When we take our puppy home, the joy, love and fun that we will have together are all that is on our minds. We go through all the stages through to adolescence and hopefully a full and healthy life to old age. Finally, we arrive at the time we dread, our elderly dog at the final stages of life. This is heart breaking and we have to be strong and hold it together for them as we will have to make so many decisions as to how our beloved pet is going to enter the Rainbow Bridge.
It is a shock to learn that your dog has a chronic or terminal illness and just months to live, but when you have gained composure, learn everything from your vet about your dog’s condition. When we have a treatment plan in place for pain management and medication, our main goal in these final months and days is to give as much as we can, quality of life, relief from pain and discomfort and emotional support from us.
Our main hope for our beloved dog is an unassisted death at home, However, this is not always possible if their condition deteriorates. Holistic therapies work hand in hand with veterinary orthodox medication, for example Reiki, massage, acupuncture, proxy tapping, Flower essences and crystal healing. If they have a canine companion, they too should avail of holistic remedies to help them through this sad period in their life. As our dog progresses through their illness or dying in old age, positive emotions, enjoyable activities and more time with us is what they want and adds quality of life.
Chronic and Terminal illness can deteriorate quite quickly and an emergency house call service at a moment’s notice or out of hours service at your veterinary surgery should be in place if euthanasia becomes imminent. Keeping a daily journal can help when discussing how they are with your vet. However, if they cannot breathe comfortably enough to sleep, stand or are no longer eating or drinking, incontinence, seizures, no interest in surroundings, how they tolerate medical intervention and vet visits and other symptoms that require constant monitoring and care, we must consider their quality of life, especially if they are in pain or distress. It may help to ask your vet what they would do in this situation? as we don’t want to euthanise too soon if they still have quality of life and we don’t want them to suffer by delaying it, by seeking advice from our veterinary surgeon hopefully it will help us to put your mind at rest as to whether or not it is the appropriate time to end their life by euthanasia.
Vocal or body language can be an indication of pain but not all dogs whimper in pain and it can be difficult to know. Lack of appetite and seeking isolation, lethargic, reluctant to walk and being grumpy are more outward indicators of pain. look for Subtle behavioural changes. Your dog may be losing sense of sight, hearing and smell and will seek comfort and security by being close to you.
Road accidents and surgery may take the decision of an unassisted death at home out of our hands due to complications during surgery. Your veterinary surgeon will always advise as to complications that may occur and discuss options that are available. It is of little consolation to us but Euthanasia means good death. Your vet knows what a difficult decision this is and will discuss the process with you. It is your choice whether or not to be present when your vet administers the euthanasia solution and I know that it is too much to bear, but knowing that you were with your beloved companion at the time of their peaceful and painless death, will help you through your grieving.
If you are preparing your dog for surgery, and indeed coming to terms with it yourself, the best tonic for your beloved dog is to spend every minute that you can indulging them with whatever they are able to do, things that they loved to do. If they do not come through surgery, knowing that we said goodbye and that our final moments were peaceful and filled with love is such a help when we are grieving.
Their canine companions will be every bit as concerned as to what is happening in their lives, as they can sense what we are dealing with in the last days and months. Dogs are more in tune with their environments and surroundings, and I truly believe, fully understand when a canine companion is near to entering the rainbow bridge. Just like us, dogs have different personalities and display sadness and grief in a number of ways. for example, their depression can be displayed by loss of appetite, disrupted sleep or sleeping all day, withdrawn and feeling disoriented and clingy. This is so sad, and again we have to hold it together for our surviving dog who had bonded with their companion. In order to help our surviving dog with his grief it is good to keep a blanket or other reminder. Pay extra attention to them but do not go overboard as to create a separation anxiety problem.
Try to keep to a routine, and over time their grief will ease and your dog’s personality will return. However, if after a few weeks they have not resumed an energy for life, a visit to your vet would be advised. Give your dog some time to adjust to losing his companion before bringing another dog into the family as they are still missing their buddy and may resent the new family member.
Anticipatory grief occurs for us dog owner’s when we begin grieving for our dog who is still living. We constantly ask the question? how will we cope without them? Experiencing, a deep sadness whilst holding it together for our terminally ill dog. This pain becomes acute when your beautiful beloved dog passes over, and crosses the Rainbow Bridge. Give yourself permission to grieve. Your dog was a family member. Healthy coping mechanisms include crying, screaming, and taking all the time you need to come to terms with your loss. I advise my clients who are going through this tough road to take flower essences to get through each day from the start of this sad journey to the end and afterwards, until we can think about our beloved companion with a smile. Knowing that they will be in our heats for ever.
Bach Flower remedies for Grief
Sweet Chestnut – Helps in situations when we are overwhelmed with despair after a loss
Star of Bethlehem – Helps in situations of shock and trauma when we refuse to accept loss of a loved one feeling paralyzed in grief.
Gorse – is a remedy for feeling overwhelmed, feelings of total hopelessness, in a depressive state
Walnut - helps us adapt to new circumstances