A Day Too Late

“I tell all my puppy adopters, one day too early is so much better than one day too late.”

Sage advice from a recent client’s mother who was joining us for the appointment of her grown daughter’s beloved cat.  Mom went on to share the story of the loss of one of her dogs several years earlier and how awful she felt remembering that event and knowing that one day sooner for his appointment would have been so much better.  I got the sense that she carried that regret with her throughout the years and was eager to lend advice to others so they’d avoid the same fate.

I often struggle with how to help clients whose pets have a grave prognosis.  We’ve all heard this term before in the movies or on TV.  Veterinarians use this term to describe a disease that inevitably results in a very likely poor outcome, often death.

There are certain diseases that tend to put themselves into the grave category more than others.  Top of the list are the various cancers we see often in pets, such as hemangiosarcoma (blood vessel cancer), osteosarcoma (bone cancer), and others.

As I consult with pet owners on the phone, I sometimes get the sense as I listen to their narrative that they are struggling with making the decision too soon.  They are waiting for signs more compelling than the current ones, so they will know for sure.  They ask if we’re available in the middle of the night or on short notice.  The message I’m hearing is that they are waiting for an event that signals unmistakably the pet has reached the end of their natural life.  In other words, what they may not realize is that they are often waiting for a crisis event.

Home euthanasia services are wonderful but don’t lend themselves well to crisis situations.  Practical reasons preclude us from being there at a moment’s notice, day or night.  We don’t live next door, we have other patients, and we are unavailable in the middle of the night.  It simply means that if a crisis were to occur (intractable pain, seizing, difficulty breathing, bone fracture) your options may be more limited in terms of what services are available to assist you and your pet.  Just about the only option on very short notice is the emergency clinic, staffed by wonderful people certainly, but not the same as being at home.

When your pet has a grave prognosis, careful planning and coming to terms with the finality of your pet’s disease are helpful first steps.  Ask your pet’s veterinarian questions to fully understand the disease and its likely progression.  It is prudent and caring to plan for your pet’s passing in a way that allows them to do so in the most comfortable, safe, and relaxed way possible.  It is important to remember that the disease is responsible for the “why” and “when” of your pet’s death, and that you are acting responsibly and in their best interest to determine the best case for the “where” and “how”.

Our veterinarians and pet loss counselor are available to help you discuss your pet’s unique condition and to help you think about the best way to plan. Click here to contact us.

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