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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pet Hospice

Bluebird in better days

Though the practice has been around for a long time most people don’t understand what pet hospice is. This is one article about the practice:

However, I don’t want anyone to believe that hospice is only about helping a pet to die but rather it is caring for a pet in the home; focusing on palliative care rather than curative; giving your pet that last little bit of dignity. In essence pet hospice is a way to keep the pet at home, feeling little to no pain and getting all the attention and comfort from family as he fades due to a terminal illness or injury.

I had to face this reality when my cat, Lando Calrissian, became seriously ill with mast cell leukemia. At first he only had the occasional mast cell on his skin that were easily and completely removed. Unfortunately his disease progressed to the visceral form where mast cell tumors formed on his internal organs such as his spleen and liver. This stage of the disease is treatable but in most cases not curable. Lando’s surgeon removed what tumors she could then we started him on chemotherapy. From there on my job was to pay attention to Lando’s demeanor and make sure he wasn’t suffering in any way.
Lando as a youngster

Up to his very last day 19-year old Lando remained the head of my cat household. With only a slight grunt he put all the other cats in their places. But that last day I think we both knew it was over. He did not seem to suffer, he ate and drank normally but he wanted something. I don’t even think he knew what it was he wanted he just kept looking for something; something that was just out of reach. He wandered the house determinedly. I took him outside in the sunshine and he took off toward the west. At one point he finally seemed worn out so I took him back inside and held him for the rest of the evening. Sometime during the night he hid himself away in a closet and passed away quietly.

I happily gave Lando that extra time at home and would do it again. In fact, I have done so several times with other cats. On Bluebird’s last night my veterinarian gave me some pain killers that I was able to administer during the night so that Bluebird could be comfortable until I could face facts. Most of that night she slept peacefully in her bed on my lap. I appreciate that little extra time with my sweet girl.

If at some point you face the dilemma of making major choices about your pet’s life please discuss the possibility of hospice care. It just may be that you can spend a little extra time with your pet at home rather than leave him at the hospital. Even if this is not an option and euthanasia is inevitable ask your veterinarian about home euthanasia. Not all veterinarians perform this service but some do. Perhaps your veterinarian can suggest someone.
Effie in her last days

It is not pleasant to think about the final days of our pets but it is inevitable. Our pets’ lives are shorter than ours so we must face up to the fact and make life as comfortable for our pets as we possibly can for as long as we can.

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