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Knowing When Hospice Care is Right for your Pet

dogyeye

Welcoming a new pet into your life is easy. Saying goodbye to a pet is truly heartbreaking, especially when you are the one deciding when they make the final transition. For owners, struggling to find the “right” answer can be even more painful than watching your pet suffer, so what is the best way to handle such a tough choice?

There is no right or wrong way, but there is an educated way – and that can make all the difference.

Making Tough Choices About a Sick Pet

No matter how much information and support you have as a pet owner, the decision to euthanize is always a tough one. Pet parents often struggle with the “right time” to let them go, especially if the animal is in a tremendous amount of pain.

“If you have to make some tough choices about a terminally ill or injured pet, it can help to consult with a vet or someone who specializes in hospice or palliative care for pets,” says Dr. Kathleen Cooney, DVM and Owner of Home to Heaven, in-home pet hospice and euthanasia services. “A consult can be so powerful. It helps owners feel calmer, relax about the process, and release fear around what’s to come.”

Aside from being very emotionally invested in the welfare of their pet, Cooney points out that pet owners can sometimes misread fluctuations in the animal’s condition or misinterpret what’s really going on medically. This misunderstanding can make pet owners uneasy, wondering if transition time is close. That’s why she suggests it’s best to have a vet help assess the situation.

“At Home to Heaven, we view euthanasia as relief and death as a side effect. It’s such a personal choice for a pet owner to make, and we want to offer people all the information and support they need to choose what’s best for their pet,” says Cooney. “Educating the family about what is normal or abnormal is one of the most important things we do. The more information a pet owner has, the better decisions they can make.”

“Home to Heaven has vets on call 24 hours a day so clients can call when the moment is close, and we can come to the home and assess the situation thoroughly and with respect,” adds Cooney.

What Pet Owners Need to Know to Prepare for Hospice or Euthanasia

With such a big decision to make and lots of variables to consider, it can help to have a general list of things to think about when considering hospice care for your pet. I’ve listed some key ones here:

What kind of diseases or conditions warrant hospice and/or palliative care?

According to International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, the following conditions often lead to the need for more advanced support:

  • Cancer
  • Organ failure [kidneys, liver and heart are common examples]
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cognitive dysfunction, or dementia
  • Senior pets approaching the end of life
  • Failure to Thrive
  • Any life-limiting condition that is contributing to an excessive burden of caregiving for a family, or treatments/interventions that are unacceptable to the pet

Make plans about how you want to handle a pet’s health situation before a crisis.

When there is a clear plan in place, you can spend time focusing on bonding with your pet, no matter what life brings. If your pet is suddenly facing a life-threatening injury, there’s not a lot of time to make decisions so having a plan in place can really help. Even when diagnosed with a terminal illness, some pets still don’t have a large life window, so a clear plan helps shift focus to the time they have left.

Make sure the family agrees on what needs to be done.

Plans about how you want to help a pet transition are a family decision that should be discussed and shared. Each member of the family has a different connection to the pet, and all opinions should be considered.

Double check medications and doses.

Sometimes the medication dose is insufficient. In fact, it’s a pretty common issue. With some cases, medical conditions can radically improve after an adjustment in medication, and the pet can live for many more months.

A peaceful, natural death still needs to be supported by a vet.

Pain control, management of infections, hygiene and other issues need to be closely monitored to ensure a pain free, peaceful passing.

Why At Home Care is So Powerful

The end of life for a pet is very personal and emotional. The animal has grown with you, shared wonderful memories and is such a large part of your life.

“The focus for Home to Heaven is to provide pet owners with the emotional and medical support they need to help pets through a peaceful transition, while giving them to opportunity to reflect on life with their pet in the comfort of their own home, says Cooney. “Each vet on staff is there to help with the medical assistance necessary, however, we also want to hear the story of your pet’s life and the joy you’ve shared. This is the personal support we truly enjoy providing through at home hospice care.”

If you aren’t sure about how to read some of the signs and symptoms that indicate when your pet is close to passing, check out more detailed information on the Home to Heaven site. Want more information on peaceful, end-of-life care, visit the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care  or look into additional providers in other states.

Photo credit: Talishu

Fort Collins Critter Events April 11th – 18th

Parakeet

Looks like snow is on the way, but hopefully the bright colors of this parakeet will remind you spring will be back again soon! We have a lot of fun events coming up this weekend, including animal first aid training, the long-awaited kitten shower and of course, the Indiana Bones and Raiders of the Lost Bark comedy night to benefit Animal House Rescue! I ‘ll be there ready to laugh and chat with other animal lovers! If you are interested in our feathered friend featured here, check out more details at the Larimer Humane Society.

Saturday, April 12th 

Adoption Event for Animal House Rescue and Grooming 

When:  10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Where: Petco 2211 S College Ave #200, Fort Collins, CO 80525

Pet First Aid Day at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital 

You’ll get great information and tips during morning lectures; in the afternoon, you’ll have hands-on experience with bandaging and CPR. The community symposium is part of National Pet First Aid Awareness month and is organized by the Student Chapter of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society.

To register: email CSUFirstAidDay@gmail.com, or call 303-242-2338.

Cost: is $25

3rd Annual Choice City Comedy Nite: Indiana Bones and Raider’s of the Lost Bark 

When: April 12th from 6:30 – 10: 00 p.m. Silent auction ends at 8 p.m.

Where: Lincoln Center for the Performing and Visual Arts, 417 W Magnolia St, Fort Collins, CO 80521

This unique fundraising event will feature national and local comedians, music, heavy hor d’oeuvres, cash bar, giveaways, prizes, success stories from local adopters, and of course some adorable puppies!  This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Animal House Rescue and Grooming. All proceeds go to animals!

Sunday, April 13th

Kitten Shower Fundraiser hosted by the Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic 

When: 2 – 4 p.m.

Where: At the shelter, located at 2321 E. Mulberry St. #1

Cost: Free!

There will be party games, snacks, drinks and cute kittens to visit! Guests are encouraged to donate or bring gifts of supplies to shelter to prepare for spring litters of homeless and unwanted kittens.

Animal Afternoon 

When: 3 – 4 p.m.

Where: Council Tree Library

Join Larimer Animal People Partnership volunteers and their special story-loving critters. Enjoy good books and the opportunity to read to friendly animals. For children in grades K-5.

Wednesday April 16th

Late opening for the Larimer Humane Society due to a staff meeting. Doors will be open to the public at noon.

Save the Date:

Saturday, April 19th 

When: Saturday, April 19, 2014, 8 a.m .– 4 p.m.

Colorado State University Vet Teaching Hospital Community Goat Symposium

If you’re a backyard goat farmer, plan to attend CSU’s first Community Goat Symposium on April 19. Gain vital information about goat health, husbandry and licensing requirements for city ownership. Presentations will be equally useful for larger and established goat farmers. The symposium is free and open to the public; it will be in the CSU Diagnostic Medicine Center.  The event is sponsored by the CSU student chapter of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners! Additional information on the event is available here.

All About Greyhounds and a Forever Home Story

BeylaFanClub

April is National Greyhound Adoption month! Coincidentally, I contacted my friends Maggie and Bryan Dennis to see if they wanted to share the story of their greyhounds Beyla and Astro, without even realizing the synchronicity. I guess these lucky pups were meant to be featured as cool local pets that find loving forever homes!

I stopped by the Dennis’ historic home in Old Town for a family visit and to learn more about how greyhounds became an integral part of their life. From what I understand it’s really hard just to have one, especially once you fall in love with the breed like Maggie and Bryan have done over the last decade. Greyhounds also do better with a “buddy”.

Both dogs greeted me with lots of love and excitement that quickly died down once they noticed I was sticking around. Maggie is working on training, and it definitely shows. With dogs that have been bred as athletes and trained to race and compete, it’s really important for owners to put the time into training them in the art of social visits.

Why Greyhound Rescues are so Important

Greyhound racing is very similar to horse racing and the mentality around how the animals are bred for sport and money making. The sole focus and purpose for the dog is to win. Most dogs race for about three seasons depending on their performance and then retire, but they sometimes have racing related injuries or are a bit “worn out” from such an intensely physical lifestyle.

This is why most greyhounds show up at adoption organizations; no longer fit to race so they are just seen as an extra expense. It’s also why the dogs need to be tested to see if they are “pet-friendly” before adoption. With such in-bred characteristics paired with competitive training, it can be a bit of an adjustment for dogs to not race and chase!

“I can’t say enough great things about Colorado Greyhound Adoption, says Maggie. “The work they do to get greyhounds into healthy loving homes is amazing, and they cover any and all medical expenses required to make sure a dog is adoptable. They also do a home visit to ensure you are a ‘fit’ parent and that your home environment will be a good one for the dog.”

Halley&Odin

Halley and Oden, the first greyhounds in the family!

10 Years of Greyhounds and Counting

Maggie and Bryan adopted their first greyhound named Halley while living in Virginia. She was a retired race dog that lived a very long healthy life with them, and she even naturally trained their second adopted greyhound, Odin. When Halley became ill and passed away, Odin had a hard time being without her so they adopted Beyla, a young healthy retired racing greyhound. Once Odin passed, they adopted Astro.

The couple didn’t set out to only have greyhounds, but the more they got involved with the adoption organization and learned so much about the breed, it’s sort of snowballed on it’s own. “Now that we’ve had a lot of time to connect with the breed, get familiar with their quirks and know how to manage special needs, Maggie and I are confident we can provide them with a good, quality life,” says Bryan.

Miss Beyla and Astro the Wonder Pup

Astro&Beyla

Astro is the black male greyhound and Beyla is the light, creamy female.

Beyla is about five years old. She’s smart, quick and a bit on the bulkier side as an officially retired race dog (compared to Astro who never trained). Beyla is also very affectionate (she tried to sit in my lap in addition to some drive by kisses), and has made fast friends with her little brother Astro. Despite some health challenges that are now being treated, she has settled in as the playful older sister (even if she is picking up some bad habits from her younger brother).

coybeyla

 

beylaandbryansfeet

Astro, the younger black colored greyhound at two and ½ years, is so agile and balanced, I didn’t even realize he was missing a hind leg until I turned around to settle on the couch. He was born with a condition that caused the femur in his hind leg grow in an S-shape, leaving the leg lame and unable to touch the ground. The breeder was clearly unable to race Astro, and was encouraged by a fellow breeder to take him to Colorado Greyhound Adoption. The organization took care of all Astro’s medical expenses while he was in foster care, including removing the leg, which was the best way for him to have a normal life and move more freely with ease.

astroplaying

Astro loves playing, and starts to get ramped up as he nibbles on Bryan.

Both Beyla and Astro are so friendly and curious. I was rewarded with many “drive-by” pets and snuggles, which was fine by me, and their deep, sweet, human-like eyes just pulled me right in! They are bit little tricky to capture in a photo – they seem to know exactly when you are getting ready to capture their cuteness and take off – but I had fun trying. It was great to connect with these dogs and see how they have a second chance at a forever home with a family that not only loves them, but honors all aspects of their breed.

Great Medical Care for Greyhounds in Colorado

Colorado, and Fort Collins specifically, is a great place to own a retired greyhound because of a little-know tidbit that Maggie and Bryan revealed during our visit.

“When the Cloverleaf dog racing track was still in operation, Colorado State Veterinary School used to practice caring for the dogs. This enabled them to gather a lot of special information about the breed and how to care for them properly,” says Maggie. “Alameada East is a neurological vet in Denver that is also great with greyhounds, and has helped Beyla with some of her current health issues,” adds Bryan. “We are just lucky to have great care that’s so close to home.”

Dog racing is now officially outlawed in Colorado (Yay!) but still active in Florida, Texas and a few other states. That means there is still work to do in educating people about the impact of puppy mills and forcing dogs into a life of racing.

Check out Colorado Greyhound Adoption or see their Facebook page if you are interested in learning more about how you can help, or to learn more about the breed, visit the The Greyhound Project website.

Here’s a cute YouTube video to promote Adopt a Greyhound Month! It’s cute…enjoy!

 

Fort Collins Critter Events April 4th – April 11th

Kobethedog

Holy packed week! There are tons of great events happening in the next few days and even more “Save the Dates” to add to your calendar. Today’s featured adoptable is Kobe, a Chihuahua Longhair Mix that’s just shy of 2 years old. You can meet this little goofy guy at the Larimer Humane Society and see if his forever home is with you.

Friday, April 4th and Saturday the 5th

35th Annual Colorado State University Teaching Hospital Open House 

Visitors will take part in hospital tours, demonstrations and veterinary talks about caring for companion animals. A schedule of events is available at the link.

When:

Friday: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Saturday: 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Where: 300 W. Drake Road in Fort Collins at the vet hospital

Cost: Free!

Saturday, April 5th 

Kitten Shower!

Kitten season is here, which means that fostering cats is one of the best ways to help shelters manage the big influx of new arrivals. If you are interested in fostering, check out the training hosted by Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic.

When: 6 – 7 p.m.

Where: 2321 E. Mulberry Street, Fort Collins

The FCCRSNC is also having a low-cost vaccine clinic on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Sunday, April 6th 

Free Art Afternoon for Kiddos to Celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week: Sponsored by Larimer Humane Society and Fort Collins Cat Rescue & Spay/Neuter Clinic

When: April 6th from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Where: Art Lab, 239 Linden Street Fort Collins, 80524

Cost: Free, but you do have to sign up  http://vols.pt/BCCLfP. All you need to do is enter your email address, not register for an account and then you will get an automated response.

To commemorate “Be Kind to Animals Week” (May 5-11), young artists are encouraged to submit posters related to the theme “Love a Shelter Pet” by April 11. Larimer Humane Society and Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic are hosting a free art afternoon at ArtLab Fort Collins where children ages K-5th grade and their families are invited to have some creative fun making posters for the contest while also learning about how to help shelter animals. Light refreshments will be served, and children may bring their own art supplies, but materials will also be made available.

Children do not have to attend the ArtLab event to enter the contest but can also submit posters they make at home or school. For complete entry guidelines contact either of the sponsor organizations to learn more. Posters must be dropped off by April 11 at Fort Collins Cat Rescue & Spay/Neuter Clinic (2321 E. Mulberry St. #1, Fort Collins) or the Loveland Cat Adoption & Resource Center (621 E. Eisenhower Blvd., Loveland).

Animal Afternoon 

Join Larimer Animal People Partnership volunteers and their special story-loving critters. Enjoy good books and the opportunity to read to friendly animals. For children in grades K-5.

When: 3 – 4 p.m.

Where: Old Town Library

Monday, April 7th

After School Farm Class – Laughing Buck Farm

The focus for April is animal care, horse care and riding,  Of course there will also be time for chasing chickens, hugging goats and swinging in the hay barn!  In the garden we will be prepping garden beds and sowing early start seeds.. RSVP and send half deposit to hold spot.

When: April 7th, 9th and 14th

Where: Laughing Buck Farm

Cost: $65, send half of the deposit to hold a spot

Tuesday, April 8th 

Class for Potential Chicken Owners 

Interested in owning chickens? Learn more at a talk Poultry and Public Health: Healthy Living with Chickens hosted by Kristy Pabilonia, DVM from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. You can also watch online: http://connect.extension.iastate.edu/colofood

When: 3 – 4 p.m.

Where: Drake Center Banquet Room, 802 West Drake Road

The Fort Collins Cat Rescue Spay/Neuter Clinic and Low Cost Vaccine Clinic 

When: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Where: 2321 E Mulberry Street Unit 9

Wednesday, April 9th 

Raptors at the Library

Celebrate Earth Day and Raptors. The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program will be talking about raptors and bringing in some birds for the talk.

When: 6:30 p.m.

Where: Council Tree Library

Save the Date:

3rd Annual Choice City Comedy Nite: Indiana Bones and Raider’s of the Lost Bark 

This unique fundraising event will feature national and local comedians, music, heavy hor d’oeuvres, cash bar, giveaways, prizes, success stories from local adopters, and of course some adorable puppies!  This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Animal House Rescue & Grooming. The animals and people we serve need your support to make it a success, and all proceeds go to animals!

When: April 12th from 6:30 – 10: 00 p.m. Silent auction ends at 8 p.m.

Where: Lincoln Center for the Performing and Visual Arts, 417 W Magnolia St, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Kitten Shower Fundraiser hosted by the Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic 

There will be party games, snacks, drinks and cute kittens to visit! Guests are encouraged to donate or bring gifts of supplies to shelter to prepare for spring litters of homeless and unwanted kittens.

When: 2 – 4 p.m.

Where: At the shelter, located at 2321 E. Mulberry St. #1

Cost: Free!

 

 

 

 

Essential Oils for Animals

Horseswithbarn

Essential oils are an effective, natural alternative for treating a variety of health challenges and long-term illnesses, but would you use them on your pet? Do you trust they work as effectively as medical treatments? Or, would you use essential oils only after traditional medical options failed?

Essential oils are a bit of a controversial topic among vets, mainly because the impact of their use isn’t thoroughly tested. There is also a bit of murkiness regarding label wording and FDA approval (especially if it’s qualified as a fragrance or food instead of an actual drug.) However, some vets (and lots of people) swear by them, using them in combination with other therapies to maximize the health impacts for pet patients.

To learn more about essential oil basics, and move past strictly online opinions, I talked with Margy Mazur, local essential oils expert. She currently hosts a local Meetup called Aromatherapy and Essential Oils,  helping educate people on the most important things to know when choosing and using essential oil therapy for themselves or pets. Mazur has also successfully treated her horses, dogs and cats for years using essential oils.

Essential Oil Basics and What you Need to Know Before you Purchase

“The first, most important thing people need to know about any essential oil they purchase is the quality. Pure, therapeutic grade is best, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a quality oil. Some products will list pure as part of the labeling, but unless it says 100% pure, there is no way of knowing the purity percentage – and that directly impacts effectiveness,” says Mazur.

Mazur also mentioned that the distillation process is the most critical piece of the development process. If an essential oil is not distilled at the right temperature, or if a company uses a chemical to (extract) more from the raw ingredients, it can deeply impact the quality and effectiveness of the oil.

“Any extras used in distillation also transfer to the oil and are absorbed by the body or animal. The oil needs to be handled in a pure environment from ‘seed to seal’ in order to be considered 100% pure,” adds Mazur. What does that really mean? That a company must oversee every step in the oil creation process, starting with making sure the raw material is organically grown, using no pesticides, and has vigilant quality control throughout the development process.

Mazur also mentioned that one to two drops of essential oil is all that’s necessary on animals, as they respond much more quickly to the treatment than humans. “That’s why a lot of common animal treatments are blends, so you can get more of a “punch” without having to apply several different oils in one sitting. Animals don’t tend to enjoy that! You can also apply essential oils as a spray, which is perfect for treating hot spots that need healing but are raw to the touch,” adds Mazur. “Just remember to cover the animals eyes and membranes, or spray on your hands then rub on the animal.”

healingkitty

Common Essential Oils to Use Safely on Pets

If using essential oils as part of your pet’s regular health care regimen sounds intriguing, there are some basics Mazur shared that are great for everyday pet care or for treating long-term conditions safely. She has sold Young Living Essential Oils for years, but these combinations can work with any high-quality essential oil.

This natural flea and tick protector is good for 30 days. Take a cloth collar and soak it in this mixture:

  • Half tsp alcohol or vodka for a base
  • Drop of cedarwood
  • 3 drops purification (if you want to blend your own purification, here is what’s in it- Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Melaleuca (Melaleuca alternifolia) lavandin (Lavandula x hybrida), and myrtle (Myrtus communis).
  • 2 drops lavender
  • 2 drops citronella
  • 1 drop thyme
  • 3 drops of orange oil

If you are interested in putting together a essential oil first-aid kit for your pet, here are some suggestions. Dr. Mary Elizabeth Hess is a holistic veterinarian who also uses the Young Living brand, and has seen great success with animals. The Young Living site is very informative, letting you search for each blend  and also providing the specific ingredients so you know exactly what you putting on your pet. Here are the essential oils that are good for everyday pet care.

  • Peace and calming blend for travel anxiety, going to the vet, or treating a herd animal in the road
  • DiGize for gastrointestinal problems
  • Purification to help with fleas and ticks and other parasites
  • RC respiratory connection for urinary and bladder issues
  • Theives for dental issues or gum problemss or wounds
  • Panaway for aches and joints issues
  • Salve blend to help coat an open wound
  • Animal Scents ointment; acts as a seal on a wound until you can get to medical attention

Lavender is also good all purpose solution that really helps with injuries while hiking or riding, repels parasites and helps shrink tumors, and helps with lacerations or burns, so it’s good to have on hand.

dogpaw

If you are interested in learning more, Hess has a book that includes insight on the best places to apply essential oils on animals, including, how to put oils on the paws, hind legs, as well as which area of the paw represents a different health issue and what point works best to treat it. Cats are especially sensitive, as their liver processes things differently than other animals, so be extra careful when working with them, but essential oils care really work on any animal, when applied in the proper doses on the right spots. Melissa Shelton, doctor of veterinary medicine has a book called the Animal Desk Reference about essential oils for animals and it addresses everything – birds, cows, horses and more, if you wanted more specific insights.

If you are considering blending your own oils, Mazur suggests you take a class or do thorough research before using them on your animal. The potency of a blend is very important to get right, and that isn’t something that can be “guessed”.

Clearly there is WAY more to cover that I’m able to write about in one post, so it pays to learn more on your own. If you would like to check out other essential oil companies, doTerra Essential Oils are also considered high-quality, or ask your vet for some suggestions.

Additional resources for reference: 

http://www.optimalhealthnetwork.com/FDA-Approved-for-Internal-Consumption-s/745.htm

http://simplelifeabundantlife.com/2013/10/15/essential-oils-therapeutic-grade-fda-approved-organic/

http://www.abundanthealth4u.com/Animal_Care_s/35.htm

Photo credit: Horses: Evan LeesonDog paw: Angelica Portales Cat: Ellie