News

Life-Enriching Gifts for Your Senior Pet

December 1st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

The holiday season is upon us in this year “like no other” and there’s a good chance your bond with your fur-friend has been strengthened from all the quality time you’ve spent together. Pay it back with holiday gifts that will improve the quality of your senior pet’s life. Read the rest of this entry »


Holiday Manners for Pets Who’ve Gone “Wild”

November 11th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

After months of working in your pajamas, it’s easy to forget “fashion BC” (Before COVID). It might be just as hard for your pet to remember his or her “manners BC” for the holidays.

Joyous Jumpers

Let’s face it – your heart is jumping for joy to see a long-lost loved one. Will Fido remember them too? Behavior research suggests yes. While dogs don’t excel at traditional long-term memory, they do possess “associative” memory. A pro-social dog with a fond association of your guests might forget the “no jumping” rule.

“A behavior has to be a very well rehearsed with broad contextual understanding in order for your dog to recall it in moments of excitement,” said Kristi Swan, Certified Professional Trainer and owner of A Dog’s Life. “Dogs don’t generalize well.” Read the rest of this entry »


Telemedicine for Aging Pets

May 13th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff


In the era of COVID19 social distancing and stay at home orders, many pet parents have had the added stress of managing disease in their aging pets.

The crisis has ushered in a new era of veterinary consultation via telemedicine. This area of service has experienced exponential growth among routine care veterinarians as well as specialists. However, there are a few important things to consider when using veterinary telemedicine. Learn more in our blog post or Learn HOW on our Video Consultations page! Read the rest of this entry »


Assessing the Risks of Lyme Disease and Prevention in Dogs

April 17th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff


Half the black-legged deer ticks you and your pet encounter on a Sunday stroll are carriers of a disease that can be deadly. The Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium is zoonotic, meaning it can infect both humans and man’s best friend with Lyme Disease.

For your fur friend, if left untreated, canine Lyme disease can damage the heart, nervous system, and kidneys. Chronically infected dogs may develop a life-threatening form of kidney inflammation and dysfunction. Long-term, Lyme can lead to arthritic-like joint stiffness and lameness. Read the rest of this entry »


COVID-19 Updates: Hospice Telemedicine Now Available, Home Euthanasia Still Available

April 1st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

UPDATE: Hospice and Quality of Life Assessments NOW AVAILABLE BY VIDEO

  • Our doctors are not currently visiting homes for hospice consultations, but we are now offering telemedicine visits with our doctors as an alternative. Call (616) 498-1316 to schedule your appointment. You may also, using your mobile phone, DOWNLOAD THE MEDICI APP  here (opens in a new window.)
  • Once you’ve registered on the APP, please enter THIS code to connect to Dr. Amy Hoss and the Heaven at Home Team: EWEKZRVSAS

 


UPDATE: Heaven at Home’s COVID-19 Protocols for Home Euthanasia Visits:

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we have made some changes to our protocols to protect our clients as well as our doctors and staff, so that we can continue to help pets pass peacefully and comfortably at home. We are following CDC, IAAHCP, and AVMA guidelines.

  • Our doctors will continue to help families say goodbye at home, either outdoors or in a garage or similar light traffic enclosure that can accommodate the 6-foot distance recommendation. We are attempting to avoid indoor exposure for the safety of our staff and your household.
  • Only immediate family, up to 2 people, can attend the appointment but no children under 10 years old may be present. All other family members or friends may attend via Skype, FaceTime, or other technology.
  • We ask all that will be present to please wash their hands just before the doctor arrives.
  • Our doctor will maintain a 6-foot distance from you and your family at all times, both for your protection and for hers. You will be asked to step away from your pet while she gives the initial sedative injection, then you may return as they drift off to sleep. You will be asked to step away again while she places an IV catheter and gives the second injection, then you may return as they pass peacefully.
  • When scheduling, please inform our staff if you or anyone in the home, is sick, experiencing symptoms, or have been exposed to the virus or other illness.
  • We are taking payment over the phone by credit card when you call to schedule. Please let us know if this is not an option for you.
  • Our doctors will go over the consent form with you when they arrive and ask for your verbal consent to proceed, as well as confirm your aftercare wishes for your pet.
  • We are only able to accept favorite blankets or toys to accompany the pet to cremation if your pet is contained in a body care bag, which is available for purchase. Please ask for more information when scheduling.
  • Our doctors will follow disinfectant protocols for themselves and their equipment, including disinfecting their supplies and stretchers, after each appointment. They will, as always, use fresh blankets for each pet.
  • Unfortunately, our doctors will be unable to offer hugs of comfort to our clients during their visit. Please know that this is actually one of the hardest adjustments for our doctors, as they desperately want to comfort you during this heart-wrenching time.

The Pet Effect: Dogs May Help Heart Health

January 31st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Image of dog with stuffed valentines heart in mouth to depict the heart-healthy effect of pets on humans

February is heart health month!

Make sure you give Fido a lovely Valentine this month; he or she may be giving your heart a healthy boost. A growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help with heart health by lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels and even reducing mortality after cardiac events.

One study published recently reviewed patient data from more than 3.8 million people in 10 separate studies. Compared to non-owners, dog owners had a 24% reduced risk of dying from any cause; a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular-related issues; and a 65% reduced risk dying after a heart attack, according to the reports published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death, responsible for one in four deaths, according to the CDC.

“Owning dogs has previously been linked to better mental health and feeling less lonely, which are both thought to decrease the risk of heart attacks,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. “While this new body of research doesn’t prove causality, it certainly furthers the connection.”

The Mayo Clinic is following a ground-breaking longitudinal study in the Czech Republic that began in 2013 with 1,769 adults, 24% of whom were dog owners. The participants are assessed every five years on the American Heart Association’s seven criteria for heart health: BMI, healthy diet, physical activity level, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose, and total cholesterol.

The results released this fall confirmed the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular health (CVH) as defined by the AHA. People who owned a pet, and specifically a dog, were more likely to report scores for physical activity, diet, and blood glucose components at higher levels. This translated into higher CVH score among owners of dogs or other pets than non-owners. In fact, dog owners exhibited better CVH even than owners of other pets. The subjects will be followed until 2030.

While researchers do not yet understand why dog ownership seems to improve blood glucose and lipid profiles, there’s historical proof that petting your dog reduces blood pressure.

So pet away, and give your heart to your fur-friend: they’ll help keep it healthy!

 


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.”


How Can You Tell if Your Pet is in Pain?

August 30th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

September is Animal Pain Awareness month.

Our companion animals often instinctively hide their pain. It’s a habit that has evolved as a survival mechanism to prevent predators from targeting them.

“Pain in dogs and cats can be difficult to measure,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Hospice, which provides palliative and euthanasia services throughout West Michigan.

“The clues can be subtle. Your dog may be reluctant to climb stairs or show decreased activity, or may simply stop initiating play,” she said. “In the case of cats, a reluctance to jump up onto surfaces is a sign of discomfort.”

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) was created to educate vets and pet parents alike in the expanding field of pain prevention, management and treatment.

According to IVAPM, the most common signs of pain in your pet are:

  • Decreased activity – Take notice if your pet is not playing as much as usual
  • Not going up or down stairs – This could be an early sign of osteoarthritis
  • Difficulty standing after lying down – is a sign of osteoarthritis
  • Over grooming or licking a particular area – can be a sign of referred pain
  • Decreased appetite – this can signal mouth pain
  • Reluctance to jump up onto surfaces – this especially applies to cats
  • Behavior changes – such as growling at fellow companion animals or withdrawal

Pain Management Options:

There are a variety of complementary treatment options depending on the source of pain, including physiotherapy, cold laser, acupuncture and nutritional supplements. In addition, there are many types of medication that can help manage your pet’s pain and improve their quality of life. Some examples are:

  • NSAIDs – There are special NSAIDs designed for dogs that interfere with the body’s production of inflammatory molecules and are often prescribed for mild to moderate pain.
  • Opioids – Just like humans, pets may be prescribed opioids to address severe pain from arthritis or advanced cancer.
  • Corticosteroids – Cortisone and synthetic cortisone-like drugs such as prednisone are potent anti-inflammatory medications that can deliver dramatic relief, though not without side effects.
  • Gabapentin – Is a popular choice for managing chronic neuropathic pain.

Don’t let your pet needlessly suffer. Be observant for signs of pain and talk to your vet.


One Year Later: Michigan Dog Flu Epidemic

August 23rd, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

By this time last summer, Michigan was amidst a rapid spread of Canine Influenza, three years after an outbreak of new strain H3N2 in Chicago. In Grand Rapids, some doggie daycares closed and mounted mass vaccination efforts while pet parents sidelined social opportunities for 10-30 days to confine the spread. Meanwhile, confirmed cases of CIV spread across the US, with approximately 20% of affected pets contracting the severe, life-threatening form.

What can we expect this year?

“It will depend on how many pet parents vaccinated their pets. This is a new strain of avian origin so pets who’ve not previously been exposed are at risk. There’s no natural immunity to Dog Flu,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven At Home Pet Hospice.

In her line of palliative work, “Dog Flu” is a serious — and possibly deadly –complication for senior pets who have other health ailments and compromised immune systems. In these companion animals, fevers can range from 104ºF to 106ºF and may show clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort.

“Vaccination should be considered for dogs with heart or respiratory conditions, dogs that travel or show, and those that have extensive contact with other dogs,” she said.

Signs of Dog Flu to Watch for:

“Dog Flu” symptoms are very similar to Bordetella and other viruses. Testing is tricky because there is a 3-day window for active testing before antibodies are produced. Watch your pet for these signs:

  • High Fever (103ºF)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough, which may be dry or may bring up sputum
  • Runny nose with clear secretions at first, but may later change to thick yellow or pink-tinged color

How does it Spread?

Dogs who are boarded, go to daycare or visit grooming facilities where there is close contact with other dogs are at highest risk. The virus spreads through direct contact, through the air from a cough or sneeze, and from contaminated objects like water bowls or human hands. How to Prevent Dog Flu Vaccines are now available for both strains of CIV, and are given in a series of 2 shots 2-4 weeks apart. The vaccine may not all together prevent an infection, but will reduce the severity and duration of clinical illness.


Is Lepto Lurking in That Puddle?

April 11th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

Spring rains bring flowers, but pet peril can lurk in standing water, mud puddles, and even swollen rivers and ponds. Invisible bacteria, 250 strains strong, lurk in warm, wet, stagnant areas. Leptospira can fight for survival for months in these areas after being shed by wildlife and rodents when they urinate.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can affect both dogs and humans, and be transmitted from dogs to humans. It can cause severe kidney or liver failure, meningitis, difficulty breathing, and in some cases, lead to death. In some dogs, for reasons unknown, it can also be asymptomatic.

In recent years, pet health officials have watched the incidence rate increase across North America, so much so that the AKC Canine Health Foundation has funded two studies this year to explore the prevalence of “Lepto” and the immune response in dogs exposed to the bacteria.

While flood-prone areas and hurricane sites are at particular risk, Michigan is not immune to Lepto outbreaks. Statewide, incidents have been on the rise since 2015, according to the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association.

“Anywhere you have wildlife, leptospirosis can be spread into the environment through their urine,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

“Prevention, and early detection, are paramount for your pet’s health,” she said. Ten to 15% of dogs diagnosed and treated will still succumb to the disease.

In order for a dog to get leptospirosis, they must have contact with an infected animal’s urine, which enters the body through wounds or mucous membranes (eyes, open mouth). Dogs most often get Lepto by drinking out of stagnant water sources, such as puddles.

Early signs of Lepto include: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increase or decrease in urine production
  • Uncharacteristic inactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe weakness and depression
  • Stiffness
  • Fever

The Veterinary community suspects that the cause of the rise in cases is two-fold. The CDC is investigating the appearance of new serovars, or strains of the bacteria. The vaccine does not protect against all strains. In addition, since the vaccine only lasts for a year, it is now typically delivered separately from core three-year vaccines, which gives pet parents the opportunity to skip the vaccination.

“While the vaccine is imperfect, it is the best prevention available against this disease. With such serious consequences, it’s worth discussion with your routine care veterinarian,” Dr. Brush said.

Even if your pet is vaccinated, avoid allowing them to drink standing water or eat animal carcasses since the vaccine does not inoculate against all strains of Leptospira.

Remember that early diagnosis is critical for an improved outlook, so if your pet shows early signs and is deteriorating quickly, treat it as an emergency. And since Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans, practice good hygiene.

CDC Guidelines for Handling Pets with Leptospirosis:

  • Do not handle or come in contact with urine, blood, or tissues from your infected pet before it has received proper treatment.
  • If you need to have contact with animal tissues or urine, wear protective clothing, such as gloves and boots, especially if you are occupationally at risk (veterinarians, farm workers, and sewer workers).
  • As a general rule, always wash your hands after handling your pet or anything that might have your pet’s excrement on it.
  • If you are cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated or have urine from an infected pet on them, use an antibacterial cleaning solution or a solution of 1 part household bleach in 10 parts water.
  • Make sure that your infected pet takes all of its medicine and follow up with your veterinarian.

 
Compassionate home care for your companions!
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