Cherie T. Buisson, DVM, CHPV
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian
How did the holiday season get here so fast? I’m not ready.
Our practice is gearing up for a busy holiday season. The calls are already coming with our wonderful clients wanting to know how to get their pets through the holidays. Sick, elderly pets have no idea that schedules are about to change and chaos will ensue. Their bodies will know, though. The stress can turn a stable pet into an actively sick one, sometimes overnight. Visitors, decorations, gatherings, and hectic schedules are so hard on everyone, even when we’re having fun.
As we do every year, we’ll be talking to clients just before the holiday as they agonize over whether to say goodbye or try to push their pet through. No one wants to euthanize a pet right before a family gathering. Those who try to get through sometimes succeed, others end up saying goodbye at the emergency room or having their pet pass on its own. Still others tell us they ended up spending the holiday so worried about their pet that it ruined everyone’s day.
Clients who need to travel are doubly burdened as they have to consider their beloved pet and the person caring for them. They have immense guilt trying to decide what’s best for everyone. Sometimes trips can be canceled, and other times, they absolutely can’t.
I have some tips to help with the delicate timing of holiday hospice care and euthanasia.
1. You are NOT contemplating euthanasia out of convenience. I think a lot of people get caught in this trap and their pet suffers needlessly. They worry what others will think. If you are considering euthanasia before the holiday (or trip) it means your pet is likely in pretty bad shape. You wouldn’t be worrying about this if you didn’t care.
2. If you want to get your pet through the holiday (or trip), PLEASE talk to your vet about pain medication, nausea medication, and other ways to keep them comfortable (especially anxiety treatment if they need it). Have a backup plan in case your pet is too uncomfortable to continue.
3. Get established with a home euthanasia service ahead of time if that’s how you want to say goodbye. Find out their availability and lead time on appointments. Ask them for grief resources. The holiday season is stressful enough – you deserve all the support you can get.
4. If you are leaving your pet in someone else’s care, please make sure they have everything they need to make decisions and get help for your pet – especially if you will be hard to reach. Talk to your vet about who is allowed to make decisions for your pet. Arrange for payment so your pet sitter doesn’t bear that burden. If euthanasia is a possibility, sign paperwork ahead of time.
5. If the worst happens and your pet needs to be euthanized without you, remember a video chat may allow you to be present and let your pet hear your voice.
6. If it doesn’t go your way, forgive yourself. Your pet certainly would. They’re wonderful that way.
May you have a peaceful holiday season full of love and joy. Be safe and healthy.
Smooches to all your pets.