questions?

Assessment.

I already feel terrible but my pet hasn’t died yet. What is wrong with me?

What you are feeling has a name few people know.  It is called anticipatory grief. There are many feelings with this type of “pre grief”. You have conflicting thoughts and the future, present and past get mixed up.  If your pet has been slowly failing you may feel so strange about each day. You may feel dizzy with so many feelings seeming to fight against one another. You may wish for your pet to just die so that you can get some relief.  You may feel guilty that you feel that way. You may wish for your pet to die so they won’t suffer anymore. You may feel guilty for feeling that way as well because you know the time remaining is precious and that these emotions are getting in the way of enjoying what time is left.  You may keep your feelings to yourself because of the social stigma of being upset over “just an animal” or you may keep your feelings to yourself because your pet is still living. Carrying all these feelings is toxic. The more you talk to people about what your feeling the lighter the shared burden becomes.  There are lots of resources. The only failure is not reaching out.

I don’t want to see my pet suffer it breaks my heart. What should I do?

Would you put your pet in the closet and not check on them?  Really! What a selfish question. Just because you don’t see suffering doesn’t mean that it is not happening.  At the end your pet needs you now more than ever. Suffering in this world is inevitable but companionship through suffering is as important in pets as it is in people.  Remember that while living this is still the pet you love and have loved. It is hard not to withdraw. However, this is a struggle at the end of which you may find peace.

I trust my vet and she says that there is nothing more that she can do to help my pet. How can I be sure that there is nothing else to be done?

We find that most veterinarians are usually willing to assist clients in obtain second opinions to assure the best possible treatment options.  If your feel your veterinarian is one of the few vets who’s feelings may be hurt if you seek a second opinion, weather a specialist or generalist, then that may be sign that you really need another opinion.  Medicine, like all other sciences, works best when there is collaboration.

No one really understands what my pet really means to me how will I be able to continue to live?

The pain that comes from losing a friend that you have bonded strongly with is real.  Being cut off from the love that you shared is excruciating. If you have never experienced this kind of pain it can not be described to you.  The breaking of these bonds are actually breaking is you.  You are you because they are part of you. Without them you can’t be you anymore.  The analogy that makes sense, is like trying to break 2 part epoxy after it has cured.  No one may completely understand the bond that you and your pet shared. However, there are many that understand the pain of broken bonds.  I continue to be amazed by the grace that I see extended in times of need.  Reach out your open hand.  Ask for help.  No one heals alone.  The same open hand can give and receive.  As you heal you may help someone else heal also. Here are some resources.

One of my family members is pressuring me to decide to put our pet to sleep, but I think they don’t know him as well as I. What do I do?

Because your pet may have a different bond with the members of its family there is potential for conflict when making decisions about how and when to say goodbye.  Typically, family pets have one primary caregiver. That person usually has the best understanding of the pet’s health and how they are living their lives. Often, disputes arise when a family member or friend has a strong emotional bond to the pet, but not involved in care.  In these cases family counseling and veterinary consultation can be beneficial so that additional perspective can be added to what will be best for the pet.

Shouldn’t I pursue every possible treatment available for my pet?

General practice, surgeons, and specialist veterinarians are dedicated to extending the life of your pet.  Veterinarians, by virtue of their knowledge, training, and experience are able to identify and offer options for treatment. While those options may offer some degree of life extension the quality of life contained within that window of time may not be optimal or useful.  Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should.  You are bonded with your pet. Nobody else knows better than you what your pet would want. You know who they are and what they need. If they are telling you they want to continue treatment tell your Veterinarian how they feel.   If they are telling you that they want to stop treatment and rest you need to tell your veterinarian it is time to stop, and talk about, palliative care, hospice supported natural death, or euthanasia.

What do I do If my pet starts failing faster than expected?

Existing clients should set up a phone consult as soon as worsening of symptoms or change in activity levels.  New clients should set up an appointment with us or their regular veterinarian for guidance. If your friend quickly starts to suffer and you have have not had a chance to make prior arrangements help is available through several Emergency and 24 hour hospitals we are blessed with in the OKC metro area.  Just Google 24 hour emergency hospital to find the one nearest you.

What is a good day calendar?

Many a pet caregiver has found that one of the best ways to evaluate how your friends life is really going is for you to keep a calendar for them.  Some caregivers choose to write notes for each day.  Others who are looking for simplicity choose to reflect for a moment each day on overall how that day was received.  Was the average for the day good?  Then it is recorded as a “good day”    Mark your pets calendar a calendar with a happy face or a sad face or use green or red or some other creative visual way.  You will find what works for you.  Looking back at the calendar can help your family see trends and  what a good day would be for your pet, and also what a bad day looks like.

What is a quality of life assessment?

A quality of life assessment is a test or score card bringing some objectivity to the very subjective topic of “how is my pet really doing”  Our Quiz will help you think about some things that your pet is doing or not doing anymore that indicate how well she is living live.  Remember that things change on a day to day basis.  These assessments are usually not clearly black or white.    Here is another really good one from the OTHER OSU Veterinary Medical Center

What is palliative care?

In medicine the change to a palliative mindset is an acceptance.  If affirms that although the body is failing and will fail soon there are strategies to make every remaining day the best it can be.  Palliative care helps us feel better in the face of worsening disease. It helps pets move, helps them eat, helps them rest, helps them interact with you and others that they love.

What signs of failure do I look for?

Lack of Coordination

If your pet becomes unsteady, has trouble standing, and their balance is off, that is a sign of weakness or nervous system failure.  Often, older pets have arthritis and when disease causes weakness on top of arthritis, the symptoms can be quite obvious.  Your pet may know that they are unable to move well and will choose to stay down, unless the motivation to move is very high.

Fatigue and Weakness

An animal nearing the end may not have much energy to move.  They will stay in one spot and not even get up to eat, drink, or for purposes of elimination. 

Complete Loss of Appetite

Your pet may sit at the food bowl and look at their food or water but not eat or eat only very little.  Sometimes if he eats he may only be able to keep the food down for a short while before vomiting it up.

Vomiting

Although vomiting happens for many reasons and can happen in very healthy pets.  Lots of chronic vomiting may mean that your pet has a serious health problem.  In many deadly disease this type of vomiting is seen.  Vomiting can be caused by biochemical and toxic changes in the body such as when the kidneys shut down and nitrogen wastes start to build up in the blood.  It can also be a physical intestinal problem like cancer or foreign material obstructing the intestinal flow.  Continued vomiting can lead to electrolyte imbalances which when severe can shut off the heart.

Incontinence

Pets that are terminally ill frequently do not have the energy to control their urine or fecal output.   They may have some control of their sphincters but be unable to rise to make it outside. During this time it is important to help keep them clean and dry.  There may need to be frequent changes of bedding or potty pads.

Lack of awareness

As with people “as death nears” many pets will keep to themselves and retract into an inner world.   They may act like or be unable to see or hear you if you call.

Shortness of breath.

There are many conditions near death that manifest with difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.  If a pet is loosing or not making enough blood as the body becomes more and more depleted of oxygen the respiratory rate is increased to try to keep every last red blood cell oxygenated to the maximum.  If there is fluid in the lungs from heart disease the fluid will become harder and harder to breathe through. Your pet may cough to try and get this fluid out of the lungs. Sometimes cancer or abdominal disease can put pressure on the lungs making it impossible for them to fill adequately. All of these are signs of end of life.

Euthanasia.

How do the medications work?

Like all barbiturates Beuthanasia-d is an agonist of the GABAA receptors.  Gaba is the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system of mammals.  This means that at high concentrations Beuthanasia-d causes death by shutting down the nervous system.  The nervous system is in charge regulation of most body systems.

How long will the Euthanasia medication take to work?

Beuthanasia-d is a barbiturate anesthesia which causes loss of consciousness and cessation of heart pumping at the doses we administer.   This effect is concentration dependent.  Another way of saying this is that the levels of drug are so active in the injection the affect is extremely quick, typically less than one minute.  By way of example, the active ingredient, pentobarbital, is sometimes used as a sedative, hypnotic for short term, preanesthetic and control of convulsions in emergencies.  The only difference between these effects and euthanasia is quantity administered.

Should my children be present during euthanasia?

The death of a pet may be one of your child’s first experiences with death.  As with many first experiences, children need adults to guide and give example.  Have discussions with your child about what is happening to your pet as she ages long before the day comes for euthanasia.  We recommend that you speak honestly with them about your concerns and hopes. This dialog will help your family start to process the loss and come to an understanding of your values.  In a very individual and personal way you can do your part in conditioning our culture to appreciate and understand the grieving process. After discussion give your child the choice to be present or not during euthanasia.  They have the right to say how they want to say goodbye.

What are the medications used in euthanasia?

Although Beuthanasia-D Special, when given by itself with the IV route of administration offers completely approved, painless, and humane death, it is our standard practice to give pre Beuthanasia sedatives. These sedatives may be given subcutaneously, intramuscularly, intravenously, or in special cases (like reptiles and exotics) inhaled.

There are several sedative drug options and options for routes of administration Your veterinarian will know which ones will be best for your friend.

What happens to my pets soul after they die? Do pets have a soul?

We at Pets at Peace believe that pets do have a soul.  The Bible is silent on what happens to pets when they die.  However, it is clear that there will be animals in heaven. There are many verses to corroborate this.  Like Isaiah 11 6-9

What if I change my mind after the medications have been given?

Because of the speed of nervous system shutdown and the high concentration after the drug enters the circulatory system death is certain.  The decision to Euthanize may be questioned after death.  This questioning is often a natural part of the grieving process.  However, just as with natural death acceptance is the only way forward.

What is a euthanasia authorization forum and why does it ask of my pet has bitten anyone recently?

In order to avoid misunderstandings about euthanasia and to have documentation that the owner of the pet has given permission to the attending veterinarian or registered veterinary technician it is typical for an authorization to be signed by the owner of the pet.

Historically observation of a potentially rabid animal for 10 days after they have bitten has been a very helpful diagnostic tool.  This is because an animal that is infected with rabies nearly always shows clinical signs of the disease in the 10 day period after infection.  Euthanasia eliminates the potential use of this tool.  Rabies causes excruciating suffering coupled with a hopeless death sentence.  It is for this reason that public health officials have enacted protocols requiring discovery of bites on euthanasia authorization.  The document that Paws at Peace requires can be found here for clients wishing to review it.

What will happen to my pets body after they have passed?

 As your pet’s blood stops flowing and the brain signals stop, the body no longer contains their spirit.  It is just the vessel they once used.  We must help that vessel become the individual elements once again.  As with our bodies there are many options for this transformation for pets as well.  The Oklahoma City area is blessed with many funerary options, for those who do not want home burial. There are pet cemeteries, cremation companies, and funeral options.  These are professionals who can help honor the memory of your pet with respect and dignity.

When my pet passed her eyes did not close. Is this normal?

Yes, The closing of the eyelids takes muscle activity.  Therefore, the state of the eyes when there is no neural activity is with the eyes open, fixed (not moving) and the pupils completely dilated.  So when the pet dies the eyes stay open.  Humans that have recently died also stay open and this is where the practice of putting coins on the closed eyes originated to help put weight on the closed eyelids so they would stay closed.