Do you have a very elderly or terminally ill dog or cat that you are trying to care for at home? Animal Medical of New City can help you keep your pet as comfortable as possible without hospitalization and with a minimum amount of visits to our practice.

What is hospice care for pets?

Pet Hospice is a philosophy that focuses on the palliative care of the chronically, seriously, or terminally ill patients.  It allows pet owners to take active control over the nursing of their pet, to keep pets in the familiarity and comfort of home, and to support the family that wants to participate in the natural, but sometimes emotionally draining, experience of the passing of a pet.  It is less expensive and less invasive than hospitalization and may be the right choice for you and your pet depending on his or her illness and prognosis.

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How do I know if hospice care is the right choice for my pet?

If you suspect that your pet is declining in health, but you’re afraid to come to the veterinarian because you’ll find out ‘bad news’, you are not alone.  The thought of possibly losing a pet is often unbearable.  It’s natural for you to be averse to facing the possibility that your pet’s end of life could be near.

Don’t assume the worse

But you shouldn’t assume the worse.  Quite a few treatable diseases can make pets very ill, lose their appetite, cause them to become immobile, to lose weight, or to lose interest in the things that once made them happy.  By assuming the worse, you may be causing your pet more suffering and you may be allowing a treatable illness to advance unnecessarily.

Call us, free of charge, and ask for our opinion

Before deciding that you would like to treat your pet at home, call us and make an appointment for an examination.  We have more than 30 years of experience diagnosing and treating dozens of kinds of dog and cat diseases and conditions.  We will be able to provide you clear direction on what is best for your pet.  If financing is a concern, we may be able to help you out with that as well.  If you are still unsure, Animal Medical of New City offers a free, 10-minute phone consultation with a veterinary professional. Call us, explain your concerns to a member of our care team, and we’ll be able to give you some experienced guidance as to what you should do.

What if my pet is too afraid to go to the vet?

Animal Medical is a Gold Feline Practice, an accreditation we earned from the American Association of Feline Practitioners because we have specific training and tools in place to reduce cats’ anxiety levels during office visits.  We also embrace the tenets of a Fear Free veterinary practice, which means that our team members are trained to reduce anxiety in all the patients we see.  In some cases, we can prescribe a safe drug for you to administer before your trip to our office that will reduce your pet’s anxiety.

If I know my pet is dying, why should I pay for expensive tests?

If we are going to successfully manage your pet’s condition, it’s imperative that we understand what’s going on inside your pet’s body.  For this information, we often turn to blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasound that we can do right here at our office.

We never recommend a test for your pet without first educating you about its benefits, its costs, and why we believe it is necessary.

We won’t pressure you to do anything that you don’t want to do.

 

What can I do to make my dying pet more comfortable?

As much as we hope that the end of life for our pets (and ourselves) will be comfortable, it is usually not.  Our pets and our own bodies are built to fight for life and don’t give easily into death. When pets are near the end of their life, they may experience any of the following signs or symptoms.

  • Pale gums
  • Trouble staying warm
  • Changes in the color of urine or stool
  • Changes in the frequency of urination or defecation
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle loss
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of interest in the life
  • Labored breathing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation

No pet owner should have to manage these kinds of scary signs all by themselves.  There are complex biological processes that are going on in the body as it declines in health.  Attempting to treat any of these signs, without the benefit of experienced guidance, can actually do more harm than good.

There are things you can do for your pet at home or medications that you can give that can encourage your pet to eat more, to reduce nausea, to reduce pain, and to slow the progression of certain medical conditions, but all of these solutions should be considered in the context of your pet’s illness, his or her prognosis, and how much involvement you can emotionally and physically invest in the outcome.

Hospice care for my pet by Animal Medical of New City

After your pet has been evaluated by one of our veterinarians and after we’ve consulted with you on how you feel, we’ll provide you with clear direction on what we think is the best course of action.   If we agree that hospice care is right for you and your pet, we may be able to provide you:

  • A way to manage your pet’s pain
  • Medication to stimulate your pet’s appetite
  • Medication to decrease nausea or vomiting
  • A way to manage constipation
  • A way to manage incontinence
  • Special diets and diet management
  • A way to keep your pet hydrated
  • A way to improve your pet’s mobility

Lastly, you’ll be assigned a hospice veterinarian and nurse that will follow up with you by phone to keep you informed and emotionally supported through this journey.  There is no cost for support by phone.  You will only be charged if we agree that a home or office visit is necessary.

Additional pet hospice services for pets at Animal Medical of New City

Dr. Lisa Schenkel, an experienced veterinarian that’s been with us for 20 years, leads our Physical Medicine Department.  She regularly cares for chronically ill or dying patients.  She uses a combination of Western medicine and minimally invasive procedures like acupuncture and laser therapy to reduce pain and to make pets feel more comfortable.

You can supply Animal Medical with a video of your pet

If your pet is under our hospice care and you see something unusual going on that you want our help with, you can videotape your pet and text or email us the clip during office hours.  We can use it to help you decide how to manage the latest change in your pet’s condition.

At-home euthanasia services

As stated earlier, we all hope that our beloved pets pass painlessly in their sleep, but this is usually not how end of life unfolds.  Watching your pet near his or her final days of life can be extremely tough to watch and emotionally exhausting. It also can be terrible for the pet to endure. If you have previously decided to allow your pet to die naturally, but then decide that you want euthanasia services, we can provide you with this service in the comfort and privacy of your home during our business hours.

What is pet euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the intentional ending of a pet’s life to stop the suffering and pain pets experience as they undergo the dying process.

How are pets euthanized?

Pets are typically euthanized in a two-step process.  First, an injectable sedative is administered to the pet. This usually reduces your pet’s anxiety and provides comfort.  Once the pet is sedate, a second injection containing a barbiturate is administered. The barbiturate slows your pet’s breathing and heart rate down until your pet painlessly slips away.  This process usually happens within the first minute after the second injection.

What do I do with my pet’s body after he dies?

In the state of New York, there are no laws forbidding backyard, private land burial of pets, but the NY Department of Health cautions that all pet owners should check with their town or county’s health department to see if there might be more localized restrictions. Rockland County, NY has no restrictions on backyard burials, but there may be more localized restrictions.

You can also have your pet cremated, buried in a pet cemetery, or elect to have Animal Medical manage the care of your pet’s body after passing. The following is a list of our nearest pet cemeteries and pet crematoriums.

Abbey Glen

Animal Medical uses Abbey Glen for our pet body-care services.  Abbey Glen has locations in NY, NJ, and PA.  They offer burials, cremation services, keepsakes, urns, and caskets.  You can elect to attend your pet’s cremation if you would like.

Snow Mountain Pet Memorial Park

Offers crematory, burial services, and pet caskets.  Snow Mountain can pick up your pet’s body from your home.

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

Offers crematory, burial services, and pet caskets.  Hartsdale can pick up your pet’s body from your home.

Faithful Companion Crematory

Crematory services only.  Can pick up the your pet’s body from our office or from you home.   Ashes can be returned in a number of different kinds of urns.  Other gifts of remembrance, like pendants, are available.

Can I buy a coffin for my pet?

Yes, both Snow Mountain and Hartsdale have a variety of pet burial containers and caskets available. Animal Medical also offers environmentally friendly biodegradable, pet burial boxes.

What’s the best way to bury my pet?

Dig a hole at least 2 to three feet deep.  Shallow graves are at risk of being scavenged by wild animals.  Place the body of your pet in the hole and cover with earth.  It is okay to place your pet in a coffin or a blanket when burying your pet.  Do not bury your pet near a stream or areas that are prone to flooding or standing water. Follow all municipal and local environmental regulations.

How can I deal with death of a pet?

At Animal Medical, our pets are part of our families, so we understand how important they are to you.  Here are some ways to manage your grief when your pet dies.

Acknowledge Your Grief

Allow yourself to feel your loss and your sadness. Love is a strong emotion.  It won’t end with the death of your pet and it may be that you will miss your pet for years to come.  Acknowledge these feelings.  Allow yourself to cry, but be responsible in your grief.  Grieve in the company of those you trust and love.  Loved ones, during times of grief, can ground you and prevent you from prolonged stretches of sadness.  Pay attention that you take care of your physical body while you are grieving.  Be especially cautious with the use of alcohol.  Eat responsibly and get rest.  Avoid situations that are likely to exacerbate your feelings of helplessness, sadness, loss and loneliness.

Be proactive and reach out for help before it’s too late.

After you pet passes away, you’ll likely look back and ask yourself if there was anything you could have done differently.  Before your pet dies, make use of our hospice service so that you have the benefit of our professional input.  It will help you to look back on the decisions that you made and know that you made the best possible choice given the circumstances.

Tell your pet how much you care while he or she is alive

Tell your pet how much you love him and how much he has meant to you.  Lay down with your pet and thank him for his companionship and his love. It will be nice to look back and know that you said everything you could to your pet while he was alive.

Remember, you gave your pet a beautiful gift.

Though you were wracked with emotions, you chose to be strong and to push past your grief to care for your pet.  Dying is often hard, but you made it much easier for your pet by being there to comfort him, to tell him that you loved him, and to physically provide the care he needed in his last days. That was a beautiful gift for you to provide.

Remind yourself that death is a natural process

All of us will one day die. Try not to dwell on thoughts of death. Instead redirect your thoughts to the wonderful time you and your pet had together in life.  The death of your pet is not the end of your life; it is only one portion of it.  Look for the beauty that is in today and know that there will be happiness and beauty in every day that follows.  Your pet is only one gift of many that will come to you in the days that you have left on this earth.

Remind yourself that you gave your pet a beautiful life

During his lifetime, your pet had great healthcare, great love, nutritious food, love, safety, a home, a clean, dry, comfortable bed, and a lifetime of companionship.  Remind yourself that you gave that to another being. Remind yourself that you are capable of sustaining intense, loyal love that can last years.

Join a Bereavement Group

The Animal Medical Center in NYC holds free pet bereavement meetings every other Thursday.  Check out their meeting schedule. There are also a number of Facebook groups that you can join which we have found to be helpful.

Reach out for compassion and love

Don’t wait to be consoled. Extend kindness and love to those that knew your pet and that helped you during the months and weeks leading up to his death. Tell them how thankful you are that they are in your life, that they love you, and that they loved your pet.

Consider creating a legacy

Sometimes the act of planting a tree in your pet’s honor or making a donation to a shelter in your pet’s name can help you physicalize your grief, get it out of your body, and provide you with more a more calming perspective.

Take responsibility for your happiness

It’s important that you pay attention to your thoughts and to make sure that you don’t spend prolonged periods depressed over your pet’s death. Death is not evil; it’s natural. Balance the sad parts of death with the hopeful parts of life that are still before you. Yes, your pet will no longer share your bed, your breakfast time, long walks or drives with you, but you will connect with other people and animals in the days ahead and you will find a different kind of happiness in those events.  Push yourself to talk to others, to stop and meet other pets walking in your neighborhood.  For as long as you live, your pet will live on in your memories. That says a great deal about your kindness, compassion, and capacity to care.

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