dog to endure?  

You may be personally against euthanasia, but should your beliefs cause suffering to a living being that cannot speak for himself?

What to do if your dog dies at home

If your dog dies suddenly at home and you can’t get to your vet, you may have to keep your dog in your home until other arrangements can be made.  

The best thing to do is wrap him up and put him in a fridge or freezer. If that’s not an option, putting him on a cement floor, unwrapped, will keep him cool. A last resort would be putting him in the coldest part of the house packed with bags of ice. To prevent your dog from getting wet wrap him in plastic.

Sorry I know how gruesome this sounds, but it’s better to be as prepared as possible should the unexpected happen.

Cremation

Cremation is very common and you have the option of having your dog’s cremains returned to you by opting for a private cremation. Keep his ashes in a beautiful urn or scatter them in a favoured spot. The vet can make the arrangements for you.

Burial

I know many people who have buried their pets in the backyards but of course that would depend on local laws. An alternative would be burial in a pet cemetery, with a service as simple or elaborate as you want.

There is a small cemetery on the grounds of the shelter where I used to volunteer, and one day I saw a service that rivalled one for a human. How beautiful to see that human-animal bond.

Pet loss grief support

Time to take care of you. I know how emotionally exhausting this is so it’s important to grieve. Anything seems preferable to having to “go through the process” but it’s the only healthy way to deal with such a lossGrieve, cry, lay in bed but don’t let the grief consume you. Create a memorial, light a candle, share your stories and know you shared a beautiful and special bond.  

What is hospice care for dogs – conclusion

While it can be an option for terminally ill dogs, it is not for everyone. It also does not mean euthanasia won’t be necessary.

Whatever decision you ultimately make, I hope this post on what is hospice care for dogs, will help you make the right choice for the welfare of your dog.

 

Have you ever provided hospice care for your dog? What did that entail? Would you do it again? Share your experiences in the comment section below or my Facebook page

 

 

 

pet-memorial-headstone2

Pet Memorial Stones

pet memorial stones

Pet memorial stones are a beautiful way to pay tribute to the beloved companions we have lost.

I feel so helpless when it’s time to say goodbye. Everything I could have done was done, and I have to figure out how to adapt without my constant companion. Finding a way to honour the memory helps me cope. It’s the “taking action” that helps with the powerlessness I feel when I can’t save them.

One particular passing has still left me feeling raw, three years later. Immediately after it happened, I lit a virtual memorial candle, and I did feel a bit better. In tribute to another dog we lost I bought a memorial garden plaque, engraved with his name and a message. Again I found it helpful.

Memorial stones

Not only do I love the permanence of a memorial stone, I appreciate their versatility – for use outdoors as grave markers and paving stones, or indoors displayed on a shelf or mantle.

I feel most at peace when surrounded by nature, so a memorial stone in my garden is the perfect tribute.  

They make a wonderfully healing gift

When you think “gift” you probably don’t have a memorial stone on your list, maybe you should! We can feel so alone in our grief, knowing someone has honoured our beloved companion in such a way is a beautiful expression of friendship.

Let’s take a look at a few of the options you have to choose from

Dog Paw Print Devotion Garden Stone

evergreen enterprises pet memorial stones

With the look and colour of stone, this high quality resin memorial is 12” x ½” x 3” and has a lovely sentiment carved right in. Perfect for indoor and out, it holds up well to the elements. A nice added feature is the keyhole in the back, making it suitable for hanging.

Granite Memorial Marker 

granite pet memorial stones

This stunning granite marker comes laser engraved with your pet’s name, the dates you wish and wording of your choice. The engravers can even produce a life like photo. Measuring 6″ x 10″ x 3/8″ it will not fade or crack in extreme weather.

Red Stone Heart Shaped Memorial Stone 

heart shaped pet memorial stones

This heart shaped grave marker, hand cut and shaped from natural stone, comes personalized with your pet’s name deep engraved. Perfect for use as a headstone, grave marker, stepping stone or indoor display.

Paw Shape Pet Memorial Stone 

paw print pet memorial stones

This beautiful paw shaped memorial stone, measuring 8 ¼”H x 8.5”W x 1.5”D, comes etched with a poem and has a 2″ x 3″ photo frame. Suitable for indoor or outdoor use, the stone can stand up on its base for display.

Dog Angel Memorial Marker 

dog angel pet memorial stones

Such an eye catching piece, this stunning tribute to a lost angel comes with a touching message.  

Dog Collar Garden Stone

dog collar pet memorial stones

This garden stone is not a design you typically see. Sturdy enough to stand up to harsh winters, yet delicate enough to display in your home, the ability to personalise this, on your own, is a special feature. You can paint the collar and write your dog’s name on the tag, meaning you contributed to the creation of this memorial. How much more special does that make it?

Pet memorial stones – conclusion

This may not be a pleasant topic, but it’s a healing topic. Losing our four legged companion is horrific, there’s no two ways about that, but we still have to learn to cope, and adjust to life without them.

I believe creating memorials is therapeutic, and they have helped me as I looked for ways to pay tribute to beings who were important in my life.

We find the things that work for us, and pet memorial stones may be what give you comfort.   

 

Drop by my Facebook page and join a community of people who share their lives with senior dogs. Post your stories, photos, advice and questions.

If in the UK please click on the flag to shop bigger and bolder

the loss of pets I have loved

The Loss of a Pet: Will You Be There at The End?

the loss of a pet will you be there at the end

When the time has come and you’re about to experience the loss of a pet, will you be there at the end?

No matter how long it’s been since you said goodbye to your last furry family member, it’s always heart wrenching, and you never forget that feeling.

I stay

I have always been there (except once which I’ll explain further down), and will continue to be there as long as I’m able, because I have no doubt it is the right decision for me.

Is it easy? No, it’s one of the most horrific experiences of my life. Knowing there’s nothing I can do to stop the inevitable from happening, and having to say “I’m ready” is tough beyond words. Why do I do it? Because I know it would eat me up alive if I wasn’t there to give them comfort.

Our dog Bailey had pancreatitis, and was at the vet in another city. The end was unexpected, I had no car, and it was late in the day. My husband worked in the same city, and since they were besties, he was the right person to be with him.

Some go

Several people have told me they couldn’t handle being there, and while at the vet I have seen people leave the room, because it was too much for them to witness, and heaven knows it is.

The person who leaves is no less brave than the person who stays, nor did they love any less.

the loss of pets I have loved

Guilt

I want to talk about the guilt some people feel at not having been there. It can hit anytime – soon after, or much later when the grief has subsided.  

That is a road you don’t want to walk down.  

I can certainly understand why you feel the way you do, but not only is it unproductive, it will eat you up inside. Easy for me to say? No it’s not actually, because I know guilt, and I have to learn to handle it regularly.

Please explain this to yourself – you’re feeling guilty in your current state of mind, but you made the best decision for yourself in another state of mind. How can one judge the other?  

Understand what I’m saying?

How will you decide?

While it’s not a topic we want to think about, it’s a good idea to know who would want to be there, and who wouldn’t. At the time, circumstances may force different decisions, but it’s still a good idea to know who stands where, before you’re forced to decide with very little time to think.

If the idea of having it done in a cold, and unfamiliar environment makes you sad, many vets will come to the house. It is an option a lot of people prefer, as it allows their pet to be calm and comfortable in familiar surroundings. It may be easier for you to be there if it’s done in your own home. I hesitate to use the word “easy” because nothing can be further from reality, but you know what I mean.

If this is a strong consideration, know in advance if your vet offers this service, or would you have to look further afield.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you keep changing your mind, I’m the queen of reversible decisions.

If it helps, think about it like this – would you feel worse if you were there, or weren’t there?

Reasons people stay and reasons people go

Here are some reasons why people stay, and why they go. There’s no right or wrong decision, only the decision you make.

Stay

  • Get comfort knowing their pet went peacefully
  • Sure they were treated with respect because they witnessed it
  • Want their pet to know they were with them until the very end
  • Know for sure their pet died – sometimes you have to see to believe
  • Can’t regret not being there

Go

  • Don’t want their pet to be stressed by their reaction/emotions
  • They don’t want it to be the last memory of their pet
  • Don’t want to see death

The loss of a pet – conclusion

It is not our place to judge if someone decides they aren’t able to be there in the last moments of life. Some wouldn’t be anywhere else, others prefer a different final memory. What’s important is you do what’s right for you.

You have to believe your pet knew how much you loved them, and are grateful for how you cared for them.

When you face the loss of a pet, will you be there at the end?

 

Were you with your pet or not? Would you like to share the reasons for your decision? Would you make the same decision if there’s a next time? Sharing your experiences helps others, just write in the comment section below.  

explaining the loss of a pet to children

Explaining the Loss of a Pet to Children

explaining the loss of a pet to children

It’s hard enough for us to cope, imagine explaining the loss of a pet to children.

Sadly it’s one of those things in life that are inevitable. Of course it’s to be dreaded, but if handled properly, it will serve as an important lesson in loss, love, life and compassion.

The bond between them

Do your pets greet the kids at the door when they come home? Do they serve as a confidant, the first one your child talks to? Are they best friends, a support to help them feel less alone in the world?

It is a bond that people who don’t have the pleasure of sharing their lives with animals, can never possibly understand. Yet it is an important one.

how to explain the loss of a pet to children

What you should not do

It’s a natural instinct to want to shelter your kids from the bad in the world, but you won’t be doing them any favours in this case.

Please do not lie and say the dog/cat/rabbit… ran away, or got lost. First of all it’s the wrong thing to do, and why would you allow your child to worry, wondering if he’s okay, and hope he’ll find his way home one day?

How to share the news

If your pet is old, or has an illness that he won’t recover from, you will be able to explain what’s going on, over time. They will see the animal isn’t well, be aware of your trips to the vet, medication etc… so will have time to understand and absorb.

It is an opportunity to teach your child proper care of animals, and compassion for others. Explain the importance of preventing suffering, that everything possible has been done to help, and when the time comes the vet will give him a quick injection that won’t hurt, the pet will not be scared or in pain, and he will die peacefully.

Be careful of the words you use. It’s okay to say things like “died” “death” so they understand what that means, but using words like “put to sleep” or “going to sleep” are not a good idea. They associate those words with bedtime, and can scare and confuse them. Call it what it is.

explaining pet loss to kids

 

How much to share

You know your children, and their age and ability to cope will determine how the detail you go into, and the words you use to explain what’s going on. Answer their questions, don’t ignore them.

What if your pet dies suddenly?

If something drastic happened, and you had no time to prepare yourself, never mind the kids, briefly and calmly explain what happened. Let their questions guide the conversation.

Where do pets go when they die?

I don’t know whether or not you’ve ever broached the subject of death with your kids, but that’s a tough one for any of us to answer. You could talk about your own belief or understanding of death, what your faith says about it, or give an honest “I don’t know” because none of us know for sure.

Helping them cope with the loss of a pet

We all feel a range of emotions when experiencing loss, and they will as well. Loneliness because their friend is gone, anger, guilt because they didn’t always take care of their pet like they said they would.

Encourage your children to express their feelings, and share yours as well. It helps to know you’re feeling the same. If they don’t want to talk right now that’s okay, but don’t let them keep their feelings bottled up for long, and be sure they know when they’re ready you’ll be there to listen.

pet loss and children

Helping your child heal

You’re keeping the lines of communication open, and encouraging your kids to share their feelings. What else can you do to help?

Your children may want to have a funeral. It’s a chance for them to say goodbye and do something special. There are pet cemeteries if you prefer, or a backyard burial means they’re still close.

If your pet will be cremated, perhaps they’d like to help you pick the urn.

How about a scrapbook full of pictures, funny stories… Go shopping with your kids to pick out a special book, coloured paper, stickers, markers… Even if they already have everything at home, they may want things they pick out specifically for this occasion.

Other ideas include planting a tree or bush, buying a paving stone with your pet’s name on it, a picture frame with the pet’s name and picture, or buying some supplies for the local shelter. Explain how this will be helping lots of other animals that are waiting for a home feel so much better.

Adopting another

You may be ready to adopt another pet rather quickly, but hold off for a bit. Your kids may not be ready for such a big step, and they may get angry, feeling theirs wasn’t important and so easily replaced.

Hopefully you will be able to give another animal a home, when everyone is ready. The priority is helping your kids understand what has happened, grieve, accept, and be happy with the memories.

explaining pet loss to children

Explaining the loss of a pet to children – conclusion

Not an easy conversation to have with grownups, never mind kids, but necessary nonetheless.

Be honest about what happened, let their questions guide you, help them understand what a kind and compassionate thing you all did, and how it’s okay to be sad because they were lucky enough to love someone so much.

Explaining the loss of a pet to children isn’t easy, but see it as an opportunity to teach them about loss, love, compassion and the joy that comes with sharing their lives with animals.

 

 

 

the loss of a pet

The Loss of a Pet

the loss of a pet

It’s not a topic anyone wants to talk about, I know I don’t, but the loss of a pet is an inevitable part of sharing our lives with them.

Like you, I have said goodbye too many times. You never get used to it, and it never gets easier. Nothing prepares you for the moment the vet walks in with that euthanasia paper, requiring your signature that will force you apart. I’m tearing up as I write this, because it’s not a moment I can ever forget.

What choice do we have?

Of course it’s horrific, and I’ve met many people over the years who refused to get another animal, because saying goodbye was too hard. Totally understandable, you can’t fault them.

That’s not how I see things, but we’re all different aren’t we? There is no shortage of animals needing homes, so while it’s devastating to say goodbye, I’m always open to helping another.

What this post is about

This article is the first in a series, exploring a wide range of issues surrounding the loss of a pet. This first post is an overview, and future ones will address each topic in more detail.

loss of a pet

When is it time to say goodbye?

Sometimes the answer is clear cut, other times a lot fuzzier.

There are circumstances when you have no choice – your pet is terminally ill, or so badly injured there’s nothing more that can be done. It’s those times when it is morally and ethically the right decision to make.

The less certain times are when it’s quality of life. In my experience, these decisions have been the worst ones. Should I have done it sooner? Did I do it too soon?

While the cut and dried cases were always heart breaking, they never haunted me because the answer was obvious. The quality of life decisions, or those that were a result of negligence on the part of a vet, have never left me.

Your trusted vet is someone to rely on for his knowledge and experience, and so is your love for your animal. It is never about what we want, only about what is right and humane for them.

explaining the death of a pet to your kids

Explaining it to the kids

As hard as it is for us, at least we’re able to intellectually understand what’s going on, even if we feel differently in our hearts. With children it’s harder, especially young children.

It is about explaining that the pet is ill, everyone has done everything possible to help, and now he’s suffering. A simple injection is all that’s needed to let him go, so they don’t worry it will hurt. Obviously the words will be your own, but it’s not a good idea to lie and say your pet ran away or is lost. Death is a part of life, and although we want to spare children from having to deal with it, sometimes we’re confronted a lot sooner than we’d like.

Compassion is such an important lesson for kids to learn, and this is a perfect opportunity. It’s a chance to teach them how important it is to do what’s right for their pet, to not allow them to suffer, even if it hurts us for a while.

Encourage them to talk about their feelings and show them it’s okay to feel sad, because you do as well.

Cremation or burial

Ideally you want to know the answer to this before you’re faced with the decision, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Think about involving your kids in this decision.

coping after the loss of a pet

How to cope

A pet is much more than someone that shares our home. They are family members as important as any other, and sometimes even invaluable helpers in everyday life. When they’re no longer around, the void can be massive. When your dog isn’t at the door to greet you every day, or your cat isn’t sleeping on your head, it’s a big adjustment.

My dog Bailey used to follow my other dog Red up and down the hall, then corner her and lick her ear. I don’t know how long it took for me to stop “seeing” him walking down that hallway.

Grieve

Don’t bottle up or deny your feelings. This is someone who was an important part of your life, who deserves to be missed and mourned. We all have to go through the pain, or we’ll never get to the other side of it.

You’re entitled to your feelings

Don’t be embarrassed or uncomfortable about how you’re feeling, and never, ever allow anyone to belittle you for them. They can say what they like, but we know he or she was not “just a dog/cat/rabbit…”

To tell you the truth, I pity those people for never having known the love and joy animals bring into our lives.

Get support if you need it

If you’re struggling (as we all do at times), speak to someone who can relate. There are an unlimited number of resources both online and in person, where help is available. Type “pet loss grief support” into your search engine, and you will find help immediately.

Create a memorial

Creating a memorial is a great way to honour the life of your pet, and the joy they brought into your home. Don’t be surprised at how much better it can make you feel.

Do it as a family, separately, or both but include your kids as much as possible. Plant a tree, create a photo album with everyone contributing their favourite pictures, make a donation to an animal shelter in your pet’s name…the ways are endless.

Stick to your routine

Your routine has been shaken, but do what you can to maintain the structure. It’s important for everyone, including remaining pets. Don’t forget the loss will affect them too.

Take care of yourself

It’s an emotionally and physically exhausting experience, a shock to the system. When I lost my first pet, a cat named Calypso, I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed for 3 days and cry. I couldn’t move, eat, or go to work.

Do what you have to, but don’t neglect yourself for too long, or you could get stuck in an endless cycle of no energy to get out of bed, not eating, so no energy and around it goes.

Eat healthy, get some rest and keep exercising. At least a walk around the block so you don’t lose complete momentum, and you want to release those endorphins, which will help make you feel better.

Helping seniors cope

As people age and begin to lose friends, and the support system they’ve relied on, the companionship of a pet becomes that much more important, not to mention special. Loss not only brings feelings of emptiness, but reminders of our own mortality as well.

Some of the ways you can help include:

Make sure visitors come around to keep them company

Bring your own pet to visit

Ask if they would consider fostering or adopting an older pet. It would bring some life back into the home, and they would be doing a wonderful thing by saving a life

What about volunteering at a local shelter? Even if they aren’t physically able to walk a dog, they could spend time giving cats and dogs some much needed attention

Recommend a pet loss grief support group. Not only will it give them other people to talk to who can relate, it will get them out of the house and they might even make new friends

Leave them the number of someone to speak with if a group is not an option

Encourage them to get involved in activities or volunteer work, so they aren’t home alone all the time

grief of losing a pet

How long does grief last?

I suppose we would all be comforted if we knew when the pain would end, but grief of any sort doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes it comes in stages, sometimes in waves. Some people feel better in a matter of days or weeks, others months or years. We could be feeling better, and then suddenly something reminds us and we get sad again.

What’s important is to not rush it, but let the process happen naturally.

Be careful that grief doesn’t consume you, and if you are having a hard time coping I recommend you join a pet loss bereavement group as soon as possible. Don’t go through it alone.

The loss of a pet – conclusion

There’s no easy way to get through the grief, so there’s not much choice but to feel the sadness, and the pain, and let time help heal us. Take the alone time you need, but reach out if and when you need help. There’s no shame in needing a shoulder…we all do at times.

The loss of a pet is devastating, but we can get through it, and maybe one day be ready to share our life, love, and home with another animal in need.

 

teach your dog how to use a dog ramp

Coping With the Loss of a Pet

coping with the loss of a pet

I know how impossible it can be, coping with the loss of a pet.

You want to lie in bed and cry. Well, why not? I’ve done it, and it’s certainly better to cry it out to release your grief, then to keep it bottled up.

Just please make sure you don’t get lost in it. If you’re having trouble, get grief counselling, find a support group, and you are more than welcome to contact me as well. I am a certified Pet Loss Grief Support Coach.

Here are some ideas/tips/suggestions that may help you

Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel. That goes double if it’s coming from someone who doesn’t share their life with animals, or has never experienced this kind of loss.

Honour your grief, don’t deny it, don’t repress it.

Surround yourself with people who understand – pet loss support groups, chat rooms, hotlines and counsellors. Volunteering there can also help.

Keep a journal where you can record your thoughts, feelings and memories.

You had a routine, and now it’s changed. Start a new hobby, try a new activity.

Remember the good times.

Create a memorial – a plaque for your garden, plant a tree, make a scrapbook…

Having a funeral is a way for you and your family to openly express grief.

Go to the beach and watch the waves – do something peaceful and contemplative.

Why not get some books and read about other peoples’ experiences? It helps knowing others have been through similar.

The human-animal bond has no strings attached, not something we experience too often in our human relationships is it? Honour what you had, treasure it.

It is not unusual to find it hard to sleep or eat, but making yourself sick won’t help. Take care of yourself.

Your other pets may be experiencing the loss of their mate, so keep an eye out for changes in behaviour, eating… Stick to the same routine they’ve been used to, and give them some extra TLC.

After experiencing the loss of a pet, many people say they are not prepared to live through that again, while others run out too quickly to try and “replace” the one that’s gone. Give yourself some time, and when you’re starting to feel more like yourself, consider bringing a homeless animal into your life. You still have a lot more love to give, and offering a home to an abandoned animal is a wonderful thing to do, not to mention how great it is for the soul.

Coping with the loss of a pet – conclusion

There are lots of options available, including online pet loss grief support, and local pet bereavement support groups. Many shelters also run regular groups, so contact your local shelter to see if they have one. If they don’t, why not offer to help them start one?

Here are a few sites that may help. I do not personally endorse any of them, I just provide them for you as a place to start.

Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement

Pet Loss Grief Support, Rainbow Bridge & Candle Ceremony

Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support

I know how difficult coping with the loss of a pet can be, so please ask for help if you need it. 

chewie2

How To Cope With Losing a Dog

chewie2

How to cope with losing a dog.

Feeling sad and grieving over the loss of an animal companion is normal, so don’t let anyone make you feel like it isn’t.

As much as we would like to avoid experiencing the heartbreak, the truth is – we can’t feel better if we don’t allow ourselves to first feel bad.

However, feeling bad does not mean sinking into a dark place that you can’t get out of.

Finding healthy ways to cope will allow you the opportunity to grieve, to accept what has happened, learn to treasure the time you had and recover. Notice I never said forget.

I hope some of these ideas give you comfort

The number one suggestion I have is to not let anyone tell you how you should feel. That goes double if it’s coming from someone who doesn’t share their life with animals, or has never experienced this kind of loss. No matter how much, or how little time, you had with your pet, you created a strong bond, and you’ll grieve as you would the loss of any other member of the family.

Honour your grief. Express your grief. Don’t deny it, don’t repress it. If that means screaming, throwing things (make them soft objects, and don’t aim at anybody please!!!!), or lying in bed in the dark, then do it. Just notice how long this is going on. Do it while it’s helpful, but don’t let it become self destructive.

Surround yourself with people who understand. There are many pet loss support groups, chat rooms, hotlines and counsellors you could reach out to. Talk to others and contribute as well. You never know who your words will console.

Start your own pet loss support group. It may be therapeutic for you, knowing you’re honouring your pet in such a significant way, while helping others at the same time.

Keep a journal where you can record your thoughts, feelings and memories. Share it, or keep it just for yourself.

You had a routine, and now it’s changed. It’s normal to feel a bit out of sorts for a while. Now might be a good time to start a new hobby, try a new activity. It will help fill that void, and create a new outlet for you.

Remember the good times. At the beginning you almost feel like they’re still around. For quite a while after one of my dogs died, I would look down the hallway and swear I could see him looking in each room for my husband. That does fade, but the memories don’t, and you’ll eventually be able to laugh at all the crazy antics they got up to.

Sometimes it helps to create a memorial. One woman I know keeps her dogs’ urns and collars on a little side table. It’s not a depressing shrine, but a nice tasteful way to remember them, and make them feel like they’re still part of the family. Have a plaque made up for your garden, plant a tree, make a scrapbook. Your memorial is whatever you want it to be.

Having a funeral is a way for you and your family to openly express their grief. It’s a way for humans to express grief, and honour those that passed, what’s the difference if this loved one had 4 legs instead of 2? Never mind what people say, and walk away from anyone that utters a snide remark. Pet cemeteries exist, so people must be using them.

Go to the beach and watch the waves, go for a hike, do something peaceful and contemplative.

You know that death and taxes are two things that are inevitable, right? It’s hard to say, and hard to accept, but we will all die – some sooner than later. It’s good to remind ourselves that life is short, and we should live and love to the fullest.

It’s too easy to feel alone during this time, which of course will only make you sadder. So much has been written on this subject, why not get some books and read about other peoples’ experiences? It’s always helpful to know others have been through similar.

The human-animal bond has no strings attached. No games, no nonsense, just unconditional love. That doesn’t sound like something we experience too often in our human relationships, does it? No wonder the loss is so devastating. Honour what you had, treasure it, and when you’re ready, find another furry friend to bond with.

The passing of a beloved pet is emotionally and physically draining. It’s not unusual to find it hard to sleep, and hard to eat. Making yourself sick is not going to do you any good. You’re not expected to have peaceful sleeps and be ready for 6 course meals, but you have to take care of yourself. If you haven’t read this before – exercise releases endorphins, which will help boost your spirits.

It may be difficult to talk about your pet right away, or even say their name. You may find it helpful to share stories and memories, with others in your household. After all, they have also been affected.

Your pet was a member of your family. And as with the loss of any family member, you’ll grieve. Since when do family members have to have 2 arms and 2 legs?

You may not realise this, but your other pets may be experiencing the loss of their mate. Keep an eye out for changes in behaviour, eating… Try and stick to the same routine they’ve been used to, and giving them some extra TLC is a good thing. Having other animals to care for will also be good for you.

After experiencing the loss of a pet, many people say they are not prepared to live through that again. It’s easy to say when emotions are raw, so don’t even go there. The opposite is true as well. Some may run out too quickly, as there’s the tendency to try and “replace” the one that’s gone, and that’s not a reason to adopt. Give yourself some time, and when you’re starting to feel more like yourself, consider bringing a homeless animal into your life. You still have a lot more love to give, and offering a home to an abandoned animal is a wonderful thing to do, not to mention how great it is for the soul.

How to cope with losing a dog – conclusion

I know it can feel impossible sometimes, trying to figure out how to cope with losing a dog, but I truly hope you find comfort here.

 

saying goodbye to your dog

Saying Goodbye to Your Dog…Will You Be There?

 

saying goodbye to your dog will you be there

I know what a tough prospect saying goodbye to your dog is, something we avoid thinking about as much as we possibly can. Having said that it is important to find the strength to give it some thought, particularly when it comes to deciding whether or not you will be with him or her when it’s time.

The moment we have to say goodbye is so heart wrenching many pet guardians aren’t able to be in the room when it happens. No judging please and no feeling guilty. It doesn’t mean they didn’t love their dog completely or was less caring or responsible, it just means it’s too hard for some people to bear. By the same token others couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

What would you do?

Perhaps you’ve already been faced with this decision and you know what you’ll do. Maybe you weren’t entirely sure you did the right thing so will do the opposite next time. Quite possibly you haven’t had to say goodbye before Saying Goodbye to Your Dog Will You Be Thereand you’re not sure what the “right” decision is. 

This is very important to understand – there is no “right” decision, only the one that you can handle. 

Having to think about the unthinkable

The reason why it’s so important to give it some thought is because it’s irreversible, and when you’re in the middle of heartbreak it’s hard to think clearly.

I will never forget the first time I had to say goodbye to a pet, it was my beloved cat Calypso. She wasn’t eating so I took her to the vet who told me her kidneys were failing and it was time. I knew she had issues but it felt like she went downhill quite quickly so I was stunned…and in pieces. Not only because I loved her so much but  because I had never faced anything like this before and had no idea what was going to happen. My vet was so amazing but there was “stuff” to take care off, and that stuff included being handed a form with big letters saying Euthanasia across the top and being asked to sign it. That’s when I thought I would literally faint. Then the questions came – did I want her buried or cremated, ashes back or not, what kind of urn…

As I write this I realise it sounds like they were heartless but that was absolutely not the case. My vet couldn’t have been more compassionate, but there were important questions that needed answering. 

I had never thought about this subject before, but I knew without hesitation being with her and comforting her was the only place for me. I stay with every pet except I was not able to be with Bailey, but luckily my husband was. I was okay with that because they were best buds and I know Bailey was happy being with him.  

When you’re faced with having to make an immediate “yes or no”, “stay or go” what do you do? I hope the following will help.

Why you might decide to stay

Feeling your dog is comforted by your presence which in turn may give you comfort and peace

Wanting yours to be the last face your dog sees

The fear you might regret/feel guilty not having been there

Knowing how impossible it will be, but doing it anyway because you want to be there for your dog as you have been until now

The vet’s office can be a very scary place with some unfamiliar people around, having you there can be a great source of comfort

Even if you “know” he’s gone, sometimes not actually seeing it can leave you doubting whether it happened 

You want to rest easy knowing he passed quickly and painlessly

Why you might decide not to stay

You’d rather not remember your dog’s final moments surrounding by strangers in a clinical setting

You want your last image to be of him alive in your home, garden, on his favourite bed… 

Concern your emotions will stress your dog

You may be scared of death, almost superstitious

Another option

There is an alternative to taking your dog to the clinic and that would be having a vet come to your house. Your dog will be in a familiar environment, surrounded by everyone he loves who loves him. Perhaps this option is one how to cope with the loss of a petyou’re more comfortable with. Check with your veterinary practice to see if they offer this service or can recommend someone who does. Otherwise a search for “in home euthanasia” should give you some possibilities.

Who wants to be there

Something else to think about is who might like to be there – your children, other family members…If you’re doing it at home you have more flexibility than a vet’s office that can only accommodate so many.

Knowing what to expect

You’ve read the reasons why some people choose to stay, and why some choose not to. You’ve also seen there is another option to a vet’s office. What about knowing what to expect? It is entirely possible being unfamiliar with the process frightens people (which is understandable), and influences their decision whether to be with their dog or not. Have your vet explain what happens step by step and see if that helps you decide.

I will mention one thing – being asked for payment right then and there is not something anyone should expect to experience…yet I did and it made an already heartbreaking experience all the more horrific.

A terrible experience I don’t want you to share

Sadly I’m no stranger to saying goodbye and it never gets easier, however nothing was more disgusting than when I had to say goodbye to my cat TT at an animal hospital in Florida. Although he had cancer for a few months he was doing okay until he suddenly had what seemed like a massive stroke, so we rushed him to the hospital. We so hard saying goodbye to your dogknew we were going to say goodbye and that nothing could be done. What we never expected was for a receptionist to come into the examination room to collect payment before they would put him down.

That tells you everything you need to know about the type of place it is, I don’t care how well known they are.

I mention this because payment is something you need to be absolutely clear about. Your practice may know you well enough to let you leave without paying, respecting your grief, but they don’t always tell you they will not send your pet for cremation (if that’s what you decide) until payment is received. Yes that happened to me as well. I assumed because I had been going there for years and they allowed me to leave without paying (respecting my grief), I could pay when I picked up my cat’s ashes (another cat not TT). When I hadn’t heard from them in a couple of weeks I called and found out they had left my cat in a freezer the entire time. I went ballistic at the owner of the practice, crying and screaming on the phone.

They may not have wanted to say anything at the time out of respect, but a friendly phone call a couple of days later would have been the right thing to do. How are we expected to know their policies.

See why I want you to ask in advance?

Saying goodbye to your dog

A sad topic to be sure but an important one to think about. Whether you decide to stay or not is a decision only you can make but I do hope this post will help.

 

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

senior dog care resource page

When Is It Time to Let Your Dog Go

when is it time to let your dog go

Sometimes the answer to that question is very clear cut. You’ve seen how your dog has been behaving, you’ve gotten the test results back and there’s nothing else to be done. The only kind thing to do is to let him go, and as devastating as it is, allowing our dogs to suffer is never an option.

But what about those times when the answer isn’t as obvious, when it comes down to quality of life. How do you decide then?

Decision times for me

With all my animals, except one, the decision was obvious. They weren’t doing well, test results came back and it would not have been fair to keep them with me just because I couldn’t bear to let them go. The one time that was strictly a quality of life issue was the toughest of them all.

Deciding when it was time to let Josephine was horrendous, and not a situation I would ever like to fwhen is it time to say goodbye to your dogind myself in again. Although she suffered from a potentially life threatening illness it was being managed, so that was not a reason to say goodbye. There wasn’t “one thing” but rather a combination of several issues that made it a quality of life decision. 

For a long time after I let her go I beat myself up about what I had done – should I have done it sooner, should I have waited. Intellectually I knew I did the right thing for her, but that didn’t stop me suffering from guilt for quite a long time afterwards. I rely on my vet a lot, and no less when it comes to a life or death decision, something I didn’t have with my vet at the time. He was certainly nice enough but I didn’t have the support, and without it I was less sure of my decision.  

It isn’t about you avoiding the pain

Do you know the time has come but are avoiding it because you don’t want to face the pain? Are you subjecting your pet to life extending, or even painful treatments because you don’t want to say goodbye? Are you in denial about the seriousness of your pet’s condition?

When it’s happening to someone else it’s easy to look at a scenario objectively, and know the animal is suffering. Unfortunately when it’s happening to us, we’re so close and love that animal so much we can’t or won’t see the truth.

Loving your pet means knowing when to end their suffering, even if it means beginning yours.

Finances

The reality is many of our decisions are based on money, and that’s just the way life is. Veterinary care is expensive, and not everyone has insurance or a plan that covers as much as needed. Is the financial burden of continued treatment a factor in your decision? 

Are you involving your vet in your decision making?

The people living with the animal are the best ones to judge the changes in them. That doesn’t mean your vet’s opinion shouldn’t factor in. Ultimately the decision will be yours, but some professional advice, particularly from involve your vet in senior dog caresomeone who knows your animal and who you trust, may prove invaluable.

Make an appointment to have a chat with him or her. Ask him what to expect, the treatment options, success rates etc… Ultimately it is your decision to make, and your vet cannot tell you what you should do, but having that talk may comfort you and help you make a decision you can live with. 

Your dog’s comfort level

Does she seem comfortable? Is it easy or becoming more difficult for her to get up? Is she still interested in playing? What other changes you’re noticing? Are there medications that can offer some relief?

Eating and drinking

How is her appetite? Still eating, “begging” and looking for treats, or losing interest?

Try and think ahead

This may be impossible to do, but it’s another tool that may help you decide. If you could “project” yourself into the future and look back, what would you like to have seen? How would you like to remember how you cared for your dog?

So, when is it time to let your dog go? 

When all is said and done, you want to do the best for your dog, and the best is ensuring she is not suffering. If you do decide letting go is the kindest thing, be comfortable knowing you considered your options and chose the one that honoured her and gave her peace. Our pets have been great companions, and shown us the true meaning of unconditional love and loyalty. At the end of their lives, they rely on us to comfort them, care for them, and do what is best for them.

So when is it time to let your dog go? When you think about their quality of life, and your responsibility to make sure they do not suffer, that’s when you’ll know.

 

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.