Consultaion Hospice and Palliative Care Euthanasia After Care
Home Care Services
Every home visit involves a veterinary consult with the pet owner and evaluation of the pet’s condition. This is included with a euthanasia visit as well as for ongoing care.
The person who lives with their pet and companion every day is in the best position to see changes in health, activity, and daily quality of life. So when the decision is made to call about euthanasia, it is almost always the kindest choice. However, a professional evaluation can help to determine if there are other options.
While not required, an initial home visit can therefore serve two purposes, even for those planning to euthanize:
- It can allow the pet to meet the doctor on a ‘social call,’ so that the final visit is not with a new visitor to the home. The euthanasia process will be discussed, so the family can decide how to plan the visit – who should be present, when, and where would be best for the pet and family.
- Some pets may be found to have a treatable, non-terminal condition – such as a medical condition that can be managed and improve quality of life, often by involving the pet’s primary care veterinarian. Examples include the dog who has lost weight and has trouble eating, and is found to have a dental infection; or a cat who has been drinking a lot, urinating all over the house, and losing weight – she may have diabetes, and benefit from insulin therapy.
Hospice and Palliative Care
Veterinary Hospice, also known as Pawspice, is a fairly new field in veterinary medicine. It is not for every pet – or every family – but for some, it can provide a period of comfort and a chance to spend quality time with a companion before we say farewell.
Palliative care is treatment which supports or improves the patient’s Quality of Life (QOL) by relieving suffering. Examples include pain relief (using medications, or alternative therapies like acupuncture or ‘cold’ laser therapy), nausea control, treatment for anxiety or other forms of ‘comfort care.’ This term can be used when treating curable or chronic conditions, as well as during end-of-life care.
Although we have co-habited for millennia, we are only just beginning to truly understand how our closest companions express their distress, pain and other changes in comfort, such as nausea. Behavioral research and advances in pain management and other comfort medications over the last decade have improved the lives of animals worldwide. Pawspice is not about simply prolonging the length of time we have with our pet family members; it is for maintaining and improving the quality of the time we have left, in which we can share our love, while the body is failing.
Comfort and quality of life are not just about medications to make the pet feel better. When the veterinarian is able to come to your home, she may also be able to provide advice on improving your pet’s overall comfort within the home. For example: Increasing social interaction and creating better access to favorite resting spots, food/water, and elimination areas are simple things that can really make a difference.
We are currently providing limited pet hospice care.
The hardest decision any pet lover ever has to make is the day to say good-bye. With the exception of a very few animals, such as the African Grey Parrot, we will generally out-live our pets; their lives are so much shorter than ours, yet bring us such constant joy. When they can no longer share that joy – due to terminal illness or the ravages of time – the kindest gift we can give them is a dignified parting. While some pets can be helped to pass in a natural manner at home, many are assisted with humane euthanasia.
The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek ‘eu’ (easy, good) + ‘thanatos,’ (death). We use medications to minimize discomfort and stress. The euthanasia procedure involves sedation, followed by an overdose of anesthesia. Because each pet responds differently to veterinary care, including injections, the doctor will talk with you during the visit about how your pet responds to different stimuli; she will structure the visit as much as possible around your pet’s personal needs.
You may wish to have a few close friends or family present, or to have a more private moment. Take a moment to think about the support you may need, as well as what might comfort your pet. In general, a calm, peaceful environment is often the kindest for the pet; consider a later memorial service with those whose lives your pet has touched.
For most who live in this area, the days of the backyard burial are behind us. But while home burial is no longer an option for most, burial in a pet cemetery may be arranged. Cremation has become more frequent, as most of us live in the city or suburbs. Cremation options include:
- An Individual Cremation, in which the pet is individually cremated within the chamber.
Often referred to as private cremation.* Other pets may be cremated at the same time, but any additional small pet within the crematory chamber is contained within a metal tray. The ashes are not blended together: There is no forced air within the crematory chamber so ashes are not blown around, though minor air movement due to the heat may result in tiny movement of ashes. For those who wish to have their pet's ashes returned, this method is less costly and is more environmentally sound.
- A Fully Private Cremation, in which the pet is cremated alone within the chamber.
Regardless of size, from mouse to Mastiff, the only occupant would be your pet. This is the same service as when a pet owner wishes to view the cremation.
* Many crematoriums and veterinarians (sometimes unknowingly) refer to any service in which the ashes are returned as "Private," because actively distinguishing between the two processes is a very recent shift within the pet end-of-life care community. With both of these services, your pet's ashes are returned to you.
For our clients, their pet's ashes are returned in a wooden urn. A name plate may be engraved at no additional fee, if ordered at the time of service. Upon request, a non-engraved metal urn may be substituted for no additional fee. More personalized urns are available from the crematorium.
Ashes not returned:
- A simple, Communal Cremation, in which the pet is cremated with others, and the ashes are scattered on private property by the crematorium operators.
A paw print may be made, using a clay cast, as a personal memorial.
(See also: Resources page, Mementos)
Please note: If your pet weighs over 40 lbs, the doctor will need your assistance to move your pet to the vehicle, for delivery to the crematorium.