Pet Hospice Caredog compassion.jpg

We understand that serious illness profoundly impacts not only the patient, but family and loved ones as well. Here are the goals of the Redmond Veterinary Clinic Pet Hospice Program:

  • Our care focuses on providing pain control and physical comfort to the pet, as well as educational support and emotional comfort for the family.
  • Our staff serves as teachers, enabling the family to care for their pet's medical and emotional needs at home.
  • Redmond Veterinary Clinic Pet Hospice helps make a pet's death a kinder, more intimate experience for both the pet and his or her family by providing patients with a safe, caring, and intimate end of life experience within the family home or in our separated comfort room.

spacer-green.gifThe Diagnosis

When your companion animal has been diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness, it can be very overwhelming.  Strong emotions of shock, disbelief, sadness, fear, anger, guilt, and helplessness are normal responses to the realization that your special friend is ill.
Everyday activities can seem difficult when you have so much on your mind. People in similar situations often report they cannot think straight and feel as if they are in a fog. In the days and weeks to come, you will likely face stressful situations and tough decisions.

Here are a few strategies that may assist you:

  • Take notes while hearing all the treatment options and write down questions and concerns you have. Remembering everything can be very difficult, especially if you are in an emotional state. Writing down topics you've discussed and concerns you have will help you keep things straight. Discuss them with your veterinarian.
  • Bring a friend or family member with you to appointments to help you hear what is being said. Emotional situations can blur one's perception of information.
  • Ask if a decision of treatment needs to be made immediately. If it doesn't, allow yourself some time to make sense of what is happening and discuss options with supportive people around you.
  • Reflect on how you've made difficult decisions in the past. Who supported you through those times? Call on those people to help you now.
  • Do research on your own. Ask your veterinarian for trusted and reliable informational websites and resources to help you gain additional knowledge.
  • Define what are your greatest hopes and your greatest concerns? Discuss these with your veterinarian.
  • Consider treatment expenses and realistically identify how this will financially impact your life.
  • Consider your pet's quality of life. How will treatment options impact your pet's quality versus the quantity of life?
  • Consider your own quality of life. It is important to ask yourself:
  • How much of my time will go toward taking care of my pet? How much time do I have to spare?
  • What cost will I incur to take care of my pet? What other financial responsibilities do I have?
  • What other responsibilities do I have in my life (job, parenting)? Who else do I need to consider (partner, children, other pets)?
  • Who can help me?
  • What other stresses and obligations do I have in my life right now?
  • Take care of yourself. Be sure to eat healthy meals and get enough rest. It is important to care for yourself as you prepare to care for an ill pet, often an emotionally and physically demanding endeavor.

Remember, when you consider what is best for you, your family, and your pet, any decision you make will be the right one. There are no wrong treatment options.

spacer-green.gifAnticipatory Grief

When you have learned that your beloved animal friend has a terminal illness and may soon be gone, it is very natural to experience grief while your pet is still with you, prior to his or her actual death. This is called anticipatory grief. When deaths occur with some forewarning, it is often during this period of anticipation that people begin to experience the various feelings and manifestations commonly associated with grief.
One of the most common feelings during this period is an increase in anxiety. For many people, anxiety increases and accelerates as the time of death draws closer.
When there is some anticipation of death, it is common for people to mentally "rehearse" the event and its aftermath. Typically, people may ruminate on questions like, "How will I handle the death?" "Will I make mistakes?" and "What will it be like for the one who is dying?" This is called the "work of worry" and, when used in appropriate ways, it has been found to play an important role in peoples' overall ability to cope.
During these times, it can be helpful to discuss your feelings with the people around you who understand your relationship with your pet. Making plans for the death of a pet can help to ease some anxiety and allow you to focus solely on loving your pet.


spacer-green.gifPatient Quality of Life

Quality of life is a frequent term used to assess how an animal is doing in the midst of disease.  You know your pet the best, and are the expert regarding the quality of its life. Your evaluation will probably occur multiple times throughout your animal's illness. If there are other people who also love this animal, it may be helpful, especially with children, to involve them in some discussions regarding quality as you are faced with decisions.
Redmond Veterinary Clinic utilizes a Quality of Life Assessment that can add objective data to a very subjective topic.


spacer-green.gifClient Quality of Life

As you consider the phrase "quality of life," remember this pertains to the quality of your pet's life as well as your own. It is important to also think of your own needs during this time. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you keep track of your quality of life:

  • How much of my time will go toward taking care of my pet? How much time do I have to spare?
  • What cost will I incur to take care of my pet? What other financial responsibilities do I have?
  • What other responsibilities do I have in my life (job, parenting)? Who else do I need to consider (partner, Children, other pets)?
  • Who can help me?
  • What other stresses and obligations do I have in my life right now?

Assessing your own life does not diminish the love or care you are giving to your pet, but rather emphasizes which priorities need to be tended to and in which order. While it can be very hard to make difficult decisions based on financial or other limitations, it is important to take care of yourself and also remember that you have done and are still doing the best that you can for your pet. View our suggestions for Ways to Nurture Yourself during these difficult times.

spacer-green.gifPlanning for End of Life

Making the decision to assist in the death of your companion animal may be one of the most difficult decisions you ever make. Some individuals have a spiritual, religious or personal belief system that does not support euthanasia. For others it is considered a thoughtful and humane decision.
It can be helpful to do some planning ahead of time to enable you to focus your energy and love on your animal. Creating plans does not mean you are giving up hope, but rather allows you to finalize the decision making so that your attention to your pet is uninterrupted.

While people often hope for the pet to close their eyes and die peacefully in their sleep, this is rarely the case due to the effects of the pet's disease on the body systems. Instead, a natural death may be prolonged and possibly upsetting to witness. Euthanasia can provide you with some control over the circumstances of your pet's death, control that a natural death may eliminate. Gathering information can be helpful to prepare you for this difficult day.

Questions to ask your veterinarian

  • What are the details of the euthanasia procedure?
  • What are options for the location of the euthanasia?
  • How far in advance should the appointment be scheduled?
  • Does the veterinarian you wish to perform the euthanasia have times or days that he or she will not be available?
  • What is a back-up plan in case your pet has an emergency? Who should you call or go to?
  • What would a natural death look like for your pet, considering the animal's disease process?

Questions to ask yourself and family

  • Who will be there?
  • Where will the euthanasia occur? At your home, at a veterinary hospital, outside, under a favorite tree?
  • Which veterinarian will help?
  • What are your wishes for the care of your pet's body? Some options may include private or group cremation, or burial at a cemetery or at home.
  • Would you like to have a necropsy, the animal version of an autopsy, performed? This can sometimes provide answers to questions you have about your pet's illness or injury.
  • How would you like to say goodbye and memorialize your pet? This is key in helping you grieve, especially for children. Some people will hold a memorial service, read a poem, plant a tree, or write a story of their pet's life. Perhaps you would like to make a clay or ink imprint of your pets paw or cut a clipping of hair to save. These can be placed in a special display box as a memorial.

PET HOSPICE
© COPYRIGHT 2006. ARGUS INSTITUTE
COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES
COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
PET HOSPICE PROGRAM