As a child, I remember putting our family dog to sleep. We said goodbye in the car, and then the veterinary clinic staff hauled her inside on a stretcher through the back door. The last moment with me was her eyes saying, “Where am I going?” and I just had to trust that the staff comforted her in her last minutes. It was a traumatic experience, and when we got our next pet, I never wanted them to go to a vet or kennel again. While we wish that our furry friends could live forever, there comes a time when their precious time here has to end. For many pet owners, that may mean euthanasia, or putting them to sleep. The decision is difficult, and individual to each animal’s situation. But there is a new option that is becoming more popular: in-home euthanasia. A certified veterinarian is able to peacefully end your beloved pet’s life in the comfort of your home or other specified place. While my pet is young and healthy, I decided to look into this program.
Like any service for your animal, there are many pros and cons to in-home euthanasia. The first, and an important factor for most, is the comfort of your ill pet. A trip to the vet is physically and emotionally taxing on an animal that is already sick and uncomfortable. Many pets (especially cats) become very stressed at the prospect of traveling in a car, therefore their last moments are quite unhappy. Your pet will feel much more comfortable in their own home or other favorite place that they are familiar with. Most of us wish to die peacefully in our sleep, in our own familiar bed. Now your pet is able to experience the same thing. Another great aspect of in-home euthanasia is that other pets are able to say goodbye. Animals living in the same home with each other for years get just as attached as we do. In another pet’s eyes, you put their friend in the car, and then they never came home. This may cause a new fear in the other animals, and increased anxiety with travelling. If you choose to use in-home euthanasia, the other pets can say goodbye and be with the ill pet during their last moments. This also may be a simpler procedure for some pet owners. Attempting to transport a pet (especially a large one) in a way that keeps them comfortable may be difficult, and saying goodbye in a veterinary clinic may make you feel detached. Most in-home euthanasia practices will also remove the deceased pet afterwards, and transport them to a cemetery or burial site if you so desire.
In-home euthanasia may not be for everyone. There are also several cons to the situation of ending your pet’s life in your own house. Some animals may have odd reactions after death, that may be unpleasant for you to view. Their eyes may not close, even after closed by hand. Their bowels may also release, or they may have muscular reflexes and odd breathing sounds. While these reactions are not common, they could be disturbing to some pet owners. The process of removing the deceased pet, while convenient, may also be unpleasant to some people. This is also a service that may not be appropriate for children to be around. The cost of in-home euthanasia varies depending on pet size and the services included, but starts at over $100 for a cat, and over $150 for small dogs. This is more expensive than a clinic euthanasia, as you are paying for specialized, individual service at your convenience.
In-home euthanasia may sound like a perfect fit for some of you, while others may find it uncomfortable and not right. You may prefer your pet to be euthanized by the staff and doctor they have seen for years. But for many families it is a wonderful service that keeps their pet at peace in their last moments. Some veterinary clinics may provide this program, while other areas have companies just for in-home euthanasia. I urge you to look into and think about this option now, while your pet is healthy. Then when the time comes, the decision may be a little easier.
Note: Pet-Agree has has a few clients who have worked with Heaven at Home Pet Hospice, where Dr. Laurie Brush (DVM) provides in-home euthanasia along with other services. She usually is able to provide service within 24 hours, and has done euthanizations in homes, parks, laps and more. Pet-Agree’s clients and employees have found Dr. Brush’s services to be highly satisfactory and much better for their pet’s situation. For more information about Dr. Brush and Heaven at Home’s other services (like pet hospice), see her website at www.heavenathomevet.com.
In cases of domestic violence or nasty divorces, pets are often victims too. Those who have to escape an abusive home often cannot bring their animals with them to a shelter or group home. The pets can sometimes then become the new target of abuse. Many battered women also report staying longer with an abusive partner because they do not want to leave their pet behind.
Now there is a resource for such a problem. Enter the website of www.SafePlaceforPets.org. Safe Place for Pets connects people and pets with a safe escape from domestic violence.While other websites may have a directory of safe havens for animals (The Humane Society has a state by state directory), I find Safe Place for Pets to be the fastest and simplest form of this resource. Their website is a search engine and non-profit program that helps people in bad homes find a safe place that their pet can go. You simply type in your zip code, and the website shows you a map and links to places in your area. They may be onsite housing with the ability to accept people and pets, or a shelter that can provide for your pet while you are in a separate facility. The website labels the type of facility it is, along with contact info and more.
My favorite feature of the the website is the “Quick Escape to Google” button that is always in the top right hand corner. If your family member is abusive, searching for a shelter and help may not go over well with them. This button immediately takes you to the Google home page with one click, no typing or redirecting necessary. Note: it does not erase the Safe Place website from your history though.
Safe Place for Pets is brought to you by RedRover, which “focuses on bringing animals out of crisis and strengthening the bond between people and animals through a variety of programs, including emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education”. The website also has many sponsors, donors and volunteers.
For those of us who are fortunate to be in a safe and loving home, there are still ways we can help. The biggest is to spread the word. Printing out fliers, social media, and talking to those you know about Safe Place for Pets will help those who are in need find it. You could also talk to shelters and homes in the area to see if they are willing to participate in the program, and then their information could be listed on the Safe Place for Pets website. And they are always in need of donors. This is a non-profit website run by RedRover, so they do rely on donations for their projects. You can read success stories on the website too, so you really know the cause you are helping.
52% of victims in shelters leave their pets with their batterers. But Safe Place for Pets is working to reduce this number. Share this website with those you know, because it could mean saving a pet’s life. www.SafePlaceforPets.org
Sources: Safe Place for Pets, Red Rover, The Humane Society of the United States
We hope our furry friends never need emergency medical attention, but sometimes they do. Creating a first-aid kit for your pets, or adding to your “human” one, can help prevent a bad situation from becoming worse. Having essential supplies on hand might save your pet until you can get them to a veterinarian. While many people may keep this in their car, or only when traveling with their dog or cat, it is important to have at all times.
Here are some good pet-related items to start your kit with.
- Pet First-Aid book- You might not have all the immediate knowledge to care for your pet, so pick up a guidebook to read through, and then keep in the kit for reference.
- Important phone numbers and contacts- List the names and contact info for your pet’s veterinarian, nearby emergency animal hospitals, and pet poison control hotlines.
- Records- Proof of licensing, rabies, and other vaccines are good to have on hand if you need to take your animal to a veterinarian it hasn’t seen before. List any conditions or medications (including dose and frequency) as well.
- Grooming clippers or safety razor- To remove hair. Sometimes a razor will be in a standard first aid kit for people, but not always.
- Nylon leash- Even if you already have one on the dog, it is good to have a spare.
- Muzzle- An animal may act aggressive when hurt or ill, or feel defensive when trying to be helped.
- Diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl- Great for treating a variety of mild allergic reactions, including bee stings, and safe for many pets. Get approval and dosage from your veterinarian ahead of time. If your pet has a known allergy, such as bee stings, you should also be carrying their EpiPen or appropriate remedy.
- Glucose paste or syrup- Many first aid kids will have glucose tablets, but an injured animal is unlikely to chew these. Very helpful for those pets who may be diabetic or have blood sugar sensitivities.
- NSAID pet pain relief- Some human pain medicines, like Tylenol, can be dangerous to animals. Talk to your vet about an appropriate drug and dose to keep in your kit.
- Fever thermometer- A standard human thermometer may work for a healthy animal, but often sick pets can reach temperatures too high to be read on these. Look for a pet thermometer that specifies fever usage, and learn where your pet’s temperature usually runs when healthy.
- Pet carrier- There are collapsible canvas carriers great for cats and small dogs, but in a pinch, a pillowcase, blanket or towel will work as well. An injured animal is going to be frightened and may be unable to walk.
The following items may be found in a standard “human” first aid kit. Add additional ones to your pet kit, or make sure you have extras.
- Latex or hypoallergenic gloves
- Gauze sponges (variety of sizes)
- Gauze rolls (2-inch width is good size)
- Non-adherent sterile pads
- Elastic cling or self-stick bandages (do not use Band-Aids or other adhesives directly on your pet)
- Small scissors
- Emergency blanket (usually reflective)
- Milk of Magnesia (absorbs poison)
- Activated Charcoal (induces vomiting)
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Rubbing alcohol
- Topical antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
- Antiseptic towelettes
- Insect sting stop pads
- Cotton swabs
- Instant cold pack
- Baby-dose syringe or eye dropper
- Sterile saline wash
- Safety pins
- Tongue depressors
- Plastic card (old credit card will work) to scrape stingers
Note: Never induce vomiting without consulting a vet or poison control hotline first.
This is just a starting list. You should also include spare doses of all your pet’s usual or occasional medicines, and anything else that is specific to them. Keep your first aid items inside a waterproof box or tote bin in an area that is easy to access. Make sure everything is clearly labeled and organized, and phone numbers are easy to find (I like them typed, laminated and taped to the lid of the box). Always call a veterinarian and seek medical attention. This is a FIRST aid kit, not the only medical aid your pet should receive. To better prepare yourself, there are Pet First-Aid classes that you can take. They usually cover common injuries and illnesses, as well as pet CPR. These are good skills to have, for both your own pets and those you may encounter.
You can find information on Pet First-Aid classes at many locations, including the two websites below.
Sources: The Humane Society of the United States, Red Cross, Pet Tech, American Veterinary Medical Association
There is a growing trend of pet-owners supplementing their pets’ food with their homemade creations. Some simply add a bit of grilled fish to the side of the plate, while others create full and complete diets consisting of a variety of foods they prepare. While dogs tend to have a stronger digestive tract and are not as prone to digestive and bacterial issues, cats can be fussy about what they eat and how it affects them. So I did a little digging to figure out what cats really need, and if preparing their food really is healthy for them, or if it’s just fun.
Cats need a few main nutrients to survive. As obligate carnivores, the main substance from the feline diet is protein, which comes from animal muscle like chicken or fish. They also need the amino acids from the meat, like taurine and arginine. Fatty acids, essential vitamins, minerals and water are also important. While a small amount of carbohydrates can boost your cat’s energy and help to cut on the cost of meat, a diet too heavy in carbohydrates (grains, starches, vegetables) can cause obesity and sluggishness in a cat.
The standards for creating pet foods are much lower than the “human” food we buy in the supermarket. It is not as strictly regulated, tested, or monitored. The guidelines for non-food fillers, misappropriate byproducts and other items in the food are lacking, and the ingredient labels are often confusing. This is why more and more pet owners are choosing to feed their animals from their own home. Many cat parents give their kitties grilled or raw chicken, turkey, or fish in addition to their foods. This provides an additional protein source, with a meat that is higher quality than a can of wet food. Cooking the meat does remove some of the nutrients, but eliminates most risk of salmonella to both pet and owner. Note: The American Animal Hospital Association does not recommend the newer “raw” diets at risk of salmonella, zoonotic disease transmission, and other illness to both animal and human.
For those of you thinking you might want to try your hand at making your own cat food, there are many, many recipes and LOTS of information out there. You cannot simply feed your kitty whatever it will eat. I would advise only those who are well-educated and very diligent to go completely into the homemade diet. For example, some vitamins are water-soluble and some are not, so too much can cause toxicity issues. Cats also need a certain calcium to phosphorous ratio, which is not found in an all-meat diet, but wild cats get from eating the bones of small animals. This can be difficult to replicate without feeding a cat an entire carcass. Homemade food can spoil faster, so if your cat is not a quick eater and the food gets left out, they may eat it later and become sick. I strongly urge you to research feline nutrition before attempting to make your own cat’s diet. You can consult a veterinarian for help on what is best for your pet (some however, may not be educated on homemade diets). If you are looking on the internet, look for reputable websites that have research and veterinarian advice to back them up, not just one owner’s opinion.
If this seems too over-whelming to you, rest assured. There are still good pet foods out there. Look for a product that is high in protein and contains the other essential nutrients. Those that are all-natural or organic may be more expensive, but will lack any chemicals, antibiotics or other add-ins. You also want to make sure the food has a limited amount of carbohydrates, which dry foods tend to be high in. My vet was able to point me in the direction of some reputable pet food brands, without telling me exactly what to buy. There are also smaller companies that make natural homemade foods, some raw, and will sell them to you.
Overall, I think that a homemade diet for a cat is only for those people who have the time, energy and dedication to devote to it. If well-researched and done correctly, homemade food can prevent digestive issues, promote better kidney function, lower risk of diabetes and obesity, reduce medication use, and lead to a happy, beautiful cat. I personally don’t have the time or capacity for this kind of project, so I feed my cat both dry and wet food, and I supplement with bits of my own grilled chicken or tuna. You should do your own research before jumping into anything, and figure out what is best for you and your furry family’s lifestyle. Happy feeding!
Sources: pets.webmd.com, catnutrition.org, The Furry Foodie, Feline’s Pride Raw Cat Meals