In Memoriam: Annie

September 24th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Annie’s Story:
Annie came to my husband from Curious World Pet Store. Yes, they actually sold puppies at these stores many years ago. All her other brothers and sisters had been adopted and she was all alone. She went home that night to our family full of kids that would smother her with love.
She was such a loyal girl and would always be by our sides. She lived to the healthy age of 16 which is pretty long for a Labrador. She was spunky until the end. She was always the first one to greet us at the door and to bark when it was food time. Which was always. We swear she could tell time as she always sat by the dining room window when she knew we would be home from work or school soon.
Saying our girl loved to eat was an understatement. She loved her car rides to get a doggie sundae and knew if she stuck that cute head of hers out the window far enough the drive thru would give her chicken nuggets. Our memories of her will keep us going until we meet again. We love and miss you Annie girl. Run free pretty girl!!

I cannot say enough good things about Heaven at Home. From my initial phone call with Mary to Dr Laurie coming out to the house. They were compassionate and caring and I would never choose any other way to care for my animals at the end of their life.

Signs of Pain in Cats & Dogs from the IVAPM

August 31st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, during which time the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management educates pet parents on signs of pain in their companion animals. As providers of pet hospice at home, Heaven at Home would like to take this opportunity to help pet parents ensure that their cats and dogs do not suffer needlessly as they age. Our hospice veterinarians are available for Quality of Life telemedicine consultations to help pet parents evaluate pain in their senior pets.

Can you imagine not being able to tell your doctor that you were in pain? Animals suffer from pain just like we do. Pain comes in many forms: surgical pain, arthritis, and cancer, just to name a few. Acute pain is obvious and distressing. Chronic pain can be subtle, and masked as “getting old” or “slowing down.” Age is not a disease, but pain is. There are many options to treat the various causes of pain in animals including pain medications, physical rehabilitation, and acupuncture. In addition, there are many environmental strategies that can help reduce pain, such as slip-proof and padded flooring, altered-height feeding, ramps, and other supports. Contact us if you’d like assistance identifying and managing pain in your aging pet. Here are some of the key signs to watch for:

Common Signs of Pain in Dogs

  • Decreased social interaction
  • Anxious expression
  • Submissive behavior
  • Refusal to move
  • Whimpering
  • Howling
  • Growling
  • Guarding behavior
  • Aggression; biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Self-mutilation (chewing)
  • Changes in posture

Common Signs of Pain in Cats

  • Reduced activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quiet/loss of curiosity
  • Changes in urinary/defecation habits
  • Hiding
  • Hissing or spitting
  • Lack of agility/jumping
  • Excessive licking/grooming
  • Stiff posture/gait
  • Guarding behavior
  • Stops grooming/matted fur
  • Tail flicking
  • Weight loss

Download or Share this Poster that illustrates Signs of Pain in Pets

(Click on the image to download)

Managing Pet Incontinence In Cats and Dogs

August 30th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

A cute havanese dog in heat is wearing a specialty diaper to absorp the discharge

For many pet owners, the cause of incontinence in their fur family member can be as simple as a highly treatable UTI (urinary tract infection) or the harbinger of serious disease.

“Many pet parents struggle with incontinence issues, especially with senior dogs and cats. But there are a number of simple things that can be done to help manage incontinence,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

In Younger Dogs & Cats

Uncharacteristic bouts of incontinence in young companion animals can signal a wide range of ailments, from urinary tract infections to hormone imbalances. Sometimes incontinence can be caused by endocrine disorders (such as Cushing’s and Addison’s disease) diabetes, kidney or liver disease, polyps or cancerous growths in the urinary tract or prostate and bladder stones.

“A trip to your routine care veterinarian will help rule out serious disease and give you treatment options, such as antibiotics, phenylpropanolamine or hormone therapy,” Dr. Brush said.

However, in cases caused by advancing age or a life-limiting disease, proactive palliative home care can help keep your pet comfortable.

“Incontinence is often a trigger for pet parents to evaluate the pet’s quality of life. But it doesn’t necessarily have to mean an early close to your pet’s life story,” Brush said.

Home Management

The three key goals to successful home-management is keeping your pet comfortable, reducing the cleanup time required, and ensuring that you are providing veterinary oversight for medical interventions that may improve the situation. There are many medications and supplements that can help, whether provided by a home hospice service or your routine care veterinarian.

For Dogs:

  • Use waterless shampoo to keep your pet’s skin clean to avoid urine scald.
  • Use absorbent waterproof bedding that’s easy to change and wash, such as medical supply waterproof pee pads.
  • Use bloomers or belly-band style diapers with disposable inserts.
  • Create a “safe” space where accidents are easy to clean for when you’re away.

Especially For Cats:

  • Use flat litter pans that are easy to access or cut out a lower access.
  • Consider keeping litter pans on a main floor.
  • Ensure good pain management since arthritic pain often prevents use of the litter box.
  • Pursue diagnosis for Feline Cognitive Dysfunction or anxiety.

If you’d like more help managing senior pet incontinence,  contact us for a consultation.



In Memoriam: Kayla

August 6th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Kayla’s Story:
Kayla, Kayla, the girl with the chocolate eyes on a licorice face with a paint brush tail is a little poem we created for our beautiful girl when she was a little pup. We adopted Kayla after the loss of one of our cats in honor of him. Kayla was an active, social, & super intelligent dog. She opened doors (& let the cat out), jumped from high levels, and opened the gate to take off to her friend’s house. She had many friends that would stop to play in our old neighborhood in PA. We relocated to MI when she was 4 and she quickly found new friends here too. We will miss our beautiful, loyal and wise companion.

We are so grateful to the staff of Heaven at Home for what they do. Our last day with Kayla came quicker than planned, and from the first call I was treated with such compassion. They were able to accommodate us quickly as Kayla was shutting down. This was our first family dog and we are so grateful for the opportunity to have her final moments be at home with our family all around. We bonded with Dr. Katie Tillman and were so touched by her level of care and compassion. We will never forget our experience with letting Kayla go peacefully at home and could not have asked for a better person to help Kayla and our family. Thank you, Dr. Tillman and Heaven at Home.

In Memoriam: Duke

August 6th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Duke’s Story:
He showed up on my Facebook feed. Duke. A 10 year old golden retriever at the Animal Shelter. How does a ten year old golden end up at the shelter? I messaged them and asked if he was available. I went to meet him. “He sleeps 23 hours a day” I was told. He smelled horrible. He had just been neutered and couldn’t be bathed for a week. His breath was wicked. It didn’t matter. He was mine. I brought him home to a four year old brother, a golden retriever named Micah. Micah had anxiety issues and wasn’t happy to have a brother…in the beginning. Duke settled in and soon began to win the hearts of family, friends and neighbors. He was the kindest and most loving dog I’ve ever met. Micah adjusted and they were best buddies. When it was time for a walk, Duke did a happy dance. He loved to visit neighbors. And they all loved Duke. When the Pandemic started, I noticed him vomiting and having diarrhea. It came and it went. I held off as long as I could and took him to the vet. It’s likely cancer they said. I was heartbroken. When I brought him home, I was thinking I would give him a great six months or year. It was just short of three. I called Heaven at Home next. It was so important to me that Duke leave this world in the place he felt most loved and cherished. When I made the decision that it was time, I was having to help Duke up and down. He ate less and was losing weight. But I wanted Duke to go while he was still having quality of life and dignity. The night before we sat at ate chocolate chip cookies together. He was tired but happy. Dr Tay came the next afternoon and Duke immediately went up to her and leaned on her, because he was quite sure she wanted to love on him too. She was so kind and patient. I told her his story. It was peaceful for Duke, heartbreaking for me. But doing the right thing when it comes to our pets always is. I am so grateful for all the amazing staff at Heaven at Home who have such a difficult job and do it with such class and grace. Rest in Peace Duke.

Dehydration in the Dog Days of Summer

August 1st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Good hydration is key during the “dog days of summer.” Dogs can become seriously ill – or even die – from losing as little as 10-15% of their body’s water. Dogs need at least an ounce of water per pound of weight daily – more if active. Hot weather makes dogs pant more and sweat through their paws.

“Dehydration can promote urinary tract issues, the formation of kidney stones, and organ failure. It can be a veterinary emergency,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. “Senior dogs are at a higher risk.”

Symptoms may include lethargy, weakness, labored breathing, an elevated heart rate, and dry, sticky-feeling gums or sunken eyes.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Dehydrated?

Your pet’s mucous membranes should be moist. The easiest way to evaluate this is to check their gums. If they are sticky or dry when you run your finger over their gums, your pet may be mildly dehydrated.

If your pet is ill or has other symptoms, you can check further for dehydration by lifting a pinch of skin at the back of your pet’s neck/shoulder area and letting go. The skin should snap quickly back into place. If your pet is severely dehydrated, the skin may stick together, and form a “tent.” In this case, call your veterinarian immediately.

Improving Hydration

 You might think drinking enough water is a simple biological function but in truth there are a number of things that put dogs off their water:

  • Lack of water freshness/dust and debris
  • Water bowl is in a high-traffic area
  • Water bowl is at an uncomfortable height
  • Dog is distracted by play activity and lacks access
  • Dog feels unwell or nauseous, or is in too much discomfort to seek water

During hot weather, keep a water bottle nearby and take frequent H20 breaks during play, but note that deep-chested, large-breed dogs should not consume large volumes of water while highly active to avoid bloat, which can be fatal. Use dog fountains to keep water fresh via circulation. Place raised water bowls in multiple convenient locations. For pets with mild dehydration, encourage drinking by mixing in low-salt, low-fat chicken or beef broth, or a small amount of plain Pedialyte. But if your dog is clearly dehydrated, talk to your vet immediately. Hydration is your dog’s best friend in the dog days of summer!

When to Worry About Bloat

One caveat about hydrating your pet is taking care not to give a deep-chested dog copious amounts of water during vigorous play, as we mentioned above. That’s because it’s believed to contribute to bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex. Bloat is a medical and surgical emergency that occurs when a dog’s stomach rotates or twists, trapping blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. Blood pools at the back end of the body, reducing the working blood volume and sending the dog into shock.

Dogs with a deep, narrow chest — very tall, rather than wide — suffer the most often from bloat. Great Danes, who have a high height-to-width ratio, are five-to-eight times more likely to bloat than dogs with a low height-to-width ratio. In addition to Great Danes, large- or giant-breed dogs at greatest risk include St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters and Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, and Doberman Pinschers. Males are twice as likely to bloat as females.

Signs of Bloat:

  • An enlargement of the dog’s abdomen
  • Retching
  • Salivation
  • Restlessness
  • An affected dog will feel pain and might whine if you press on his belly

Without treatment, in only an hour or two, your dog will likely go into shock. The heart rate will rise and the pulse will get weaker, leading to death.

Too Much Hydration?

On the other end of the dehydration spectrum is Water Intoxication, which, while rare, can happen. Does your dog “bite” at the water when swimming? Maybe they can fetch a stick in a pool or lake all day — ingesting water each time they do. Or maybe they love to drink from pressurized water like a sprinkler spigot. But the ingestion of too much water can throw their electrolytes out of balance and cause a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of water intoxication in dogs include lack of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. Advanced symptoms include difficulty breathing, collapsing, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

Because water intoxication in dogs can progress so quickly, time is critical. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, get to a veterinarian immediately to run blood work. A low level of electrolytes will confirm the condition. Treatment for water intoxication includes fluids, to put electrolytes back in the system, and sometimes a diuretic.





Pookie and Scooter

July 30th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Pookie and Scooter’s Story:
I can’t tell Pookie’s story without first telling Scooter’s. Scooter, our amazing black cat, came to us in 1997 as a tiny kitten. She was already a survivor, having had and beaten some awful illness that took the rest of her siblings and left her with a weak rear end. That never stopped her from getting into whatever she could, though. Scooter was very vocal, often sounding like a baby or a goat, depending on who was on the phone with one of us. She was also demanding of attention and loved to be on laps or near us as we slept. She was never aggressive toward our daughter, even though she was already 7 when we brought a baby home. She was so healthy all through her life, but as she approached her 20th birthday in July 2017, she had slowed down significantly. I found Heaven at Home and had Dr. Tay out for a hospice visit, where we thought she might feel better with some pain meds and tried it out for a bit. She had another couple of good weeks but when the time came, Dr. Tay came and helped her cross peacefully, while she lay in her favorite spot. We were devastated to lose our faithful girl, but knew it was time.

After that, I said that I was going to take a break from having to take care of a pet for a while. I just *happened* to look at Petfinder about a month after Scooter’s passing, in late August 2017…and saw a post from Tyson’s Place, a local rescue, about this 16 year old cat who was given up by her owner as she had Stage IV cancer and could no longer care for her. Tyson’s had had Pookie since November 2016 and no one had even inquired about her since that time. I couldn’t bear to think about that – if I’d had to give up any of my pets, it would tear me apart to think no one else wanted them. So in September of that year, we picked Pookie up from her foster home. She was the opposite of Scooter in many ways – she was overweight, she wasn’t a lap cat, and she wasn’t vocal. But she worked her way into our hearts by the way she followed us around (silently!)…especially Cat Dad. You could find her most often by knowing where he was. She was a big fan of her catnip banana, scratching posts, and protecting her family from evil paper towel rolls (she once found an almost empty roll on the floor and attacked it…bunny kicked it to shreds).

We knew that adopting a 16 year old cat wouldn’t be for the long term, but it didn’t make the decision any easier. After a stressful diagnosis and rapid downward slide in her health and happiness, we knew the time was nearing. I will forever be grateful for the service that Heaven at Home provides, especially right now when vet offices are not allowing owners inside with their pets. Dr. Hoss came out on July 24 and, on a beautiful afternoon, helped our Pookster cross peacefully on our front porch. We miss her, but knowing that she is no longer in pain helps.

Thank you, so very much. So glad that all of you are so willing to do one of the toughest jobs a veterinarian has so often.

In Memoriam: el Aitcho

July 23rd, 2020 by Laurie Brush

el Aitcho’s Story:
Aurora and Boring Alice came into our lives 17 years ago. We loved them from the very first day. They were our first sister cats. People would ask which one was Aurora. I’d answer “the Long Haired One, Boring Alice is the Other One.” So our kitties ended up with two names. Aurora, aka el Aitcho, or LHO. Boring Alice, aka OhOh. Unfortunately, OhOh was in a car accident, and we lost her in 2005. She was the best mouser, and she would lay mouse heads by our doorstep like trophies.
LHO was my darling, I think I’ve never loved any cat more than her. She was so beautiful, and had pretty amber/green eyes. She was shy around strangers, but never ever mean. I would know what she wanted by her language. Food, water, snack, or a cuddle. She would know when I needed her. She came to me when I was watching tv, reading a book, or needed comforting. We were one.
She was the purringest cat. Napping, upon awakening, smiling, playing, and with the first stroke of her lovely fur, and especially while being brushed. Oh, how she loved to be groomed. She was always a lady. Our routine was scratch her back, brush the loose fur, brush around her face, repeat. End with a snack. She would be waiting for me in the kitchen when it was time for me to make my lunch for work. LHO would let me share my turkey or ham with her. Her favorite toys were a catnip flavored mouse, a crumpled piece of paper to bat around and chase on the linoleum, or a length of lanyard tied to a stick. LHO was my sleep buddy and slept either by my face or on top of me in bed. A perfect lap cat too. We would sit and watch videos for cats on the laptop computer together.
She got the skin cancer on her forehead and there wasn’t much we could do for her. It was slow growing and really didn’t bother her too much until it grew so large, it started closing her left eye. But she never complained and was content to slow down and rest in her later years, still a lady. On June 22, Dr Hoss was here to help her into her final sleep. I miss LHO terribly and still mourn. I am broken. She was a part of my life for a quarter of my life. I am comforted in knowing she didn’t suffer pain on her last day with us.

Thank you Dr Hoss, Dr Tay, and Heaven at Home for tending to LHO on her final day.

In Memoriam: Murphy

July 1st, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Murphy’s Story:
Murphy came to us at 5 weeks old from a large puppy litter of 13 yellow Labradors, he was special from the very start! Full of energy, love, and sharp wits about him. His personality was pure Lab – happy, stocky, strong, and loyal. His brother Morley came along when Murphy was almost 2 years old and it was a complete family! Being on a lake and always near water was part of our regular swimming and fetching activities, strong swimming runs in our family. He hung on for nearly 15 years and we already all miss him dearly, but we know his last day wading in the water he was in his element and will be forever. Always with you, handsome man!

Please definitely add this to the testimonial section! Dr. Katie T came to the house after hours by request, Murphy had been outside earlier in morning for his last lake trip and we knew It was time for the old boy to rest easy. We made a comfortable spot for him in the garage all together and after the first sedative he dozed off so peacefully and started snoring! Crossing the rainbow bridge was so peaceful for him and was made possible by the most caring, compassionate, and, quite possibly, the nicest veterinarian we have ever met! You are so fortunate to have not only her but both Kim and Kathryn helped me on the phone to make arrangements, especially the day of, I was so impressed by your whole operation and cannot thank you enough for helping us give Murphy the dignity and respect he deserved by coming to our home. A+++ to all!

In Memoriam: Seal

July 1st, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Seal’s Story:
We adopted Seal 15 years ago to be a companion for another aging kitty we had; Goblin. Goblin had just lost her pet companion Moochie and was not doing well with the loss. In the end our vet suggested getting a kitten. After we made the decision, we traveled to the Humane Society of West Michigan. We saw Seal (who then had the name of Paul) and asked to visit with her. In the end we almost lost our opportunity as another couple wanted her. But we got our Seal. Seal was part Bombay, a breed known for bonding with people. Right from the beginning Seal bonded with us. We used to find her doing the most hair raising things, like climbing to the top of the cabinets and balancing on a 4″ wide piece of molding, racing around our living room at top speed and going over the knee wall to land at the bottom of the basement steps and much more. But most of all she stole our hearts with her snuggles, mutual grooming, and deep warm purrs. She was a cat with OCD. She learned our time to get up and would be vocalizing before the alarm would go off, she knew my routine when I came home from work. And she’d keep me to it. Her beautiful black fur was so soft and you couldn’t help petting her if she’d allow it. If she was laying in the sun you could see the darker brown stripes that weren’t visible in ordinary light. When she was about 4 she started having urinary tract infections. We’d get them cleared up and not have any for awhile. When she was 9 they started to become more frequent. We could tell she was hurting and the vet would prescribe an antibiotic and send her home. By the time she was 13 she was having urinary tract infections 3 to 4 times a year. In this last year she had 9 plus two other infections. She started hating to go to the vet. She became hostile to the vet techs and pretty soon they wanted nothing to do with her. She was hurting and trying to be good but just couldn’t do it. This final urinary tract infection came on when she was still on antibiotics. The vet didn’t want to help and suggested I contact Heaven at Home for pallitive and end of life care/counseling. Katherine and Mary were fantastic as we played phone tag. Dr. Amy Hoss, I cannot express to you how much your compassion and gentle manner helped us when you came to help our Seal on June 18. I think you know just how hard it was for us. You confirmed she didn’t have a mass in her abdomen. It was a very hardened bladder from so many urinary tract infections and antibiotics.
Seal our Seal, our beautiful Seal – it is so hard to live without you. You will be our forever love, we’ll never forget you. I miss you chirping, your meows, your mad dashes through the house after using your litter box. I miss you snuggling and finding you under our comforter. I miss your purr, your touch and your wonderful gaze into my eyes. You were the smartest cat, the most in tune with me. We love you Seal!

Heaven at Home Pet Hospice helped us through a very difficult time. Their kindness and compassion during such a hard decision help to ease the stress and pain. They sent us a condolence card and we feel they truly understand our pain and loss.

Compassionate home care for your companions!
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