Knowing what to expect during an end- of - life visit can offer a great deal of peace in an otherwise extremely difficult time. We are always glad to answer any questions you may have. Should you not find answers to your questions below, please feel free to give us a call or email. We will gladly talk you through. You are no longer alone on this journey.
IN-HOME EUTHANASIA VISIT:
I can provide euthanasia for your pet, in the peace and privacy of your home, in whatever location you and your pet are most comfortable. I feel strongly that this is the most merciful and gentle way to proceed for these babies, rather than inflicting one last car trip, one last office visit, moving a tired and painful body one more time. To prevent a pet from having to move from an area they have chosen as their comfort zone, I have crawled under kitchen tables, into clothes closets, and crouched by patio furniture in the sunshine. I strive to disturb them as little as possible in their last minutes.
In order to be able to focus full attention on your pet, after we arrive and have had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you and your pet and answer any questions you may have, we will take care of all the necessary paper work (consent forms, crematory forms as needed) and take payment. This way neither you nor I will have any distractions from ensuring a peaceful passing for your pet, or from you and your family having time to honor and grieve and say good bye to your friend as you wish. Once all of this is handled, we will also ask if you would like to have a complimentary hand painted clay paw print made. If so, the clay will be prepared, but the print will not be made until after your pet's passing, so as to avoid and stress or discomfort. I know these pets are often painful, and many are not fans of having their feet touched, so it is always kinder to not ask them to cooperate with print making. As long as you are comfortable with it, I will take the print with me after our visit, so that I can put your pet's name and year on it (please make sure I have the correct spelling of their name!), and will hand paint and glaze these. You can even choose a color for their name that you think would suit them best. These will either be hand delivered when we are in your area again, or sent by priority mail. It will generally be 4-6 weeks, as I work on these in my free time, as a true labor of love.
Once you and your family are ready for me to proceed, I will administer a single injection of sedative to your pet. Every pet is given heavy sedation prior to performing any other tasks. This medication will provide pain and anxiety relief, and allow her to gradually fall asleep in your arms or at your side, peacefully and gently, with her last conscious experiences being your voice, touch and presence. I will only proceed once she is fully sedated and unconcerned with the rest of the process. Some pets will "fall asleep" before being full under sedation, and will close their eyes. Others will be very sedated before choosing to close their eyes, and in those cases, they will remain open. This is normal, either way, and does not mean that your pet is not well sedated. I will always check and double check that they are unaware of anything that is going on, prior to taking any further steps. If your pet seems less sedated than we want, I will provide more sedation, rather than forcing him to endure anything uncomfortable or upsetting. My hope is that this will also provide some peace of mind for you as well. At this point, should you not wish to be present for the remainder of the procedure, please know that your pet will not be aware of your absence. Of course, you can always stay by your friend's side throughout. I will let you know when I have readied everything, and ask if I may start their medicine prior to doing so. Once this medication has been given, I will listen to your pet's chest for several minutes so that I can tell you with certainty when they have peacefully passed.
Should you wish to have assistance with transporting your pet to a crematory, we are happy to help you. Just let us know that you would like this when you call, and we can provide you with details and make arrangements. When it is time to help your pet to their next stop, we will take care of them with the dignity and respect due a beloved family member. If you have a special blanket, lovey, ball or other toy that you wish to travel with him, we are happy to tuck it in with him.
The euthanasia visit proceeds at the speed and comfort of the family, and the pet. I will explain what to expect prior to starting, so the family will not be startled or confused. I will never rush a family through these last difficult moments, and I am always happy to pause and explain anything or answer any questions as they arise, or to just pause to give the family time if needed. After the pet has passed, I will let the family know, and give them as much time alone with their pet as the need for private good byes.
HOSPICE/PALLIATIVE CARE/QUALITY OF LIFE CONSULTATIONS: These visits can be quite variable, as they are all individualized. The diagnosis your pet has been given by your regular veterinarian or specialist will determine some aspects of our visit. The goals and questions of your family will also affect the nature of this visit. For example, a Quality of Life Consultation may involve simply discussing your pet's condition, and confirming a family's suspicion that the time to say good bye is close. It might also be an opportunity to discuss entering your pet into hospice or palliative care going forward. If your pet has not been diagnosed prior to reaching out to us, it may be appropriate to seek out the testing and evaluation with your regular veterinarian prior to making additional decisions. My role in each of these cases is to provide professional guidance based on my years of experience, specialized training in hospice and palliative care, and the discussions that we have about your goals, concerns and your pet's quality of life. The Quality of Life Consultation is a first step in determining how to best help your pet, and your family going forward.
Hospice care provides support in multiple areas for pets that have been diagnosed with a terminal or life limiting illness, such as cancer, kidney disease, late stage osteoarthritis or advanced cognitive dysfunction. I address symptoms that the pet is experiencing, including pain, nausea/vomiting, dehydration, cough or breathing problems. But in contrast to what is most common in the veterinary profession, I also offer support to the family, who is bearing the burden of caring for their pet, as well as anticipating the loss of their fur baby. I can provide guidance in the nursing care they perform at home, assess the home environment for ways to help provide for the comfort, safety and management of the pet, and help families wade through the many options and questions that they will face during their pet's last days, weeks or months. When the time comes, I am there to facilitate a hospice assisted natural passing, or to provide euthanasia, as the family prefers. I can help obtain grief counseling and support for the family when needed.
Palliative care can include many of the same symptom management strategies as hospice care, but in this case, it is for a pet with a longer life expectancy. They may suffer from a curable or non curable illness or condition, but for a variety of possible reasons, aggressive treatment is not appropriate or desired for the pet. Perhaps a pet is suffering from multiple conditions and does not tolerate aggressive treatment. In some cases, a pet is truly stressed and miserable at the vet's office, and would not do well with the frequent visits that aggressive treatment would involve, but can be quite content with veterinary assessment and symptom management at home. Sometimes, a pet has an incurable, but long duration process. I often think of the older dogs with ever worsening arthritis, having more difficulty getting up or down, slipping or melting of slick floors, no longer able to manage stairs or even squat fully outside to go to the bathroom. These guys can't be cured, but many need not just pain relief, but even small changes in their environment to make their lives easier and more comfortable.
Whether you know your pet has a diagnosis, or you have concerns about their quality of life and would like to discuss what can be done to best care for your pet, please consider scheduling a consultation with me. If diagnostics and treatments are appropriate, I will let you know this, and refer you back to your regular veterinarian, with a better understanding of what to expect. If hospice or palliative care are in order, we can begin our journey together.