Geriatric Pet Care
As pets enter the “Golden Years” of life it can become stressful and difficult to transport them to their regular vet. Large breed dogs, in particular, may have great difficulty getting up and into a vehicle for transport. Smaller animals may also become extremely scared or panicked as their senses of sight and hearing become compromised with age. By coming to you during this stage of your pet’s life, we can help assure that your pet has the medical attention and routine wellness care needed to provide maximum health and quality of life for as long as possible.
We encourage owners with aging pets starting to have mobility issues to contact us as soon as possible as early intervention can result in greater results and may affect longevity. We offer medical (drug) and alternative (cold laser therapy) for pain management and in some cases may refer you for acupuncture or chiropractic or other holistic care that has proven beneficial in many pets.
During a senior exam, we will meet in a comfortable area in your home and we want to gather as much information as you and your current veterinarian can provide so that we understand all of his or her needs and care. So having prior medical and vaccination history is very important. You can fax (preferably) this to us in advance of a visit or provide it during our initial meeting. We will perform a comprehensive exam for our own records and then discuss recommendation and options for continued care. Often at this stage of life we can work in concert with your regular veterinarian for basic needs that are more easily met at home. If your pet develops an illness requiring more advanced care or diagnostics, and/or hospitalization we will refer you to your regular (or nearby) vet.
As pets enter their senior years, we will discuss current recommendations for continued vaccinations and wellness care based on their lifestyle, individual risks, and medical issues of the pet. We follow the guidelines of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Feline Practitioners Association (AFPA). So having prior vaccine and medical history from your existing and/or prior veterinarians helps us to make the best recommendations. We encourage you to contact these vets and have them fax the records to 321-241-4363 in advance of the appointment.
Heartworm and Laboratory Testing:
Hopefully as a resident of Florida you already have your pet (dogs and cats) on heartworm prevention. Heartworm disease is a growing concern all over the US, but with our warm weather and typical humidity mosquito populations can be very problematic. Additionally, it has been recently confirmed that populations of heartworms exist that are resistant to current heartworm preventatives. Since this disease is deadly left untreated (and could impact even elderly pets) we do require yearly heartworm testing in order to purchase heartworm preventatives online (we do not carry them for purchase).
If a pet as a medical issue that is not in urgent need of medical attention, we may be able to conduct the appropriate testing. For most of our laboratory testing we use Antech Diagnostics via courier service. Such testing includes routine senior blood work and urinalysis, monitoring blood work (CBC, Chemistry, thyroid testing), and evaluation ear/skin issues and skin masses. But in some cases it may be required to refer to a standing practice for additional or immediate workup or care. Medical issues that can often be treated in the home include thyroid testing, monitoring blood work for STABLE diabetics, and liver and kidney checks for pets on chronic medications.
Please be sure to notify us in advance if they may be excessively nervous, aggressive or may bite.
Please let us know if they are difficult to handle. Also be sure to have them confined in a location for easy “capture”(like a bathroom), otherwise we may not be able to proceed with our appointment.
One more thing.
Dr. Craig generally works alone. However, when we do schedule wellness visits for seniors we may need to do so on a day when she can bring along a tech to help. Please advise when you schedule the appointment if you cannot assist in restraint or if extra hands to hold are needed. Otherwise we may not be able to achieve our appointment objective.
Palliative and Hospice Care
As with human hospice, pet hospice aims to meet the physical and emotional needs of a pet nearing the end of natural life or with a terminal illness. It also strives to support the family at this difficult time. Hospice functions on the principle that death is a part of life…part of the journey we all must take. Our goal is to allow this journey to be pain free and with improved quality of life until the time comes to pass with dignity.
During our visits we try to use our time to gather as much information as possible about the pet and the family’s situation. We will also perform an exam on the pet to establish a baseline for his/her current state of health. The goal is to assess and improve quality of life for the pet and family so that as much time as possible with your pet is enabled. Often times a visit may last an hour or more, so setting aside enough time for our visit will allow us to establish your goals and help you care for your pet. It is also important that all family members that have a hand in caring for the pet are present so that we can gather input from everyone. Having any prior medical records from your regular veterinarian will also help us determine the best course of treatments for achieving our goals.
Another situation that I encounter from time to time is owners that do not believe in euthanasia. Because we as humans have the ability to humanely end the suffering of our companions does not mean it is the right decision for everyone. I do not feel it is my right to judge others’ beliefs but instead strive to help with providing adequate comfort and pain relief to the animal. I will discuss openly with you what I feel is possible to this end. And again I will refer you to other professionals as needed.
Services that may be utilized during hospice care include:
- Prescription and management of appropriate pain medications
- Recommendation of Home Diet that may help with specialized nutritional needs
- Use of Quality of Life Guidelines to help assess an individual’s situation
- Developing methods for mental stimulation
- Administration of (and/or instruction to owners) subcutaneous fluids for hydration maintenance
- Placement of feeding tubes to aid in continued nutrition (this may require referral/transport to a standing facility)
- Cold Laser Therapy as an alternate or additive means of pain management
- Recommendations and acquisition of carts to facilitate patient mobility
- Counseling on the on-going hospice process and deciding when “it is time” to let go
Our goal is to support you and your family through the natural ups and downs of this stage of your pet’s life. Eventually the hospice stage will transition to the point of natural death or euthanasia. We are here to help you with this transition and may refer you to professionals to help where we cannot.
End-of-Life decisions are the hardest decisions pet parents face. It is equally one of the kindest gifts we can give to our pets to allow them to pass in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by those that love them the most.
Often times an owner may schedule a visit with the intention of euthanasia, when it may be possible to instead initiate hospice care. Obviously the sooner we are notified of such a debilitating illness, the better our chances are of improving quality of life for what time is left. We are happy to discuss the possibility of choosing this course of treatment, but we will also be very honest in our assessment of the pet’s condition.
If the decision has been made to proceed with the euthanasia, we aim to make the experience as peaceful as possible and will proceed at a pace that is comfortable and unrushed for all involved. We suggest that in advance of our arrival you consider the following options:
- Where do you want to say goodbye? (inside, outside, at a favorite place)
- Who do you want to be present?(family, friends, children, other pets)
- What are your aftercare wishes?(home burial, cremation with or without the
return of ashes)
- How can I remember/honor my pet? (clay paw prints, memorial plaques, jewelry)
- Would you like a memorial service during or after the euthanasia?
When the appointment is scheduled, an estimate of costs will be provided by the receptionist, and then upon our arrival we will take care of all expenses. (If you prefer to take care of expenses before arrival, be sure to let the staff know when you are making the appointment.) If you are uncertain about an urn, we can review this at the time, or you may visit The Pet Loss Center for options in advance. Then we will begin the preparations for the euthanasia.
We recommend that you have an area already chosen (inside or outside) that is comfortable for you and your pet. We sedate all animals with an injection under the skin so that they do not experience any anxiety and slowly fall asleep in the comfort of the home surrounded by their loved ones. In general the sedation takes about 5 to 10 minutes to take effect. Once the pet is asleep we will then establish intravenous access in a convenient leg where we will give a final injection that will stop the heart. This final step is usually a quick process lasting only a few minutes. It is a very emotional experience for all involved and we understand this may be difficult for you. We will do all we can to provide you and your pet respect and comfort at this difficult time.
After the passing of your pet, we will provide an impression of your pet’s paw at no additional charge if you desire. We will leave the impression with instructions on how to bake and harden.
For those wishing cremation for the pet, we want you to have the peace of mind in knowing that we only use the services of The Pet Loss Center of Melbourne, FL. We will transport your departed pet to The Pet Loss Center for the cremation service you select. The options are as follows:
- Communal Cremation: multiple animals are cremated together and the remains are scattered in a designated area. With this method, there is no way to have any portion of your pets ashes returned to you.
- Private Cremation: pets are cremated individually and remains are placed in an urn of your choosing. We assure you that there is no possibility of mixing of remains with other pets. In general, owners pick up their pets remains once they have been cremated, but a home delivery may be scheduled for an additional fee. We can review urn options in advance or at the time of the euthanasia.
The Pet Loss Center will treat you and your pet with the compassion and respect any family should be given upon the death of a very special member of the family. They will help to guide you through the grief process that follows such a loss and provide you with many options for memorializing your beloved companion, including memorial service options, urns for your pet’s ashes and personalized memorial pieces. We encourage you to visit their website for additional information.
If your pet passes away at home, you may also contact The Pet Loss Center to arrange for aftercare. Their phone number is 321-821-4871.