Tuesday, November 20, 2018

End of Life Care: Making Every Day Count

End of Life Care: Making Every Day Count

Being a veterinarian is often a rewarding job; we get to watch our patients grow and mature, perform preventative care to keep them healthy, and help heal them when they’re sick. However, being a vet also means that I sometimes have the unfortunate task of having to give bad news to pet owners. Whether it is a terminal cancer diagnosis, debilitating arthritis, failing kidneys, or something else, we know that medicine and surgery can sometimes only do so much and that eventually we must decide when it’s time to humanely end our pet’s pain.
When your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, it is a devastating feeling. However, I also see it as an opportunity to truly make the most of your time with your pet. I have had to let three senior pets go over the last few years due to terminal diseases and I’d like to share some insight on what I have learned about making every day count.  

1   1) First, have a thorough talk with your pet’s doctor. Consider asking questions like:
a.      Are they in pain and if so, how will we control it?
b.      Are there any dietary restrictions I should be aware of?
c.      Are there any physical activity restrictions I should be aware of?
d.      What kind of timeline can I expect for this disease progression?
e.      What clinical signs should I be watching for with this disease? What should I do if I see these signs?
Basically, the goal of this conversation is “what can I do at home to keep my pet comfortable and how do I know when they’re no longer comfortable?”

 2) Next, think about what your pet enjoys and go do that thing with them.
a.      Does your dog like swimming? If so, plan a trip to the beach (or an indoor pet pool if weather isn’t cooperating- check local training and boarding facilities for dog friendly pools). 
b.      Does your pet like to ride in the car and go new places? There are many affordable vacation rentals that are pet friendly, so you can plan a road trip with your furry friend.
c.      Does your dog like to eat (I mean, what dog doesn’t?!). Take them to a boutique pet shop to pick out a fun new treat! Some restaurants have outdoor dog-friendly patios, so look into that as well.
d.      Does your pet like meeting new people and animals? Look into local fests that are dog friendly and go check them out with your furry friend.  

    3) Consider a photo shoot with your furry friend. Take lots of pictures of all the good memories you’re making, as you’ll cherish these moments after they’re gone.  One complaint I hear sometimes is that owner’s wish they had more pictures of themselves with their pet, so don’t be afraid to take some selfies with your cat or dog!

4   4) Try to spend a little time every day doing something enjoyable for both of you. Perhaps your dog likes getting out of the house, so taking them for a walk or drive around the block could be fun. Play with toys at home. You don’t always have to do something big; remember, these daily moments are just as important as the big gestures!

 5) Take comfort in doing nothing. Sometimes just relaxing at home with your pet can mean everything to them! Turn off your phone, put on a movie, and just cuddle on the couch and enjoy each other’s company.

  6) Consider a farewell party. Invite the people (and perhaps other pets!) that are close to your pet to come say their goodbyes. Try to make it a celebration of life! Reminisce about your favorite moments with your pets, what you love most about them, and just enjoy being surrounded by people that love your cat or dog as much as you do.

Remember to not push your pet to do anything they are 
uncomfortable with; the goal is to do things that are fun for BOTH of you! While saying good bye to your pet will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, having these memories to look back on will help to ease some of the hurt.

Written By: Dr. Erin Walsh
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect


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