Caring for a Terminally Ill Pet at Home : Things You Can DoFeb 02, 2015 05:26PM ● By Nicole Miale
Conventional AVMA guidelines on veterinary hospice emphasize pain management, nutrition therapy and subcutaneous hydration therapy as the primary tools for palliative care of terminally ill animals, whether they are at home or in a clinical setting. In addition, there are adjunctive modalities you and your veterinarian may consider. Some of these are not well documented in treatment of animals but are known to provide comfort, peace and even pain relief for people dying in hospice. Mary Craig of Gentle Goodbye in Stamford and Dale Krier of Creature Comforts Mobile Veterinary Service in Sherman provide interested patients with referrals for some services and are supportive of alternative modalities without being skilled in offering them themselves.
Above all, Craig emphasizes the importance of managing the level of pain an animal may be experiencing by using whatever techniques may be appropriate. “Pain is not something any animal should have to endure for a period of time,” she says. “Because animals live in the moment, if they’re in pain, that is all they know. The idea haunts me; I never want that to happen on my watch.” She says there are many types and levels of pain relief to be tried and monitoring the animal’s state is critical. Craig provides clients with scales to use to assess their animal’s condition in an objective way so they can proactively manage a deteriorating situation.
In addition to medication which may be given, the following adjunctive modalities may help:
Acupuncture - Acupuncture is a pain-free process and gently provides relief for a variety of issues and conditions in animals of all ages and sizes. Several animal hospitals in Fairfield County have a certified animal acupuncturist onsite or on call (call your local veterinarian for a referral) and nearby Smith Ridge Animal Hospital in South Salem, New York, offers this service as well.
Massage and Energy Healing - Gentle, soothing touch can be calming and soothing for a sick animal. However, an animal’s tolerance for touch may decrease depending on the illness; pay close attention to body cues – flinching or flickering indicate sensitivity – or sounds the animal may make while providing hands-on touch. For some animals toward the end, it may be too painful for firmer touch, but light touch may still be tolerated and/or comforting. At these later stages, more subtle forms of energy healing such as Reiki or Therapeutic Touch may be appreciated by the pet more than actual massage; every animal is unique.
Sound/Music Therapy - Krier carries a Pet Acoustics (based in Washington Depot, Connecticut) box with her in her mobile van. She says she will never go to an end-of-life care appointment without it. “It makes the whole experience so much better,” Krier explains. “I don’t know if it always helps the pets, but it seems to make the situation better, at least for the people, if not the animals.” The Pet Acoustics “Pet Tunes” box is a mobile Bluetooth Personal speaker pre-loaded with special frequency modulated music clinically tested and proven to reduce stress and calm anxiety for dogs, cats, horses or birds. Company founder Janet Marlow is the composer and researcher who has developed the species-specific music loaded in the box.