News

Drs. Laurie and Amy Attending the IAAHPC in Arizona

October 4th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

Dr. Laurie Brush and Dr. Amy Hoss attend the IAAHPC conference in Tempe Arizona

Dr. Laurie Brush and Dr. Amy Hoss are headed for Arizona to attend the 8th annual IAAHPC conference in Tempe Arizona on Oct. 5th. The International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care promotes comfort care that addresses the physical, psychological, and social needs of animals with chronic and/or life-limiting disease. The organization educates professionals and advances research in the field of animal hospice and palliative care. Read the rest of this entry »


Heaven at Home Featured on eightWest

October 3rd, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

Special thanks to the team at eightWest for featuring the services of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice! If you missed the show, click on the photo below to watch the video on the eightWest website! Hami, a gorgeous 12-year-old collie with arthritis, stole the show. In this segment, Dr. Laurie Brush discusses ways to help arthritic animals be more comfortable in their sunset years with things like mats, helper-harnesses, and more. If you have a pet who can’t get around like they used to, Contact Us to request an appointment.

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The Conundrum of Feeding Your Senior Pet

September 18th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

SrPetillus_580x300Many pet parents are confounded by conflicting advice on pet food in general, whether it’s commercial, grain-free, biologically appropriate and/or raw. This confusion can be compounded as your pet ages and is faced with medical conditions that require special consideration when it comes to diet. Many diseases that are common in older dogs and cats may be nutrient-sensitive, meaning that diet can play an important role in the management of the condition. As a general rule, dogs and cats 7 years of age or older are at risk of age-related diseases, though specific breed size, genetics, and physical condition influence the aging process.

Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice, says senior pet nutrition can be a complicated issue but that conscientious pet parents can help their senior pets enormously by dialing in their pet’s diet to prevent obesity.

“It’s important to work with your routine care veterinarian and adjust your feeding approach as your pet ages,” she said.

“Obesity aggravates many conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes, and accelerates the aging process.  At the same time, if your pet is underfed or receives inadequate protein, waning muscle mass may reduce the effectiveness of your pet’s immune system. It can be a tricky balance,” she said.

In the course of the home visits that Dr. Brush and her staff make to provide palliative care for senior and terminally ill pets, she sees the product of both ends of the spectrum: overweight pets who suffer ailments and mobility issues exacerbated by overfeeding, and pets who’ve lost interest in the foods they once loved.

“Every senior pet can benefit from extra attention to nutrition,” she says. “It can make a real difference in the quality of life a senior pet enjoys.”

Understanding Energy Needs in Senior Pets

Just like humans, companion animals have individual and specific Resting and Maintenance Energy Requirements (RERs and MERs) that vary based on genetic potential, health status, and whether the animal is intact or neutered. RERs refers to the metabolic resting state; MERs refers to maintenance and is dependent on activity level. Research suggests that MERs decrease with age in dogs just as it does in humans. In one study of English Setters, Miniature Schnauzers and German Shepherds, the MERs of 11-year-old dogs were approximately 25% less than 3-year-old dogs.

Among the veterinarian community, it’s generally accepted that senior dogs require approximately 20% fewer calories than their younger peers due to this reduction in energy requirement coupled with lessened activity. To reduce weight in an overweight dog or cat, vets use a formula to calculate 80% of the calories required for RER.

On the other hand, some senior pets can suffer malnutrition and weight loss that aggravates their conditions. Veterinarians may prescribe appetite stimulants to improve nutritional intake. In this case, it is also helpful for pet parents to familiarize themselves with energy requirements to help ensure their senior pet is receiving adequate nutrition.

(See: How to Count Calories for Your Senior Pet)

The case of cats is more complex when it comes to senior energy needs. Short-term research suggested that aging cats did not experience the same kind of reduction in energy requirement, but long-term studies indicated a reduction of approximately 3% per year through age 11. From ages 12-15, however, the energy requirement per pound of weight actually increased in cats.

 

The Importance of Caloric Makeup –

Research on Protein

One belief that has long circulated in the pet food world is that senior dogs and cats need a low-protein diet to protect against kidney disease. The belief originated from  rodent research performed in the 1940s that has since been disproved. Instead, numerous research studies have confirmed that protein does not adversely affect the kidneys in either healthy older dogs or cats.

In fact, research by veterinarian nutritionist Dr. Delmar Finco, among others, suggests that the need for dietary protein may actually increase in senior pets by as much as 50%.  His research also showed that higher protein diets were associated with greater life spans.

One study comparing protein requirement in 2-year-old Beagles versus 13-year-old Beagles found that the senior dogs needed at least 50% more dietary protein.

Research also suggests that L-carnitine, a vitamin-like compound made from amino acids found in red meats, fish, chicken and dairy products, may help the body use fat for energy.

“High-quality protein with good amino acids should make up a healthy portion of a senior pet’s daily caloric intake, at least 25%. A pet parent’s veterinarian is the best resource for help ensuring this is the case,” Dr. Brush said.

Watch Fat Intake, Take Care with Carbohydrates

“Fewer of the pet’s calories should be from fat because fat leads to inflammation, which can be problematic for arthritic pets.” Dr. Brush said.

Carbohydrate percentage in pet food has been in the spotlight in recent years, with many consumers trending toward grain-free options. While Dr. Brush has heard anecdotal evidence from clients who’ve elected grain-free options, she cautions pet parents to fully discuss the implications with their veterinarians. Recently, the FDA launched an investigation into unusual cases of DCM – dilated cardiomyopathy – in pets who were fed boutique, grain-free foods high in legumes like lentils and peas. The current (and early) theory is that the legumes may interfere with the production of  the vital amino acid, L-taurine. Some manufacturers have responded by supplementing taurine, which is essential to pet metabolic health, but there are still many unknowns.

“In general, it’s best to ensure that the high-quality protein is coming from meat, not protein-dense carbohydrates,” she said.

Other Nutrient Considerations:

Apart from avoiding high-fat foods and ensuring at least 25% of calories are coming from good protein sources, there are a number of supplements that are reasonably time-tested to improve health in aging companion animals, such as Fish Oil and Glucosamine. However, all supplements are not created equal, and are not tested by the FDA. Pet parents should discuss supplements and brands with their veterinarian, and consider using supplements formulated for veterinary use.

• Fish Oil – 1,000 mg twice daily for dogs < 50 lbs, 2,000 mg daily for dogs > 50 lbs.

• Glucosamine - Many veterinarians recommend approximately 500 mg of Glucosamine and 400 mg of Chondroitin per 25 pounds. For oral Glucosamine for dogs, a typical dose may be: Dogs 5-20 pounds: 250-500 mg. Dogs 20-45 pounds: 500 mg.

• Prescription Cat & Dog Food – Most veterinary clinics supply special formulations for pets with specific health conditions. For example, pets with renal (kidney) disease should avoid foods high in phosphorus and calcium, which can exacerbate their illness.If your pet does not find one particular brand of prescription pet food palatable, there are multiple others that can be tried. Work with your veterinarian to find a food that they like and that will make them feel better.

 

Senior Feeding Problems

Depending on the age-related disease or condition of your pet, you may find that Fido has lost interest in food, has trouble chewing, or difficulty with digestion. Here are some things pet parents can do to make feeding more palatable to their senior pets.

  • Warm food slightly – it releases the aroma and heightens interest
  • Supplement with soft foods for pets that have difficulty chewing
  • Dental disease can sometimes be ameliorated with antibiotics if your pet is not healthy enough to undergo anesthesia for a dental procedure
  • Elevate the food and water dishes to make it easier for your pet to access them
  • Hand-feeding may work with some dogs
  • Adding low-sodium broth to food can make it more palatable

Feeding your senior pet an ideal diet for his or her age and condition can be complex, but help is available. Heaven at Home Pet Hospice can work with your routine care veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to help you manage your senior pet’s nutrition and give your fur baby the highest quality of life possible for his or her final chapter.

 


Tips & Tools to Count Calories for Your Senior Pet

September 18th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

TipsnTools_580x300A pet parent who wants to optimize their aging pet’s health by preventing weight-gain but maintaining a healthy weight has two avenues to success – controlling the inputs and measuring the output. In other words, “Read, Feed and Weigh.”

In this guide, we’ll help you gather some tools to figure out how much food your fur-baby needs to stay fit, from calories calculators and activity trackers to the Body Conditioning chart that helps you assess your pet’s score.

Calorie Calculators

To get a rough idea of calories required by your pet, you can use this embedded calculator from Plato Pet Foods, which is based on Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center data. However, you can also consult with your routine care veterinarian for breed-specific and diet-specific advice. See our companion article about Feeding Your Senior Pet.

Online Pet Tracking for Weight & Calories Consumed

SampleScreenHealthTrakOne tool pet parents may find helpful is a new Pet Calorie tracker developed by PetSci in the UK. HealthTrak (https://petsci.co.uk/healthtrak/) is a (beta) online system that allows you to track the caloric intake of your pet against the ideal weight sought for your pet’s breed. If your current brand of food is not in the database, it’s easy to add it by looking up the nutrient profile online or on the bag. By tracking calories and weighing your pet weekly either at your veterinarian’s office or at home, you will be able to tell how well you’re doing with a general balance between MERs (Maintenance Energy Requirements) needed and Calories consumed.

Fitness Trackers for Pets – Show Calories Expended

Fitbark_illusAnother new device can give you further insight as to your pet’s caloric expenditure based on activity level. FitBark (https://www.fitbark.com/) is one of a few new Fit-bit style canine trackers that has a nice app interface that will show you Fido’s activity level, sleep quality, and approximate calories expended each day. The lightweight device is attached to your pet’s collar and shows results on your mobile phone. The data can be shared with your vet.

But you don’t have to go high-tech to get the job done. Reading the label for true calories per cup and then feeding according to weight management charts available from your vet or online will help you manage your pet’s weight.

Online Resources include:

Body Scoring – How to Tell If Your Pet is Obese

Dog+Body+Condition+ScoreA Body Scoring Chart (BCS) is your vet’s “go-to” chart for identifying obesity in dogs and cats. Charts are graded on either a five-point or nine-point scale, and are available for both dogs and cats.

A BCS is based on four criteria: how easily felt the ribs are, how obvious the waist and abdominal tuck is, how much excess fat is beneath the skin and how much muscle mass is present. For a dog to score in the healthy range, the ribs should be easy to feel (but not see) and a defined waist, or “abdominal tuck,” should be evident when your dog is viewed from the top and side respectively. Depending on the thickness of your dog’s coat, you might have to feel for a defined waist or tuck if it is not readily visible.

 Download a PDF of a full body condition scoring chart here from the American Animal Hospital Association that includes BOTH Dogs and Cats and shows BOTH styles of scoring points with the illustration: https://www.aaha.org/public_documents/professional/guidelines/weightmgmt_bodyconditionscoring.pdf

The Science Behind Calculating Energy Requirements

If you’re interested in the formula vets use to calculate Resting Energy Requirements or RER, it’s this:  The animal’s body weight in kilograms raised to the ¾ power by 70.

For example, a 10kg (22lb) adult neutered dog of healthy weight needs RER = 70(10kg)3/4 ≈ 400 Calories/day. The RER is then multiplied by factors to estimate the pet’s total daily energy needs. Eg. Active, working dogs require 2.0 – 5.0 the RER; puppies 4 mos. to adult require 2.0 the RER, and inactive/obese-prone dogs require 1.2-1.4. Senior dogs typically need 1.2-1.4 RER, and cats approximately 1.5.


Canine Influenza & Senior Dogs – What You Need to Know

August 14th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

Fotolia_87230374_SMedia reports of an oubreak of Canine Influenza H3N2 in West Michigan this summer have many pet parents wondering whether they should vaccinate their senior fur babies. As of this week, 13 cases of Canine Influenza have been reported in Ottawa County and 3 in Kent, with a total of 98 cases in Michigan.

Dogs do not have a natural immunity to H3N2, a relatively new strain that infected 1,000 dogs in Illinois in 2015 and since has spread throughout North America. According to Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice, vaccinations should always be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

“Pets with complicated medical histories can be more vulnerable to Canine Influenza, which can, in a weakened immune system, develop into pneumonia,” she said. “But it’s important to remember that the CIV vaccine doesn’t prevent infection; it reduces viral shedding and may lessen the severity and duration of symptoms.”

“Generally, the CIV is considered safe, with few known reactions or contraindications,” Dr. Brush said. “But it’s better to evaluate both the risk and the animal’s condition before assuming it should be given.”

Side effects of the vaccine are generally similar to other vaccine reactions: lethargy, low-grade fever, a lump at the site of injection, hives, and itching. In very rare cases, severe reactions can occur. The newst versions of the CI vaccine innoculates against both strains of Canine Influenza, with two shots required two-to-three weeks apart.

“Social” dogs, those with exposure to others through grooming, boarding, classes, and dog parks, may benefit most from the vaccination, as it also helps reduce the contagion level.

Dogs that contract the H3N2 strain of influenza remain contagious and should be isolated for at least 21 days. About 25% of dogs who contract H3N2 are asymptomatic.

So pet parents whose dogs have medical complications should exercise caution in spending time where there are a number of fellow canines. Many dog daycare facilities and classes are currently requiring that participating pooches have the CIV. Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa and the associated Whiskers University training classes, for example, requested that all pet parents have their member dogs vaccinated by August 10th.

“The best way to reduce the risk for your senior pet is to avoid exposure to locations densely populated by dogs, and to exercise good hygiene after handling other dogs,” Dr. Brush said.

If you feel your dog is showing symptoms of Canine Influenza, your routine care vet may ask that you do not come into the waiting room but may make arrangments to see your dog in another area or in your vehicle. Alternately, Heaven at Home Pet Hospice can assist with an at-home evaluation, and in coordination with your routine care vet, arrange for a vaccination if deemed appropriate.

“While it’s important not to panic, it is a good idea to be familiar with symptoms and to keep an eye on your fur baby with a mind toward minimizing risk,” Dr. Brush said.

 Canine Influenza Primer:

Canine Influenza Facts

  • Strains are H3N8 and H3N2 – West Michigan has recently seen the H3N2 variant, which has a longer contagious period
  • H3N8 was first identified in America in 2004 at a greyhound race track in Florida
  • H2N2 was first identified in Asia in 2006 but infected more than 1,000 dogs in Illinois in 2015. It is believed to have originated in avians and may be transmitted to felines.
  • The flu is transmitted by respiratory secretions (coughing, sneezing and barking).
  • According to the CDC, the virus, is not known to be contagious to humans.
  • However, the virus can live on clothing for 24 hours; human hands for 12 hours; and on surfaces for up to 48 hours. It can, therefore, be transmitted to your pet by humans who’ve handled infected dogs. Emerging reports suggest it may be transmitted to felines as well. (CDC)

Symptoms:

  • Symptoms show 2-3 days after exposure and include:
  • Moist, soft cough or dry hacking cough
  • Discharge from eyes and nose
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite and fever (as high as 104-106)
  • Duration 21-28 days

Complications

  • Dogs with weaker immune systems and complicated medical histories can present with pneumonia
  • This is a secondary infection caused by the illness. It only occurs in severe cases. Dogs that develop pneumonia may need to be hospitalized. These dogs are usually very young, elderly, or immune-compromised. Dogs suffering from the more severe form may have an increased respiratory rate as well.

Treatment:

  • Fluids to maintain hydration
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection

Risk Factors: “Social Dogs”

  • Boarding
  • Grooming
  • Daycare
  • Dog Parks
  • Classes

If you need help at-home help with a senior pet you believe has contracted Canine Influenza, or to determine if your pet would benefit from vaccination, contact us.


National Animal Hospice Day 2017: Raising Pet Hospice Awareness

November 1st, 2017 by Heaven At Home Staff

National Pet Hospice Day on November 4th, 2017 at Heaven at Home Pet Hospice

Raising Awareness For Pet Hospice Care in Grand Rapids

For years, Dr. Laurie Brush has taken an active role in the Grand Rapids community educating pet parents about the benefits of palliative or hospice care for their aging pets. She’s appeared on local news stations, given interviews for the press, and done other forms of outreach, simply because there are too many pet parents out there who don’t know that in-home end-of-life care is even an option. All too often, people have to make difficult decisions about their pets’ final days without having enough information or time to prepare.

Help Spread The Word on Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Heaven at Home is proud to participate in National Animal Hospice Day on November 4th. This event was created to start a discussion about what options are available when pets reach a certain age.

Our approach to animal hospice and palliative care includes support for both pets and their caretakers. As a part of what we do, we’ll help guide you through the decision-making process on what’s best for your fur baby as they get on in years. This could mean anything from a change in their home environment, pain management steps, tips for helping keep your pet comfortable, or simply recognizing when it’s time to help them pass.

National Animal Hospice Day is about letting people know that there are options, and they don’t have to go through this process alone. If you know someone who could use help managing their elderly pet’s care, please share this article with them. Animal hospice care can make a huge difference.

Dr. Laurie Brush on the Value of Home Hospice for Pets

Dr. Laurie Brush founded Heaven at Home based on the philosophy of care she shares with the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC).

“Hospice focuses on pet comfort instead of treatment when a cure is no longer expected. The goal in animal hospice is to monitor the animal’s well-being and dignity at the end of its life. Preserving the quality of life takes precedence over extending life. Hospice recognizes dying as a normal process. By supporting both the pet and family, the human-animal bond can remain strong throughout the dying process and beyond,” said Dr. Brush.

“We provide the family precious time with a pet and help the family cope with the approaching death of their beloved companion.”

Reach Out To Heaven at Home Pet Hospice

Heaven at Home is an in-home provider of veterinary hospice, end-of-life care and euthanasia in Grand Rapids and West Michigan. We can help with a peaceful end of life transition for your beloved pet that includes:

  • Hospice Care
  • Pain Recognition and Management
  • Palliative Care
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Wound Care
  • Nutrition Management
  • Medication Administration
  • In-Home Euthanasia

We can help with information on the disease process and what to expect next whenever possible.

Please, feel free to Contact Us with any questions you may have. We’d be happy to help you.


International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) is dedicated to promoting knowledge about and developing guidelines for comfort-oriented care to companion animals as they approach the end of life.


Ways to Celebrate National Pet Memorial Day 2017 in West Michigan

September 8th, 2017 by Heaven At Home Staff

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Heaven at Home Pet Hospice would like to remind everyone that National Pet Memorial Day is coming up on Sunday, September 10th, 2017. This is a day for people to remember their deceased companions in a warm, positive light and reflect on all of the happy memories from the course of the pet’s life.

The passing of a pet can hurt just as much as the death of a person, and looking back on everything that made our pets special to us is an important part of the healing process. National Pet Memorial Day is a fine occasion for pet caregivers to progress through the grief into a healing journey. Below, we’ve included a few ideas for commemorating your beloved pet this year:

  • Share and reflect upon pleasant memories of your pet with loved ones:
    Chances are, you are not the only one who misses your pet. Whether it’s with your family, your friends, or even neighbors, reflecting on funny moments or warm memories with people that knew your pet is a great way to celebrate their life and lift your spirits.
  • If your pet is buried, go for a visit: Many people choose to bury their pets in a pet cemetery, and this upcoming pet memorial day would be a great opportunity to go say hello, spruce-up the site a little bit, and maybe leave a small bouquet or their favorite treat near the marker.
  • Contribute to an animal welfare or protection group: We feel that one of the best ways to honor the memory of your pet is by helping other pets in need. Volunteering at your local shelter is the most direct way to make a difference, and is also a great way to spend some quality time with animals. If you are unable to commit time to volunteering, many organizations also accept donations.
  • Create a small memorial in your flower garden, or plant a tree or a shrub:
    Another way that people honor the memory of their pet is by creating a small memorial in their garden. It doesn’t matter if your pet is interred there or not – simply having a space that you can look to and remember your pet is what matters. Many people also will plant a tree or flowering shrub in their yard as a living memorial to their pet.

Heaven at Home has also created a space for grieving pet owners to make an online memorial. Here, you can say a few words about what your pet meant to you, what they were like, and share some of your happiest memories. You may also include photos of your pet! This can also help other grieving pet owners know they are not alone in their grief. If you would like to post a memorial, please email us at doc@pethospicevet.com with your memorial, and please feel free to include pictures!


How to Help Houston Animals in Harvey’s Aftermath

August 31st, 2017 by Heaven At Home Staff

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 1.27.54 PMOur fur friends in the Houston area need help while their humans are in emergency shelters in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Efforts by local and national animal advocacy organizations continue with coordinated transportation and sheltering of displaced pets through the ASPCA and Wings of Rescue, while local initiatives that include funding local food, bedding and vet care for nearby shelters. If you’d like to donate to help out, we’ve listed four links to verified initiatives below. Locally, the Houston Homeless Pet Society is also issuing updates and accepting donations here.

How to help

  • To donate to the Humane Society of the United States – Disaster Relief Fund, click here.
  • To donate to Wings of Rescue, click here.
  • To donate to Best Friends Animal Society, click here.
  • To donate to a GoFundMe.com account operated by 4 Paws Farm and the I Love My Dog Team to fund veterinary care, food and bedding for animals displaced by Harvey,  click here

 

According to an ASPCA Update:

With tens of thousands of residents entering emergency sheltering, the ASPCA will provide assistance where our resources and experience can have the greatest impact caring for displaced animals and ultimately reuniting them with their families. Any residents who need help recovering pets from their homes or emergency sheltering for their pets should contact their local emergency management agencies.

The destruction caused by this natural disaster has been overwhelming, but we find inspiration in the spirit of those wanting to step up and help. As our response efforts continue, we want to share ways you can take action:

  • Make sure you and your pets are prepared for an emergency. Review our disaster preparedness information and be ready for when disaster strikes.
  • Please give a donation today to help support the ASPCA’s life-saving work. Your support ensures that we can be whenever and wherever we are needed most, now and in the future.
  • Help us raise funds and awareness for our life-saving work by starting a Facebook Fundraiser, or easily add a donate button to a post or status to encourage friends and followers to give.

https://www.aspca.org/news/update-aspca-responds-harvey


Fox 17 News Segment on Heaven at Home

June 7th, 2017 by Heaven At Home Staff

Below is a link to the segment featured on Fox 17 last month.  It has information about what we do and why it might be a good choice for your pet when they are at the end of life.  We are passionate about what we do and we want to make sure every pet parent is aware of these options for in home care.

 

Click here to see the segment!16517353098848793074


Possible Phone Issues

July 12th, 2016 by Heaven At Home Staff

We are experiencing some phone difficulties this afternoon. If you need to contact us, and have issues getting us by phone, you can do so by email at doc@pethospicevet.com, or by filling out an email request on our website here. We are so sorry for the inconvenience, and will be closely monitoring email until we are sure the phone situation is fixed.


 
Compassionate home care for your companions!
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