Keeping Your Senior Pet Warm This Winter

January 3rd, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

Few topics inspire as much controversy as (faux?) fashion for our furry friends. Do they really need coats and booties, or is this a classic case of anthropomorphism? Inquiring minds want to know!

In actual fact, the suitability of pet outerwear depends on a number of variables, including your dog’s breed, coat, age and body condition, plus outdoor temperature and duration of exposure.

“Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

Outerwear:

  • As a general rule, if your dog will only be outside for 10 minutes or less, they typically do not need any clothing.
  • Once temperatures drop under 20° F, all owners need to be aware that their dogs could potentially develop cold-associated health problems like hypothermia and frostbite. Watch for signs, including shivering, anxiety, and slowing down. Beware of the wind chill factor.
  • Double-coated dogs such as Siberian Huskies and Newfoundlanders are very unlikely to need clothing.
  • Shorter-haired breeds, senior dogs, puppies and dogs with medical conditions do benefit from the additional warmth.

Paw Protection:

One of the biggest threats to healthy paw pads is the salt used to melt ice on driveways, roads and sidewalks. Prolonged contact with deicers can lead to chemical burns on dog paws. Use pet-friendly salt, and cover your dog’s paws when out on walks with paw wax or booties.

  • Booties offer the best protection: Options include rubber-sole styles with double Velcro straps, waterproof nylon socks, and disposable rubbers.
  • For elderly dogs who are more prone to slipping and falling on ice, you may wish to try booties with a grip.

 

Bed Warmers for Arthritic Dogs and Cats

If your feline friend or canine companion is elderly and/or suffers from arthritis you may wish to offer a heated orthopedic bed. Styles range from simple heating pads to luxurious heated lounges. Use caution with external heat sources, ensuring your pet is able to get up and move off the heat source if he/she becomes too warm. You may wish to discuss the type of heat source you should use with your veterinarian.


In Memoriam of Aries

December 28th, 2018 by Laurie Brush

Aries’ Story:
Aries became my dog after my son died unexpectedly – he only had him 3 weeks. I was a little unsure about keeping him, but he really helped me after Chris died. If he saw I was feeling down, he would bring a toy and want me to play with him. For the next 8 and a half years he was a great companion. Even after his health began to fail due to cancer, he was always there for me – I really miss that big goof.
 

 

 

I could not have asked for a better and more peaceful end for him. Amy was great – very gentle and reassuring. She helped make a very difficult decision easy to make. Thank you everyone for your kindness.


In Memoriam of Harley

December 20th, 2018 by Laurie Brush

December 10, 2018 –
Harley’s last footprints…

Our pup, Harley, had surgery on November 12 to remove a blockage in his intestines. We didn’t know what the problem was at the time, he was refusing all food and we had to force water into him. The surgery revealed a malignant tumor that was causing a blockage in his intestines. No wonder he had lost 15 pounds over the course of a month!
The veterinarian was able to remove the worst of it and told us it was a grim prognosis with or without chemo treatment, survival of 2-6 months.
Within two days of the surgery he was feeling so much better and when the sutures were removed the day before Thanksgiving, he was feeling and acting like his old self, full of energy with a great appetite. Knowing that our eight year old pup’s days were numbered, we gave him the best we could. Tom and I both feel fortunate we have been able to truly appreciate him in his last days.

This past Sunday was a great day. Tom gave Harley a real feast at dinner time and then more because Harley had been doing so well and gaining back some of the weight he had lost. Sometime overnight, there was a dramatic change. He was very lethargic with a high fever on Monday morning. Over the day, he became more withdrawn, to the point we think he was somewhat comatose. We will never know what happened; possibly brain damage from high fever or a stroke, but he seemed comfortable and essentially slipped away over the course of two days.


Thank you everyone for your kind words. Tom and I are dog-lovers.
OMG!-Between us we have over 100 years of dog ownership! We both agree Harley was hands down the best dog either of us has had. I feel equal measures heartbroken and thankful for every second with this sweetheart.

Thank you so much for helping us with this transition. Being able to have Harley home, comfy in his bed for his last moments was priceless. Your comforting words and gestures helped so much, Dr. Tay.

Tips to Avoid Stressing Your Elderly Dog or Cat During the Holidays

December 19th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff


You might think holiday stress is confined to last-minute-shopping humans, over-burdened hosts or folks with in-laws they secretly refer to as “outlaws.” If the holidays are stressful for you, imagine how your aging pet feels. Your own stress plus the bustle of the holiday season compounds pet stress, and it takes elderly animals longer to bounce back. Follow these tips to help your pets have a stress-free, happy holiday.

Read the rest of this entry »


Books for Adults on Grieving Pet Loss

December 18th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff


Whether you recently experienced the passing of a pet or are having trouble letting go after some time has passed, The Heaven at Home team has resources that may help you through this difficult time. Books can be an invaluable part of your support system, and we’ve curated a few below that we feel will really help a pet parent navigate the loss. Read the rest of this entry »


Books for Children on Grieving Pet Loss

December 7th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff


The Heaven at Home team knows that grieving the passing of your fur-baby is difficult and requires all the support you can get. On top of dealing with your own loss, if you have children, you also have to help them navigate what might be their first experience of losing a loved one. Books can play a helpful role in helping your child through the process.

The following are a few of the “gold standard” books written for children that are designed to help grieve a pet who has passed. Read the rest of this entry »


Dr. Laurie Brush & Ginny Mikita Speaking at WMVMA Nov. 27th

November 20th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice, and Ginny Makita are delighted to be speaking at the West Michigan Veterinarian Medical Association dinner on Tues., Nov. 27 at John Ball Zoo to help local vets improve the euthanasia experience for clients and support bereaved pet parents.

In “The Client’s Perspective on Euthanasia and How You Can Improve the In-Hospital Euthanasia Experience,” Dr. Brush will share information and stories of her experience helping pet parents give their fur-babies peaceful passings.

Ginny Makita, Facilitator of the West Michigan Pet Loss Support Group, will share tips for helping people who are Grieving Pet Loss During the Holidays. Together, they hope to raise awareness of options available for compassionate end-of-life care for animals and the benefits of grief support for bereaved pet parents.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to familiarize many of my veterinarian peers with the ongoing research and work of the International Association for Animal Palliative Care. In vet school, there is so much material we cover, but we’re often not able to focus on end-of-life and hospice care. Yet a large percentage of pets today are entering their senior years, and need assistance,” Dr. Brush said.

Dr. Brush became one of the first 100 veterinarians in the world to receive her Animal Hospice and Palliative Care Certification from the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). She earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. As a practicing vet since 1998, she became involved in the movement toward in-home palliative care and euthanasia, beginning with her own 17-year-old rescue dog, Herkemer. Through her personal experience, she became a passionate advocate for peaceful at-home transitions. 

She started Heaven at Home Pet Hospice almost 7 years ago. Heaven at Home has grown into a team of 3 doctors and 3 Care Coordinators to better serve the West Michigan area. She is a member of the IAAHPC, the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), the MVMA, the WMVMA and the International Veterinary Association of Pain Management (IVAPM).

Ginny Mikita, JD, hosts the West Michigan Loss Grief Support Group at Heaven at Home the first Tuesday of each month from 6:30 – 8 p.m. The group is designed to provide a safe, confidential and structured space where those bound by the experience of the impending loss or death of a companion animal can come together on a regular basis to share stories, receive validation of concerns and feelings, learn about grief and the mourning process and reflect upon the meaning of it all.

Ginny is a ’91 graduate of Notre Dame Law School and Master of Divinity/Center for Loss, Death and Grief Studies Certification candidate. She and her husband, Bob Kruse, have their own compassion-social justice-based law practice, in which they represent the voiceless, neglected, abused and unaccompanied refugee children, animals and those who care for and provide them with medical and shelter services and incapacitated adults.  Ginny has also served in human hospital settings.

Ginny regularly officiates Blessings of the Animals in both religious and secular environments. For example, her most recent Blessing occurred October 6th (the 10th annual) in conjunction with ArtPrize at the Saint Francis Sculpture Garden & Path at the Dominican Center. Her next Blessing will occur at LaughFest’s People and Pets Event at Ford Field House in March 2019.

The dinner and presentation will be held in the Zoo Ballroom at 1300 Fulton St, just south of the main entrance to the zoo.

Veterinarians interested in attending the WMVMA can RSVP by Nov. 26 to sarah.faasse@wmvma.org.


Heaven at Home Honors National Animal Hospice Day November 3rd

November 2nd, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

HAHHospiceDay2018Heaven at Home joins hospice veterinarians across the nation Saturday in honoring National Hospice day. In America, 68% of households have companion animals, with 89.7 Million dogs, and 94.2 Million cats. It is estimated that between 44-48% of these pets are currently over the age of 7, meaning they are entering their senior years. Depending on species and breed, many will be preparing to cross the rainbow bridge. The quality of their end of life has become a focal point for geriatric specialists within the veterinarian community and the population at large.

“For too long, pet parents have not had the resources available to provide the highest quality of end-of-life and palliative care to their fur babies in their sunset years,” says Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home and Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Vet.

“The national animal hospice movement seeks to change that through its awareness campaign and the provision of resources as this type of service becomes more readily available to people.”

As part of National Animal Hospice Day, Heaven at Home is accepting donations to its benevolent fund to help those families in economic hardship provide in-home euthanasia services for their companion animals. Please consider making a donation if you’d like to help others have a peaceful pet passing in their own home.

History of National Animal Hospice Day

National Animal Hospice Day was created by the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care in order to give pet caregivers an opportunity to learn more about hospice and palliative care for four-legged family members in order to better understand the options and resources available. In recent years, the field of animal hospice has grown, as an increasing number of people actively seek to provide a peaceful end-of-life experience for their companions.

However, too often, pet parents are still forced to make difficult decisions about their pets’ final days without adequate information or preparation. The animal hospice and palliative care process is unique in that it provides support for both pets and their caretakers.

Families work with a hospice team that helps to ensure that all options are explored for the comfort and care of pets who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, debilitating condition or are nearing the end of their lives. The hospice team helps to guide decision making about pain management, mobility, and nutritional needs and offers counseling to family members as they process their grief and spiritually prepare for the loss of their beloved companion.

For more information about our animal hospice services, please contact us.

For additional information about animal hospice and palliative care services, visit the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care’s website – their FAQ page is a great place to start: https://www.iaahpc.org

Highlights of Animal Home Hospice Questions:

Excerpted from IAAHPC

What is animal hospice? What is palliative care?

Both are approaches to care for your animal friend that can be adopted when the goal shifts from cure to comfort. Both involve an interdisciplinary team of providers who offer comprehensive care on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels and include veterinarians, animal and family services providers.  The term “animal hospice” is not a place; it is a philosophy of care which became popularized in the 1970’s.  Since the 1990’s the hospice model has been applied to also caring for our pets and thus hospice and palliative care for animals is growing across the US and the world.

Why animal hospice and palliative care for my beloved pet?

In the human hospice experience, families are well-supported and empowered to provide loving care to their loved one. As a result, they find enhanced coping along the journey and healing from their loss. Many pet parents want the same care for their furry, feathered and scaled family members as they’ve seen benefit their human loved ones, and so they turn to animal hospice. Pet parents also seek satisfaction in knowing they did all they could to support their animal companion, enhancing their bond with them during this time, and create cherishing memories.

What kind of diseases or conditions would warrant hospice and/or palliative care?

The  diseases and conditions  that most frequently warrant hospice or palliative care for animals are:

●      cancer

●      organ failure [kidneys, liver and heart are common examples]

●      osteoarthritis

●      cognitive dysfunction, or dementia

●      senior pets approaching the end of life

●      failure to thrive 

●      any life-limiting condition that is contributing to an excessive burden of caregiving for a family, or treatments/interventions that are unacceptable to the pet

As a pet parent, what are my responsibilities in providing hospice for my animal friend?

Preparing to care for your aging, ill or dying pet is similar to caring for a child or aged adult. You would take time to learn about your loved one’s condition and ways to ensure the highest degree of comfort possible. You would learn how to monitor your loved one’s quality of life and then regularly communicate with the hospice team. You would make decisions with the guidance of the care team, and then take measures to act on your decisions once the appropriate time came.  Along the journey, the well-being and feelings of the human family members would be validated and supported.

How do I know if hospice care is the right decision for me and my pet?

Many pet parents choose hospice care in order to have the time to say goodbye to their companions, to plan for their death, and to ensure that all the decisions about the pet’s needs are guided by their personal view of the pet’s needs. If you have the resources to support comfort care, the time and desire to care for your pet during the last days, weeks, sometimes months of their life, and a good support team in place, then hospice care may be the right choice for you and your pet.

Why do I feel so sad already, when my animal friend was just recently diagnosed?  Few people seem to understand what I’m going through.

We know that grief associated with loss begins before the actual death occurs, and the name for this is “anticipatory grief”. These emotions may sneak up on us and affect us in many aspects of our life. Grief is work! It is never easy, but it can be easier with the support of a team that values “care for the caregiver”, a cornerstone of hospice philosophy. Yes, the ability to think clearly will directly affect how effective you can be in your care for your animal companion. Respite, or some time away from caregiving, can be important to your continued well-being.


Dr. Laurie Brush Among First to Achieve Hospice Certification

October 30th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

DrLaurie_certDr. Laurie Brush received more than a dose of warm sunshine in Arizona during her visit to the annual conference for the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) earlier this month. She became one of the first graduates to receive a new advanced Certification as a Hospice & Palliative Care Veterinarian. 

The IAAHPC founded the continuing education program in 2016 to advance the study in hospice and palliative care for licensed veterinarians and credentialed veterinary technicians. The 100-hour AHPC Certification Program standardizes and defines the skills and knowledge required of animal hospice and palliative care providers, and establishes a standard of care that reflects excellence.

“Heaven at Home was founded in 2012 when the notion of home hospice and at-home euthanasia for pets was almost unheard of in Grand Rapids and most of Michigan,” Dr. Brush said. “IAAHPC has been an extremely valuable resource for myself and my staff to ensure we’re offering the highest level of care for companion animals at the end of their lives. I’m delighted to have been among the first 100 graduates of this new Certification Program, because it stands for compassionate end-of-life care across the country. Every pet deserves a peaceful passing with their beloved family members.”

The certification typically takes 16 months to complete, with segments on pain management, animal comfort, euthanasia techniques and ways to help families find peace and manage grief. The certification requires documentation of Case Studies, as well as on-site practical study and examination.

“It is demanding when you’re busy as we are, but we’re committed to keeping up with the latest research and techniques in our field to give the very best care to our clients fur-babies,” Dr. Brush said.

In 2013, the IAAHPC developed comprehensive guidelines for the practice of animal hospice and palliative care, which are now widely recognized among the veterinary community (see AAHA/IAAHPC End-Of-Life Care Guidelines, 2016). Since its inception in 2009, IAAHPC has helped popularize and promote the value of skilled end-of-life care for companion animals.

“There is a gap—treacherous yet barely recognized—between how we care for companion animals during their lifetime, and how we care for them during the end phase of their lives,” said Dr. Amir Shanan, IAAHPC founder and honorary advisor. “This gap has a tremendous cost in human suffering and grief, which is also barely recognized. Our program is aimed at giving veterinary professionals the tools for closing this gap.”

 

 


In Memoriam of Curby

October 24th, 2018 by Heaven At Home Staff

Curby-1-Hearts_2018Curby’s Story:

My wife and I adopted Curby from an animal rescue along with Autumn, a female mix that was much older than he, but cared for him like he was her own puppy. Curby was just 6-9 months old. That was in Jan of 2006. We soon found out that he was born with bad hip dysplasia, but that never stopped Curby! His favorite toy all his life was a bright orange rubber ball, and his favorite game was “fetch”. We would play for hours non-stop and he would wear me out and still want more! And he loved playing hide-and-seek with his ball also. Curby and I developed a very special bond. My wife would always say “He’s YOUR dog!” -especially when he did something wrong :)

I was raised with dogs, and I’ve had dogs most of my life, and I really loved them all. But I have to admit, Curby was truly special. He found a way to reach places in my heart that no other ever did. Curby had the most amazing personality and intelligence of any dog I’ve known. He just seemed to know what I wanted him to do and he’d do it. Curby always wanted to please.

Curby-3_2018
Curby-2_2018
 

We were told by the vet early on that we shouldn’t expect him to live much past 8 or 10 years because of his hip dysplasia and his size and breed, so I guess I should feel lucky that I had 12 great years with him. But I’d give anything for another day with him. Curby had a good and happy life with lots of love. And I’m thankful that he shared that life with us. He is very sorely missed, and in our thoughts every day, and in our hearts forever.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for Heaven at Home and the service you provide! It was such a hard decision to let Curby go and I refused to let him go at the vet’s office, in strange surroundings, with strangers around him. Because of you, my boy Curby was able to spend his last hours here in the comfort of his own home, on the comfort of his own bed, and with the comfort of his own loving family around him!

That meant the world to me! And I’m sure it meant the world to Curby, too! Dr. Tay was wonderful! She was very patient and compassionate and really helped us through this most difficult time. Thank you so much!


 
Compassionate home care for your companions!
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