Better Ways to Say Goodbye: Pet Hospice & Euthanasia

September 30th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

It’s a tough subject, but our companion animals age faster than we do. It’s hard to see them suffer, and even harder to imagine life without them. What if in their final chapter you could reduce their pain? What if, when the time was right, they could end their life story in the comfort of their favorite place, with the people they love?

“Those are the questions that fueled the rise of the home hospice movement not all that long ago,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

“Answering those questions became the mission of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, and my team’s mission as well.”

IAAHPC celebrates its 10th anniversary this October at its annual conference, where specialized veterinarians like Dr. Brush join together to learn new ways to bring comfort to aging pets and give them compassionate and increasingly sophisticated home care.

“By integrating palliative services early in the management of chronic or life-limiting disease, we can now ameliorate needless suffering and even extend a pet’s life in some cases,” Dr. Brush said.

For example, finding ways to support or improve mobility through cold laser therapy, supplements, management of pain medication and environmental accommodations can make a world of difference to an arthritic pet. Early intervention and management of diseases such as diabetes can also give Fido or Felix a new lease – or leash – on life.

In addition to raising awareness of options, the IAAHPC has also founded a hospice and palliative care certification program for licensed veterinarians and veterinarian technicians. Dr. Brush was among the program’s first 100 graduates worldwide. The 100-hour AHPC Certification establishes a standard of care that reflects excellence. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) now advises pet parents to work with AHPC-certified providers for hospice and palliative care.

Dr. Brush points out that AHPC veterinarians don’t seek to replace a pet’s routine care veterinarian, but to work with them for continuity of care.

“We’re trained specifically to provide both the technical and emotional support required to give the human-animal bond the dignity it deserves during a pet’s sunset years and final farewell. Every pet deserves a compassionate and peaceful, pain-free passing.”

In Memoriam: Belle McCready

September 20th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Belle McCready’s Story:
“The Puppa,” Belle McCready was our first family pet. She moved in and took over. Belle was small for a bichon, but her personality was enormous. She was loved so much and she will be missed every single day. I’m thankful for the 14 wonderful years with our beloved Belly Buttons. Run free Puppa, We love you and we miss you so much. We will be reunited in heaven.

It was fate that I found Heaven at Home. I knew I was going to have to make a tough decision regarding our little bichon and I also knew how scared she became just pulling into the vets parking lot. I didn’t want her final moments to be stressful and afraid. Then I saw the Heaven at Home car in front of me on Patterson. I remembered the name and called. The staff was so caring and comforting, I was distraught and they understood and made me feel better. Dr. Laurie Brush is so sweet. She was a reassuring voice with great words of wisdom. I highly recommend this service if you’re in a tough position as we were.

Pets in Pain Part II

September 20th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

As part of pet pain awareness month, we published an article earlier this month about identifying and managing pain in members of your fur family. In this second installment, we’ll share a handy infographic to help identify pain in cats and dogs and include the American Animal Hospital Association’s article summarizing its guidelines in layman’s terms.

Pain Management Approach for Senior Companion Animals:

The Heaven at Home team takes a “multimodal” approach to helping manage pain in palliative pets. We are firm supporters of the AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, and subscribe to the “Continuum of Care” philosophy inherent in it. This means that pet parents and routine care veterinarians are part of the pain management planning process and that pain management should include anticipation, early intervention and evaluation.

During home visits, one of the team’s veterinarians will evaluate your pet’s condition and assess things that can be changed in the home environment to help your pet stay a part of the family. They will review records from your routine care veterinarian if available, and give you pain assessment guidelines so that you can also monitor and rate your pet’s pain behaviors. Together, we then develop a pain management plan for your pet. The plan may include a number of elements depending on the underlying cause of pain, which could be from arthritis, cancer, or any number of life-limiting illnesses.

From AAHA: 9 Things You Need to Know About AAHA’s Pain Management Guidelines:

Pets can’t tell us when something hurts—in fact, they can be experts at hiding pain. Cats are particularly adept at masking injury and illness because they instinctively hide signs of weakness from potential predators. Too often, “bad behavior” in both dogs and cats—like urinary or fecal “accidents,” aggression when handled, or refusing to follow commands to climb the stairs—actually has an underlying medical cause.

Because pain management is central to veterinary medical practice—and because there have been rapid advances in the field—AAHA collaborated with the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) to create the AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.

What you need to know

  1. Behavioral changes are the principal indicator of pain. Pay close attention to any changes in your pet’s normal behavior. For instance, what we sometimes attribute to “old age” could actually be arthritis. A cat eliminating outside the litter box might simply be because he’s unable to climb into it.
  2. Know the warning signs. Your dog or cat might be in pain if you notice decreased activity or appetite, lethargy, vocalization, restlessness, aggression, less interaction with pets and people, dilated pupils, or reacting with a flinch to touch in a sensitive area. Signs of pain in cats may also include flattened ears, an elongated muzzle, decreased grooming, or hiding. If you see any signs of pain, call your veterinarian.
  3. Reduce risk factors. You can help prevent pain with regular visits to the veterinarian for dental care and by helping them maintain a healthy weight, since decaying or otherwise damaged teeth can cause a serious toothache and obesity can lead to aching joints. Nutrition and exercise will go a long way to a healthier pet.
  4. If your pet is in pain, keep everyone calm. Unfortunately, pain can cause a pet to lash out at even the most well-meaning caregiver because fear and anxiety can amplify pain. Be as gentle as possible when handling your pet and speak soothingly, but also be careful not to get hurt in the process.
  5. Your pet may be experiencing several pathways of pain. Your veterinarian may recommend multiple pain medications to be given at the same time. That’s because pain can be controlled in many ways to decrease soft tissue, bone/joint, and nerve pain.
  6. There’s more to pain relief than medication. Modern veterinary medicine involves an integrated approach to pain management, not just prescribing analgesics (painkillers). Cold compression, therapy lasers, acupuncture, physical therapy, weight optimization, and adjustments to the home environment can be complementary options for alleviating pain.
  7. Lifestyle changes can have a huge effect on chronic pain. When a cat or dog suffers from chronic pain, changes in your home can make life easier for everyone. Soft bedding, easy access to food bowls and litter boxes, gates to limit access to stairs, and nonslip rugs can make a big difference in your pet’s day-to-day wellness.
  8. Your veterinary team will routinely evaluate pain at every appointment. Recording a pet’s pain score is considered the “fourth vital sign” after the standard temperature, pulse, and respiration measurements. Be sure to mention any unusual or concerning behavior.
  9. Pain management is a team effort. At home, you are the eyes and ears of your veterinarian, and you’re always the voice for your pet. Never overstep your role by administering pain medications meant for people or another pet, as there can be life-threatening consequences. By recognizing pain quickly and seeking treatment as soon as possible, you’ll alleviate your pet’s suffering and strengthen the bond you share.

Contact the team at Heaven at Home if you need help managing your senior pet’s pain.

In Memoriam: Tribute to GRAYCIE the Cat

September 19th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

How do you say good-bye to the best little buddy you’ve ever known? How do you say good-bye to the one that’s brought you so much joy, that’s loved you unconditionally, that greeted you every time you came home, and sat in your lap every morning for coffee, that always wanted to be right where you were, and that slept by your pillow at night? How do you say good-bye to a pet that’s been a part of your family for nearly as long as you’ve been married, that you got a week before 9/11- yes, the 9/11- when she was only about two months old and sucked on your shirt and slept snuggled into your neck when you first got her?

How do you say good-bye to the one that saw you through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan? How do you say good-bye to the one that’s literally held your hand with her paw and comforted you when you were sick, especially when you went thru Breast Cancer? The one that’s comforted you through every disappointment and tear you’ve shed? The one that’s been so playful and affectionate? The one you’ve had so many good times with? The one you talked to all throughout your days, the one you told of your comings and goings? How do you say good-bye to the one you’ve told all of your secrets to, the one that understands you like no other, the one that truly brought out the best in you? The one that is the definition of loyalty??? The one that made you smile and gave you hope, that made you somehow try to see the world thru the innocence of her?

How do you say good-bye to the one that drank out of a Snoopy bowl even though she was a cat? The one that needed just a spoonful of food or treats every time you walked past her bowl because it was an act of love? The one that pawed the blinds in the morning because she wanted to look out and head butted your hand in your sleep because she wanted a pet? The one you adored and that adored you back? The one that actually liked to hear you sing? The one that helped you pack your bags when you had to be away, that helped prepare you for your race, and that helped you write in your journal? The one that you had so many stories about and that brightened all of your days? The one that made you smile when nothing else could, and lowered your blood pressure? The one that was smarter and more compassionate than all other animals? The one that you had 20 nicknames for and that humored you? The one that was always so curious and took seriously her job to keep the penguins away? The one that wrangled a hamster and then helped capture a bird that flew in the RV? That kept the mice and other rodents away? The one that was a guard cat, and even growled at a stranger knocking on the front door? The one that was always in your business because she loved you that much? The one with a thousand nap spots?

How do you say good-bye to the one that’s been there for every milestone and success you’ve celebrated over the last 18 years? The one that was your best friend?! The one that recently discovered she loved potato chips and the smell of chocolate? The one that was just so beautiful- both on the outside and deep in her spirit???

I know she is just a pet, and I sympathize even more with those that suffer greater loss thru spouses, children, and parents. Still, it’s hard. She was a part of our family. It hurts. And it’s just so very painful. My heart feels shattered into a million pieces.

I’m so glad I had so many long days with her since June 2014, when I left my job at Ft. Campbell. I always dreaded this day, and I always prayed I’d outlive her because I worried she wouldn’t understand why I abandoned her if I didn’t. It’s going to be so empty without her. There will forever be a void.

I always envisioned her going naturally in her sleep, and that would have been easier to take. However, we found out on December 20 that she had a huge cancerous mass in her bladder. It was fast growing and it would have been inoperable even if caught earlier. The vet gave us a timeline of 3-6 months, maybe 9 with some medication.

True to how she found a home with us, she has been persistent. She has the best little personality. She is so snuggly, has the best little meow and purr. And now the time is here. She made it 8 months, and I do believe it was purely out of her deep love.

How do you make the decision to send her to the Rainbow Bridge when all you want is one more good day with her? How do you let her know this is your way of holding her paw??? How do you repay her for the countless times she has comforted you? How do you keep the tears from rolling knowing that this time she can’t dry them? I hope you know you were my heart, my Graycie Girl.

We can’t fathom another pet. Our world will never be quite the same. You were absolutely- hands down without a doubt- the best cat ever!!! We wish we could keep you forever; instead you’ll forever be in our hearts and memories.

We have to try to carry Dr Seuss’s advice into the days ahead: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” RIP, my sweet angel 🐱, as I sing you into Heaven with your favorite song of mine, “I’ll Fly Away”. I have to believe you’ll be there to greet us when it’s our time to make the journey. We loved you with a love beyond comprehension!!! Now, we close this chapter.

We are full-time RV’ers. We knew for 8 months that our Graycie Girl had an inoperable tumor in her bladder. We searched out a veterinarian service every place we traveled just so we knew we had someone on standby. Ultimately, we wanted an in-home service. Add the fact, it turned out that a friend of ours knew Dr. Brush. The compassion of everyone involved made a difficult situation bearable. And her paw print arrived exactly 2 weeks after she went to the Rainbow Bridge! Thank you so much!

Compassionate home care for your companions!
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