Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

October 28th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

Making the decision to euthanize a pet is the hardest thing a pet parent has to do. However, deferring or avoiding the decision can allow a degree of suffering that no one would deliberately wish on their loyal companion. Natural death is rarely humane. But how do you know when the kindest act you can offer is to plan to say goodbye? How do you know when your beloved companion is ready to cross the “Rainbow Bridge”?

Some people have a difficult time with the thought of euthanasia. They might feel like they’re “playing God,” and feel besieged by guilt. It’s important to remember that the illness, disease, or injury is causing the end of life, not you. Here are some of the key questions to ask yourself:

  • Has your pet lost his/her quality of life?
  • Is your animal suffering?
  • Can you maintain your pet’s normal routines?
  • Are there behavioral problems that compromise the safety and well-being of your pet or others?
  • Are there human limitations (emotional, timing, or financial) that you must consider? While it may be difficult to admit that any of these limitations may be the reason you are considering euthanasia, they are among the most common reasons for euthanasia.
  • What do you think your pet wants?  

Quality of Life Assessment Help

Your routine veterinarian, or the Heaven at Home Pet Hospice team, may be able to assist you in assessing the quality of life of your senior pet, but we can’t make the decision for you. Pet parents play a pivotal role in assessing a pet’s quality of life because they are direct observers of the day-to-day signals of their pet’s condition. Your veterinarian team can help you manage aspects of pain, reduce suffering, and make changes that help in daily care.

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Many of Heaven At Home’s clients have found assistance and comfort by using the resources and assessment tools of  Ohio State University’s “Honoring the Bond” program. The 2019 edition of “How Will I Know” addresses making difficult medical treatment decisions, dispells many euthanasia myths, and offers a  comprehensive assessment questionnaire, together with anticipatory grief advice for pet parents, companion animals, and children.

In addition, our team finds this short “Quality of Life” Scorecard below helpful for our clients.

Contact us if you’d like assistance in your assessment, or feel ready to plan a peaceful and compassionate end to your fur friend’s life story.

Knowing when to say goodbye is hard, but with the right support, advice, and planning, it can be a beautiful final gift to give your beloved pet for his or her years of loyal companionship.

Quality of Life Scorecard

Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10. (1=no/disagree; 10=yes/agree).

Score
Criterion
1 – 10
HURT – First and foremost on the scale:  Is pain control adequate? This includes breathing ability.  Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Are extra measures like oxygen necessary?
1 – 10
HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough and getting proper nutrition? Is hand-feeding necessary?  Does the patient require a feeding tube?
1 – 10
HYDRATION – Is the patient appropriately hydrated? Can they drink enough on their own, or do they require supplementation via subcutaneous or intravenous fluids?
1 – 10
HYGIENE – Can the patient keep themselves clean?  Does it require assistance?  (Patients should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Appropriate bedding to avoid pressure sores, keep any wounds clean/dressed, etc).
1 – 10
HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive and interactive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s hospice area or bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?
1 – 10
MOBILITY – Can the patient get up and about?  Does the pet need human or mechanical assistance (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling?
1 – 10
MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – Do the good hours or days outnumber the bad ones?  When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.
*TOTAL
*A total over 35 points generally represents acceptable life quality

 

Adapted from Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006.


The Elements of Animal Hospice Care

October 24th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

Nine years ago, a mere 30 veterinarians gathered to discuss ways to help bring comfort to aging pets and help pet parents know when it’s time to say goodbye. That was the dawning of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). Earlier this month, ten times that number gathered in Chicago to learn about trends in the emerging field.

“Research shows that more and more Americans are opting for pet hospice,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice and early graduate of the IAAHPC’s new certification program.

“I got involved in home hospice in the early days because I firmly believe in pro-active comfort management and helping pet parents make small changes that can greatly improve a pet’s comfort.”

To celebrate the upcoming National Animal Hospice awareness day November 2nd, we’re sharing some of the elements involved in “Animal Hospice.”

It’s More Than Home Euthanasia Services

Animal hospice and palliative care provide comfort to companion animals as they approach the end of life. Services from the veterinarian team may include treatment for pain and anxiety management plus nutritional management specific to the pet’s condition. The primary goal is to relieve – or avoid – suffering.

The veterinarian team can also help pet parents assess the pet’s quality of life and teach pet parents ways to improve end-of-life care. Good pet hospice care is a team effort.

Things to Consider in Pet Hospice

 Pet parents can manage many aspects of pet hospice themselves, while they will need veterinarian assistance with other aspects. These are the key areas to consider:

  • Environmental Assessment: Review mobilizing, feeding area, litter box, bedding, and enrichment.
  • Mobility Support: Consider non-slip mats, carpeted stairs, ramps, slings, harnesses, wheel carts.
  • Toileting Solutions: Use incontinence pads, diapers/belly bands, and consult vet for stool softener, catheterization.
  • Pain management – Monitor pain signals and medication together with vet; use multi-modal approach (alternative therapies & environmental supports.)
  • Nutrition: Devise superior diets specific to illness with vet, ask for appetite stimulants if needed.
  • Behavior Modification: Discuss medication and strategies for managing anxiety, restlessness, vocalization, sleep disturbance, and cognitive dysfunction.

Together, pet parents and hospice veterinarians can dramatically increase the quality of end-of-life care a pet receives.

 

Heaven at Home Pet Hospice offers private hospice consultation, but also periodically hosts group workshops and webinars. Contact us for more information.


In Memoriam: Murphy Command

October 24th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Murphy’s Story:
It was March of 2007 when we decided we needed a “keeper dog” at our house. After raising and training a PAWs Puppy for 17 months, we knew it was time to add a dog of our own to the family. I made many “puppy visits” to find just the right fit pup for us. I had my eye on a darker, smaller Golden, but a larger guy (biggest in the litter) with a blue collar kept returning to my side/lap/etc…over and over again. So, that was that…..Murphy picked us as his family! From the start he was so smart and loved to learn. He was gentle, laid back, and so eager to please. He had the perfect temperament for visiting and hanging out in my second grade classroom. He was our gentle giant….carrying 110-115 pounds his whole adult life and tall enough to put his muzzle on the table and check out “dinner”. His size could be intimidating which wasn’t always a bad thing…especially when walking him alone at night! He loved “stuffies”, peanut butter, playing fetch, sharing snacks, people/kids, other dog friends, car rides, Beach days, “guarding the yard”, going to the trails, and just living the Golden Life! Each of our family members had a special bond with his gentle spirit! He was such a good listener and shared unconditional love with all who knew him. He was the best “neighborhood dog”…always trotting over for a visit with all who passed by!
It’s been over 4 months since we made the heart wrenching decision to say goodbye and I finally feel able to write this! June 19 was by far one of the most difficult days for our family! Our strong, beautiful 12 1/2 year old Murphy had been failing for a few days….no appetite, struggling to go outside for breaks, and just not feeling well. I tearfully contacted Heaven at Home. I cannot express how wonderful this Hospice for pets was for our family! When Dr. Tay arrived she explained that she felt our boy was full of Lymphoma. After explaining our options to us, we made the hard decision for a compassionate ending. We could not have asked for a more peaceful passing for our Murphy. He was in his favorite place surrounded by his “people” and left us in quiet dignity. We are so grateful that Heaven At Home was an option and will share our experience with any pet owners facing this hard decision.

Thank you Heaven At Home for providing this special service. Every person we dealt with was compassionate, understanding, caring, and took time to listen! I highly recommend using this service for your pets end of life needs!


 
Compassionate home care for your companions!
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