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End of Life Counseling and Pet Hospice

Depositphotos_41181679_xs-e1403893372705-2Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy, even if you know the time has come. We understand the pain and much too often the guilt associated with “letting go,” and we can help you make the best choices at a time when it seems impossible to move forward. Here at Harmony Animal Hospital, we are completely committed to making this very difficult process as easy as it can be for both you and your beloved pet. Our compassionate, caring team will take the time and share this journey with you every step of the way. We are here to offer advice, assistance, counseling, and even a warm hug if needed.

Is It Time to Let Go?

As pets get older, their lives and their bodies change, along with that our lives change too as we care for our aging friends. Because pets live relatively short lives, those changes happen at a much faster pace then we would like and can be scary, emotional, and heart-breaking. However, slowing down is not necessarily a sign that anything’s wrong, so just because your pet seems to move less or not participate in as many activities as he did before doesn’t mean their time with you is over.

When looking at your pet, the one thing you should always consider is quality of life. An elderly pet can still enjoy life even if they need support getting up or has to take short walks instead of running on the beach. That is, as long as they are not in pain and overall seems to be happy and comfortable.

It is often a struggle to make the decision to humanely euthanize a beloved pet, it is even common for there to be differences in “when the right time is” between family members. A great tool we counsel our clients to use is to create a calendar to make daily notes about your pets quality of life. It can be very detailed with examples of things that are good (ie ate well today) and things that are bad (ie wouldn’t eat today). It can also be a very basic calendar just stating “good day” or “bad day”. At the end of every day discuss as a family if it truly was a day that your pet was happy and comfortable or if they were painful and not enjoying themselves. This gives you a very objective way to look at how your pet is doing over a period of days, weeks, and months. It also give everyone in the family a chance to observe and understand what your pet is going through. When the bad days start outnumbering the good days, it is likely getting close or it has reached the time to say goodbye.

Pet Hospice Care

The concept of hospice care has always been associated with people, but there’s no reason why animals can’t be part of it as well. The idea behind hospice care is simply: sometimes there’s nothing else you can do to help cure your pet of their illness or disease, but it’s still possible to control pain and provide a comfortable life. In this case, you can choose to keep your beloved companion around longer if you are willing and able to care for and attend to your ailing pets needs.

Hospice care for pets (sometimes referred to as “pawspice”) can involve a number of things, depending on your pet’s condition and health issues. It should address not only the physical needs of a terminally ill pet, but also his emotional ones.

Hospice care often includes some form of pain management. This can be done in the form of pills, injections or transdermal patches. Pets might also receive acupuncture, laser therapy, and/or massage therapy to help alleviate pain and increase comfort. We are here to discuss and determine what the best options for your pet may be.

Another primary goal of hospice care is to provide emotional support to both the pet and their family. This makes the transition to “letting go” easier for everybody. Our goal here at Harmony is to help you figure out what’s part of growing old and what isn’t. We are here to fully support you and your pet during this challenging part of life. If something’s wrong, we can then discuss treatment or management options and see whether they can improve quality of life and are worth trying.

We also focus heavily on education. We want you to be able to tell when your pet is in pain and suffering, as animals can and often do hide pain very well. We also help you see other signs of declining quality of life. For example, you should look for changes in behavior (pets that become irritable or seem confused), loss of appetite, decreased grooming, changing potty habits, disinterest in activities that he used to love, and even a tendency to look for places to hide. These could all be indications of quality of life deteriorating.

At Harmony Animal Hospital our goal is to always focus on our patient’s and clients needs, to maintain an intimate partnership between our veterinary team, our clients and our patients for the most optimal outcomes, and we will continue to strive to do everything possible in the best interest of our patients and their families while maintaining the highest ethical standards.

Preparing to Say Goodbye

Our caring and well-trained team offers support and care for your family as you’re preparing to say goodbye to your pet. There are several decisions to make once you have made the kind, humane decision regarding euthanasia and we are here to help you with all of them. We offer to perform the euthanasia at our hospital in a quiet, peaceful warm room separate from the exam rooms or we can even accommodate euthanasia at your home in most instances. We offer cremation options including a private cremation where you will receive your pets ashes back in a beautiful cherry wooden box urn or communal cremation services where your pets ashes will not be returned. There are limited number of burial options and we are happy to assist you in determining if this is right for you.

We can also offer suggestions on how to honor your pet after he’s gone and we always provide a memorial clay paw print of your pet’s paw for you to take home with you.

Grief Counseling

Losing someone you love is always difficult. When it comes to pets, the loss can be made even more difficult because some people might not understand what you’re going through. We assure you that you are safe at Harmony Animal Hospital to grieve and share your sadness with us, we have all been in your shoes with our own beloved pets and welcome the opportunity to help you through this difficult time.

If you need additional help to deal with your grief, please check out the following resources. You’ll find there are a number of caring, non-judgmental, supportive resources to help you with your grief – and that you don’t have to suffer alone.

www.petloss.com

www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-loss‎

www.spcawake.org (Search for pet loss support group)

Rainbow Bridge Poem

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Author unknown…