Pet hospice? What think, you?

Of late, I’ve given a lot of thought to the dilemma of end of life care for our pets.  Each individual and each family as an entity, is going to approach this entirely from different points of view.  I’ve received phone calls from perfect strangers who were consumed with guilt over how they handled the issue with a beloved pet and were turning to me for advice – poor souls, they!   Others, grieve and move on.  Also times have changed so radically that I find that I often feel dizzy when I open my eyes and see where the veterinary medical community is today and where it’s headed for tomorrow.  For a younger person, this all may seem routine, while for some one of my age and background, it’s difficult to shake off the barnyard offal and get with the program as it is presented by today’s standards.  What’s right and how far should we go?  It’s only been in the last month that I discovered “pet hospice.”  Am I in the ozone or what?  Apparently it’s been around for quite some time.  … AND imagine my surprise that a founder of a pet hospice foundation resides right here in my own home town!  http://www.pethospice.org/

So, what do you all think?  I’m not revealing my thoughts, muddled or otherwise, due to understandable angst at revealing my dark side.  However, it may be an option to consider for some people.

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14 responses to “Pet hospice? What think, you?

  1. popponessetbandit

    I have just had to wrestle with these issues, having just lost my beloved kitty of 18 years. I think each family choses what is best for them, taking into consideration: the quality of life of the pet and its illness, the age of the pet, time for the care of the pet, even the financial aspect. The decision is not an easy one, and I am the kind of person who works best with lots of information. The pet hospice website has much information that could help along with a candid discussion with one’s vet, and of course dialogue within the family. My kitty died peacefully at home, which is what we chose.

    • Popponessetbandit – wonderful, thoughtful post. My vet tells me that many of these things are driven by client needs and desires. Pet hospice is one of those and gives families another choice to consider when the time comes.

  2. I have experience with Hospice for humans and have found that they are a dedicated, and caring group. If this holds true with hospice for pets then I would say they could contribute a great deal to people, their companion pets, and finally the grief that follows. I found their creed interesting and appropriate. I’m all for anyone that helps the pain (both physical and mental) and eases the sufffering. Just my thoughts.

  3. I took a look at the website, and its statement pretty much sums up how I feel about it: don’t prolong the suffering of the pet, and make them as comfortable as possible at home. My Rowdy had a horrible last week of life in a vet ER, and because he was only four, we thought he might pull through, and subjected him to tests and hospital stays and such. I wish we hadn’t. I think as long as the pet’s quality of life is OK — not in pain, still sometimes has a smile on his/her face, looks forward to something once in a while — then it’s OK to try keeping the pet alive. But I don’t think it’s fair to make them suffer; and if I could get someone to come to my home and put them to sleep, I would sure opt for that instead of dragging them to the vet’s office. I didn’t know this hospice thing even existed, so thank you, Molly. Opossum is doing a bit better this week, but last week we incurred another $1000 in vet bills (blood work, ultrasound, etc.) only to STILL not know what’s wrong with him. So I’m sure this hospice thing is in our somewhat-near future. Thank goodness Mickey is bouncing around, perfectly happy and healthy!

    • Oh, don’t I know that with a younger pet or even an old one who you think might have a chance of recovery it’s easy to end up down a path you never wanted to travel. I wish we had our crystal balls for things like that. Unfortunately ….

      So good to hear about Mickey bouncing around! That makes me smile just thinking about it. I hope you can get to the bottom of Opossum’s troubles. How frustrating!

    • Jill…have you tried taking Opossum to another vet for their opinion? When Phoebe & Zoey were both sick with recurring diarrhea, and my vet wasn’t sure what was wrong, he sent me to a GI specialist who was able to diagnose the problem. I hope Opossum feels better soon!

  4. I know I have written about my dog, Cassie, before but for those who may not have seen my posts: Cassie was my family’s 16-year-old miniature dachshund. All pets are special, but Cassie was more than special. She had the most amazing personality! She loved everyone she met! She survived cancer twice and lost an eye to glaucoma, but it never affected her personality. She was blind in her remaining eye from cateracts, nearly deaf, and showing signs of dementia and neurological deterioration, but she was happy as a clam! As she was getting more confused and walking in circles and into things, my sister & I knew that Cassie would not be with us for much longer. My mom couldn’t handle the thought of not having our Cassie anymore and really put up a fight. My family had suffered a major tragedy in September ’09 that my mom never really dealt with and on February 4, 2010 Cassie lost all control of her bowels. My dad is disabled and was already having a very hard time watching Cassie deteriorate, so there was no way he could handle this plus…it wouldn’t have been fair to make Cassie live this way. My mom really made it difficult to make “the decision” but I had to be the adult and make her realize that being fair and compassionate to Cassie was more important than how we would feel losing her. We had 16 WONDERFUL years with Cassie…more than most families get with a dog! Taking Cassie to the vet that day was the hardest thing I ever had to do! I held her as I didn’t want her to be alone, even though the vet tech wanted to “take her to the back.” I will remember every aspect of that day forever…

    Even though it is so many months later, my family is still mourning the loss of Cassie. It feels very weird to walk into my parents’ house and not see her curled up, sleeping on the couch. But, she is at peace now. It took a long time, but my mom is finally at peace with the decision we had to make that day. Who knows, though…if there had been a hospice available here where they could care for Cassie, we might have been able to hold on to her for a little while longer…but I don’t know if that would have been fair to her. After all, she couldn’t tell us how she felt about it…

    • That’s the thing, Mindy. A hospice facility is not ideal for pets in my opinion, plus I doubt very much that most families could afford the expense. That path would be a problem for me on several levels. However, I suppose that it may be a viable alternative for people who are unable to make the euthanasia decision for a pet and at the same time are unable to handle a prolonged nursing ordeal at home. I would hope that over the next few decades we can retain this right of decision for our pets.

      • I would imagine that we will not lose our rights as “owners” to make this decision for our pets for the same reason I mentioned above…they cannot speak for themselves. It is up to us to love them enough to make the right decisions for them…

  5. Thank you Molly, and all who have posted, for sharing such intimate moments with us all… Bobin

  6. Making a decision to prolong life of a pet is one the most difficult I’ve every had to make. Humans can express what they would prefer, vs what we might want. My husband and I made decisions with our cats Sprite and Stoney. I struggled with this each time; needless to say. It comes down to ,as someone responded, considering the quality of life for the pet. We had one put to sleep due to seizures and suffering. Sprite was 18 and had a good life. One the other hand knowing the personality of our Persian Stoney (we decided) and after surgery for Lymphoma , to stay at home where he was not alone in a vet office. We knew at times even as we kept him comfortable with meds and the vets help we had to let him go . We did not have to euthanize him ..he passed away while sleeping the next day. Looking back Molly, would I do anything differently the answer is yes. I would have had our sweet Stone of 14 yrs put to sleep while in our home in his bed. Our Vet would have done so at our request. Stoney had surgery but the tumor came back, he suffered, we suffered and all the tears in the world could not change the out come. One needs a lot of information, a good look at what the prognosis and make the most humane decision possible. Quality of life is perhaps the best deciding factor.

    • Mary, thanks for sharing your story. I think we all look back and evaluate and re-evaluate how we handled things. We can only do our best. I tend to think much as you summed up, that prolonging life via a hospice arrangement is not for everyone nor for every animal. Your story is particularly interesting because in retrospect you may have chosen NOT to go the hospice route.

  7. Let me tell you aout my last dog. A wonderful English Bull who gave us years of happiness and love. My late husband was at home quite ill nd when I walked into the house and asked him how he was feeling he said “ask me about Boo” “Ok how is Boo” he then told me that our beloved dog could not walk . I rushed him to an emergency vet and explained the situation. The next day after doing extensive teast I was given the choice of keeping Boo alive and in pain or humanely euthanising him. I choose the latter and have never regretted my choice I spared him the last days of pain and am able to remember with joy his time with us.

  8. Thank you all for shining a light on these important end of life issues. We are a group of mostly veterinary professionals who started our 501c3 non profit Healing Heart Foundation, Inc. to sponsor programs which honor the spirit of the human animal bond. Our first program, launched in May ’08, is Healing Heart Pet Hospice. We care for end of life pets IN THEIR OWN HOME. Our families get 24/7 care from us and the relationships we form with our families and their pets are something extraordinary. Our next program, soon to be launched, is for Pet Loss & Bereavement.
    An incredible amount of our time is spent educating, not only the public but our colleagues ! This is a real paradigm shift for veterinary medicine and changes do not come easily. I am 37 years in veterinary medicine with the last 14 in Emergency/Critical Care and I can’t begin to tell you the changes I’ve seen in this field – staggering. But, those of us who are forging forward because we passionately believe in the greater good, are not diminished. Our families are proof that if we support them with excellent standards of veterinary care to maintain quality of life for their angels, we dispel fears and assure most peoples’ goals. And, that is to see them transition on to the next realm peaceful, with love and not in pain or struggle. We need you all to help educate your veterinarians and their staff to do their homework on hospice care and other end of life issues. There are pockets of us in the veterinary field offering this care all over the United States. We say ‘Hospice is Hope’ – Hope of a kinder, gentler death, surrounded by loved ones.
    Our website is under construction. A wonderful volunteer is helping us. But, I would be available to answer any inquiries from curious folks.
    Blessings to You All and Those You Love,

    Valarie Hajek Adams, CVT
    President, Healing Heart Foundation, Inc.
    Director, Healing Heart Pet Hospice
    920 450 7805
    vadams@horizondvm.com

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