As your North Raleigh veterinarians, one of the hardest parts of our job is saying goodbye to and watching families say goodbye to their beloved companions. Unfortunately, end of life care and euthanasia is something that all pet parents must face at some time or other.
North Raleigh Vets Discuss End of Life Care
As much as we as pet parents would like to refuse to discuss the possibility of losing our furry companions, it’s something that we really need to plan ahead for so that we are prepared when the time comes to say goodbye.
What Does “Planning Ahead” Actually Mean?
Firstly, let’s talk about what we mean when we talk about “planning ahead”.
Planning ahead means being prepared for an event that you know is approaching. For example, as the parent of a large breed dog like a Newfoundland, you are likely aware that their life expectancy is somewhere between 8 to 10 years. (This information is based on data collected over the years and can be found in the dog breed life expectancy chart on the AKC website). Of course, there are many other factors that can influence your own dog’s lifespan, but having a figure to reference can help you to prepare for your pet’s senior years as well as their end of life care.
In addition to referencing data, we also recommend monitoring your pet’s quality of life. Noticing changes in quality of life can help you to keep your pet comfortable during their older years as well as to know when they may be declining. As your pet’s quality of life changes, you should consult your North Raleigh veterinarians, but also take the time to think about end-of-life care so that you can plan ahead and not feel rushed or flustered should your pet take a sudden and critical turn for the worst.
What is End of Life Care?
When we talk about end of life care there are a number of components to consider.
There are considerations that are specific to your circumstances. For example, if your cat has cancer and chemotherapy is offered as a treatment plan, is this something that you want to pursue? Is there a point at which this would not be an option for you?
There are some considerations that require you to make difficult decisions. For example, parents of senior pets are often referred to something called a “quality of life scale”. This scale helps to measure the average quality of life of their pet based on a series of subcategories. You can find a copy of the pet quality of life scale on the University of Ohio’s website. By taking daily tallies of your pet’s quality of life using this scale and looking at the average of days each week, you will be able to get an idea of whether or not you should begin considering making that last difficult decision for euthanasia. This requires you to be brutally honest with yourself as you make daily observations – something that is particularly difficult.
There are also the more “obvious” considerations to plan for. These include:
- Where you want euthanasia to take place – do you want your North Raleigh veterinarians to come to you or will you plan to say goodbye in the veterinary hospital?
- Who do you want to be present while you are saying goodbye to your pet? Do you want the whole family with you or do you feel that it’s best not to allow your children to be present?
- If your pet takes a sudden turn for the worst do you have a plan of action? For example, if you are at home and your spouse is at work, does your spouse want you to call them immediately so that they can meet you at your veterinarian’s office?
- Would you like your pet to be cremated after they pass? If so, what type of cremation would you like to have – an individual cremation or a communal cremation?
- Would you like your pet’s ashes returned to you if you choose to have them cremated?
- If you choose to have your pet’s ashes returned to you, do you want to provide your own urn for their ashes? One that has significant meaning to you. If so, you will need to talk with your vet about when and who to deliver that container to.
Why You Should Plan Ahead for End of Life Care For Your Pet
As you can see from some of the questions and considerations above, planning for the end of your pet’s life is certainly not an easy process. In fact, if you’re like every pet lover we know (including ourselves) just reading through these questions brings tears to your eyes. This natural emotional reaction is one of the most important reasons why you need to plan ahead for your pet’s end of life care. When the time comes to say goodbye, your focus is going to be on your pet and your emotions are going to be running high. The last thing that you want to have to do during this time is to have to think about making any major decisions.
Helping You to Plan Ahead
Our North Raleigh veterinarians have some helpful suggestions to help you to plan ahead when it comes to your pet’s end of life care:
- Keep a diary to track your pet’s quality of life scores so that you can look back at any trends in behavior or signs of decline.
- Make decisions ahead of time and talk to your veterinarian about them before the time comes. If this is too difficult, ask your veterinarian if you can write down your wishes and have that information kept in your pet’s file so that they can be referenced later.
- Provide a payment method to be kept on file at your vet’s office so that you don’t have to deal with the crude issue of finances and payments on the day you must say goodbye to your companion.
- If you plan to provide your own urn, research ahead of time so that you can have the container ready when it is needed.
- Find local pet grief support groups and contacts that can help to support you following the loss of your companion.
Have Questions About Your Pet’s End of Life Care?
If you have questions for our North Raleigh veterinarians about your pet’s end of life care, we would be happy to answer them. Give us a call today at (919)870-7000 and let us know how we can help to make this difficult time easier for you.