Whether it’s to help you figure out how to care for an elderly pet, or if you think it’s time to say good-bye, please give us a call if you would like to discuss these topics with one of our veterinarians or set up a house call appointment.
Services Available During a Hospice House Call
- Consultation: A physical exam will be performed and the veterinarian will discuss all aspects of care including but not limited to diet, mobility, hygiene, pain medication and quality of life. Our goal is to make your pet more comfortable and help you care for your pet as he or she ages, or is nearing the end of life due to disease.
- At-home euthanasia: It can be difficult to decide when to euthanize your pet, and we want to help make the process as peaceful as possible. We will help you to decide when the time is right, and can come to your home so that your pet can pass in a familiar place surrounded by family and loved ones. We also can help you make arrangements for cremation or burial.
- Acupuncture: Dr. Mara Tugel is certified in medical acupuncture, which is part of conventional modern medicine. It is based upon scientific knowledge of anatomy and physiology. It works primarily by modulating the nervous system using small, flexible needles through the skin. Acupuncture can improve nervous system function, relieve pain and inflammation, improve blood flow, stimulate healing after surgery or illness, improve mobility, and decrease stress and anxiety. All of these effects can help your pet live a longer, happier life.
Things to Consider When Caring for an Elderly Pet
- Traction: Is it easy for your pet to get around the house? Do you have mainly hardwood or tile floors? Consider placing area rugs or runners in the areas your pet has access to so that arthritic and weak pets can get a good grip when mobilizing around the house. Also be sure to keep the fur trimmed between their toes to prevent slipping due to hair coat over-growth. You may need to block off stairs to prevent your elderly pet from falling up or down them.
- Bathroom habits: Is your pet able to walk outside to go to the bathroom or does it have accidents in the house? If your pet is arthritic, it may simply be too painful and weak to make it outside in time, or it is too painful to complete the elimination process outside and may end up having an accident right after coming back inside. Anti-inflammatory medications, acupuncture, harnesses or slings, and simple rehabilitation exercises may make it easier for your pet to get outside to go to the bathroom. Make sure to help them outside multiple times a day so they have many opportunities to use the bathroom.
- Nutrition: Does your pet eat a well balanced diet? You may think because they are older and may not have much time left that they can eat whatever they want. While we do like to spoil our elderly patients, they still need to eat a well balanced meal to keep up their strength and be as healthy as possible. Please call to discuss your pet’s diet if you’re not sure if they are getting a well balanced meal.
- Cats: Once upon a time your cat had no problems jumping on high counters to eat and drink or going down the basement stairs to use the litter box. Many older cats have arthritis and you can help them by placing their food and water bowls on the ground (barricaded from dogs and small children), and putting their litter box on the same level that they spend most of their time. Also, make sure your cat can get into and out of the litter box pain-free. For example, you may need to cut a small portion of the front of the box out so they don’t have to step up into the box, or buy a special box made for cats with mobility issues.
- Hygiene: Just like human babies and the elderly, some pets may need help keeping themselves clean around the hind end, especially if any fecal or urinary incontinence is present. Be sure to keep plenty of baby wipes around to clean your pet off directly after they have messed themselves. It may be ideal to keep your pet’s hair coat trimmed fairly short, especially pets with long hair coats, to minimize messes and clean-ups. There are several different products you can use to help prevent urine scald and you can even order or make pet diapers to help keep them clean and dry. Please call today for tips on keeping your pet’s skin clean, dry and free of infection and pain.
Quality of Life
How do you know when it’s time to say good-bye? This is a very hard question and there are several factors that go into making the final decision. Here are some things to think about and help you decide.
- List 10 things that are your pet’s favorite things to do and give 1 point for each that he/she is still doing (i.e. playing ball, eating, greeting you at the door, jumping on the bed)
- On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, what do you consider your pet’s current enjoyment of life overall?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being normal all the time, how is your pet’s mood?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being very willing, how willing would you be to take on the life your pet is living now?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, based on your answers to the above questions, how would you rate your pet’s current quality of life?
Please call today if you would like to discuss these questions or need help interpreting your answers to these questions.
If your pet is struggling to live a normal life at home, please call and set up a hospice house call appointment today. The Sheabel veterinarians want to help make the end of life process as peaceful as possible for both you and your pet.
Michelle Arnold, DVM, CCRT