Has your cat or dog been recently diagnosed with cancer? Are you anxious to do all you can do to save and care for your beloved pet, whatever it takes? Here are eight tips on how to do the best for your pet (and yourself) in this most difficult time.
- Focus on being happy, even though it is difficult
Animals, particularly dogs, are acutely aware of their owners’ moods and may incorporate their sadness into sensing that they have done something wrong. Choosing to be happy is easier said than done, but in the long run, pulling it off will improve the quality of the precious time remaining; for gratitude; for peace and for the tender moments spent together. So try to focus on the good things in your life and in the happy moments together whenever you can. Work on having fun with your dog or cat and try whenever possible to avoid brooding and worrying.
You must harness a team that includes experts who can offer sound advice as you travel down this
challenging path. Emotional support and sharing with other grieving owners can also be helpful to your uphill battle to do the best for your pet. There are also books that can guide you and offer solace as well as blogs, forums and chat rooms, like the Rainbow Ridge Pet Loss Grief Center, that deal exclusively with the grieving process.
- Learn how to recognize pain
No matter how well you may know your pet, pain changes everything and you will have to observe your animal closely to recognize and assess levels of discomfort. Cancer pain can be chronic and acute and occurs from a number of factors including: an invasive tumor, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery.
To accurately measure pain levels, you must carefully observe behavioral changes in your pet, which for some species is more of a challenge than you might expect. To further complicate the issue is the great range of pain and the fact that it can be emotional and psychological as well as physical. As primary
care-giver, you the owner know more than the vet about your pet’s behavior and you are in the best position to notice those subtle variations in behavior that indicate distress.
Pay careful attention to your pet to see what type of pain they may be in, so that you can recognize if and when the pain becomes very difficult to handle.
- Keep a care journal
While it may seem to be needless paperwork that takes you away from spending time with your pet, keeping a record of medications; changes in eating/eliminating patterns; dates of treatments and side effects is an invaluable tool in determining the eventual course of treatment. In this difficult time, even someone with an excellent memory cannot be expected to accurately recall everything. Writing it down
provides a permanent and very important record. If you are someone who does well with organizational apps, there are tons of life planner and task planners that can help with keeping track of everything.
- Make your pets nutrition and diet a priority
Appropriate nutrition is a prerequisite for every animal at every phase of life, but when illness is involved, the role of nutrition becomes even more important. While cancer researchers do not fully understand the nutritional needs of animals with cancer, it is known that they may benefit from different foods in different amounts than their healthier counterparts. All dietary changes must be made slowly to help your pet adjust and avoid stress levels.
- Set up an efficient pain medication schedule
A medication schedule should be established in cooperation with your veterinarian before any treatment is administered, and then followed afterwards at home. A regular established routine is more effective and easier to accomplish than one that is “as needed” because it is likely to be less stressful for your pet and not require the administering of higher doses, which only serve to increase undesirable side effects.
- Consider ways you can lessen anxiety
Pets can feel anxious when visiting doctors or doing things that cancer treatment require. Set up rituals and habits that can help ease your pet’s anxiety in stressful situations. One item to consider is a Thundershirt. These are pressure vests for dogs that do a remarkable job reducing stress and anxiety for many dogs in stressful situations. There are also calming sprays and pills available for cats and dogs that some pets may find helpful.
- Focus on comfort for your pet
In most cases, the best environment for comfort care is at home. For you as well as your animal, home is where the heart is. Being in familiar surroundings among loved ones will help to alleviate fear, pain, stress and suffering as your animal approaches the end of its life. Home comfort care may not work for everybody, as it is an emotionally draining endeavor. It will also require a heightened level of care as your pet understandably loses some body functions. The best treatment protocol focuses on the quality rather than the quantity of your pet’s life and provides a needed transition for you and your family to emotionally prepare to say goodbye.