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Saying Goodbye: Part 2

This is the second installment of a two-part discussion on humane euthanasia in veterinary medicine. In the first part I described the difficult decision making process, and now I will discuss the actual procedure.

 

The decision making process of putting a pet to sleep can be made harder if you don’t know what to expect. It is important that you feel comfortable to ask your veterinarian exactly how the procedure will take place. At Seattle Veterinary Associates we offer in-home euthanasia services. We offer this service so that you and your pet can remain in the comfort of your own home instead of coming in to the clinic. There may be some differences between practices and individual veterinarians, however in general the procedure will be very similar. Firstly, there will be a form to fill out giving permission for the euthanasia to occur and asking about the owner’s wishes for the pet’s remains. An intravenous catheter may be placed to ensure easy access to a vein for medications. If the pet is at all alert, the current standard of care is to give a sedative prior to the euthanasia. This allows for the pet to relax or even fall asleep over 5-10 minutes, and provides for a more gentle transition for the owner to have some peaceful time to say goodbye. After the pet is sedate or asleep, a painless intravenous overdose of anesthesia is given to stop the heart. This injection is usually brightly colored (pink or blue) so that it is never confused with other drugs. It will only take a minute or two after this injection for the pet to pass away. At this time the veterinarian will likely leave the owner to spend a few final minutes with the pet in privacy. Some owners may want to take a lock of hair or the pet’s collar as remembrances. Most owners would have already made a decision on their pet’s remains. These usually include private cremation with return of the pet’s ashes (there are companies that can make personalized jewelry from the ashes), communal cremation and no ashes returned, or taking the body home for burial either at home or a pet cemetery. There are city ordinances on burying the body at home so these will need to be checked prior.

 

People will have varying degrees of grief after losing a beloved pet. Some may need to just take a long walk, others will want to talk about the experience with loved ones or a therapist, maybe create time and space for some type of remembrance, or simply cry. For some, losing a pet may mean losing their closest companion and it can be extremely traumatic. There are a number of free pet loss hotlines and books available that may be helpful, and by seeking these out people will find that they are not alone in their grief.

Maryam Salt, DVM

Queen Anne Animal Clinic

Saying Goodbye: Part 1

This month I wanted to write my blog on the difficult process of making end of life decisions and euthanasia in veterinary medicine. I quickly realized there are so many facets to this very important topic, from addressing difficult emotions, vital decision-making, quality of life assessment, the procedure itself, and after care for both the pet’s remains and the grieving family. I have decided to divide this discussion into two monthly installments so as to fully address this complex subject, one that is a fundamental aspect of pet ownership as well as an every day reality for your veterinary caregivers.

 

Firstly, it is important to establish a long-standing and honest relationship with your veterinarian so that they can help guide you as medical issues arise. Maintaining this connection can help ease difficult decision-making if your veterinarian has had the opportunity to get to know you and your pet, their medical history, and also have a sense of the individual relationship you have with your companion. However even with all the love and medical attention one may be able to provide it is almost inevitable that at some point a pet’s quality of life deteriorates to an unacceptable level. The pet may have a terminal disease, mobility issues, unmanageable pain, or multiple concurrent problems. It can be helpful to use certain criteria when assessing your pet’s quality of life. Does he/ she still enjoy their favorite activities? Is he/ she comfortable or are they in pain? Is he/she still social with the family or have they withdrawn? Is he/ she eating well? Sometimes there are more emergent or traumatic situations when owners are thrust into having to make a euthanasia decision unexpectedly and hurriedly. In either case owners will frequently experience a myriad of swirling emotions such as guilt, confusion, sadness, remorse, uncertainty, and grief. There can be added factors such as conflicting opinions amongst family members, navigating the discussion with children, or having to take into account the economic factors of pursuing a medical treatment. It is important to remember that making the painful decision to euthanize a pet is one made out of compassion, love, and respect for the bond you have with your friend. Although this is a very sad decision to have to make, euthanasia should be viewed as a loving gift, allowing the pet to be free from suffering at the end of their natural life. As a veterinarian, I feel fortunate to have euthanasia as a treatment option for my patients. I make every attempt to help owners navigate through the multitude of factors and emotions that are involved in the decision-making process and the actual procedure.

 

In next month’s blog I will explain how the euthanasia procedure usually takes place, options for the pet’s remains, and resources available to help owners with difficult emotions.

 

 

 

 

Is your pet a “hydro-holic?”

Cats and dogs that drink too much could be telling you something about their health.  Veterinarians call it polyuria (increased urination) and polydipsia (increased thirst) or PU/PD for short.  In our canine and feline friends this change can initially be subtle and in a busy household may even be missed. Often owners will bring their pet in for having urine accidents in the house or getting up to go outside in the middle of the night and realize later that family members have been filling the water bowl more often than normal.

Below you will find just a few reasons for these signs in cats and dogs.

1)     Kidney disease: this can be due to an acute injury such as the ingestion of a toxin, bacteria, or a chronic development such as the degradation over time of the tissue of the kidneys.

2)     Toxicities: There are many common household items that cause PU/PD to occur. This can include: antifreeze (which directly affects the kidneys), chocolate ingestion (which can directly affect the kidneys, nervous system and cardiovascular system), lilies (this most dramatically affects the kidneys in cats to potentially cause kidney failure), or marijuana (this affects the kidneys, intestines and nervous system).

3)     Thyroid disease: In a cat it is more commonly seen as an elevation in the thyroid level leading to weight loss despite a good appetite. In dogs more commonly, a low level thyroid is seen with observed weight gain without an increase in the amount of food fed.

4)     Diabetes Mellitus: weight loss as well as digestive upset can be seen with this disease state. If left untreated it can be quite dangerous to your pet.

5)     Liver Disease: this can be caused by a chronic state of degradation of the liver cells, an acute toxicity, or even a bacterial infection such as leptospirosis.

If you are noting that your animal is displaying PU/PD behavior consult with your veterinarian for further evaluation.

Dr. Julia Neal

Ravenna Animal Hospital

 

 

 

Happy Pets at the Vets

Two Kittens Lounging at the Vet

Veterinary care is essential to maintaining your pet’s health and longevity. Many pets are incredibly tolerant of handling by strangers. These pets take visits to the veterinary hospital in stride. But some individuals are fearful of unfamiliar surroundings and events. Extra care must be taken to ensure that these pets have good experiences at the veterinary office.

Social visits are one way to expose your pet to the veterinary office without the stress of handling and restraint. You and your pet are welcome to stop in at our hospital any time we are open. Social visits do involve your time and effort but there is no appointment needed and no fee involved. Your friend can get some treats from the staff. He/she can practice walking on and off the scale. If the examination rooms are open, he/she can sniff around in an exam room or two. (Time spent exploring in an exam room is what we recommend for cats since free roaming in the waiting room is not safe or reassuring for them!) Our staff loves to meet and sweet talk a reluctant visitor. Some pets need only a few low key exposures to reassure them that the veterinary office is an okay place. Other individuals need more practice coming into the hospital and a slower progression from social visit to physical examination by the doctor.

For some individuals, anxiety relief is needed in addition to familiarization via social visits. There are numerous over the counter anxiety relief products made for cats and dogs.  We can make suggestions as to which product to try based on our experiences and knowledge of your pet. We encourage owners to try these products before moving on to the pharmaceutical anxiety medications.

When social visits and over the counter medications do not enable a pet to be comfortable at the veterinary office, it is reasonable to consider the use of prescription medications. We can prescribe sedative drugs and/ or anti-anxiety drugs for those pets needing more calming to allow examination by the veterinarian. We make recommendations based on our knowledge of the pet’s behavior and its medical history. Owners may be asked to do test dosing of these medications at home as we work together to find the right drug or combination of drugs for that pet.

If you feel that your pet is stressed by visits to the vet, please call and discuss your concerns and observations with one of our staff. We are anxious to make veterinary visits pain-free and fear-free. Let’s work together and find the best approach for your pet.

Dr. Ann Whereat

Northwest Veterinary Hospital

www.seattlevetassoc.com

 

Saying Goodbye: Part 2

 

This is the second installment of a two-part discussion on humane euthanasia in veterinary medicine. In the first part I described the difficult decision making process, and now I will discuss the actual procedure.

The decision making process of putting a pet to sleep can be made harder if you don’t know what to expect. It is important that you feel comfortable to ask your veterinarian exactly how the procedure will take place. At Seattle Veterinary Associates we offer in-home euthanasia services. We offer this service so that you and your pet can remain in the comfort of your own home instead of coming in to the clinic. There may be some differences between practices and individual veterinarians, however in general the procedure will be very similar. Firstly, there will be a form to fill out giving permission for the euthanasia to occur and asking about the owner’s wishes for the pet’s remains. An intravenous catheter may be placed to ensure easy access to a vein for medications. If the pet is at all alert, the current standard of care is to give a sedative prior to the euthanasia. This allows for the pet to relax or even fall asleep over 5-10 minutes, and provides for a more gentle transition for the owner to have some peaceful time to say goodbye. After the pet is sedate or asleep, a painless intravenous overdose of anesthesia is given to stop the heart. This injection is usually brightly colored (pink or blue) so that it is never confused with other drugs. It will only take a minute or two after this injection for the pet to pass away. At this time the veterinarian will likely leave the owner to spend a few final minutes with the pet in privacy. Some owners may want to take a lock of hair or the pet’s collar as remembrances. Most owners would have already made a decision on their pet’s remains. These usually include private cremation with return of the pet’s ashes (there are companies that can make personalized jewelry from the ashes), communal cremation and no ashes returned, or taking the body home for burial either at home or a pet cemetery. There are city ordinances on burying the body at home so these will need to be checked prior.

People will have varying degrees of grief after losing a beloved pet. Some may need to just take a long walk, others will want to talk about the experience with loved ones or a therapist, maybe create time and space for some type of remembrance, or simply cry. For some, losing a pet may mean losing their closest companion and it can be extremely traumatic. There are a number of free pet loss hotlines and books available that may be helpful, and by seeking these out people will find that they are not alone in their grief.

Maryam Salt, DVM

Queen Anne Animal Clinic

Saying Goodbye: Part 1

This month I wanted to write my blog on the difficult process of making end of life decisions and euthanasia in veterinary medicine. I quickly realized there are so many facets to this very important topic, from addressing difficult emotions, vital decision-making, quality of life assessment, the procedure itself, and after care for both the pet’s remains and the grieving family. I have decided to divide this discussion into two monthly installments so as to fully address this complex subject, one that is a fundamental aspect of pet ownership as well as an every day reality for your veterinary caregivers.

Firstly, it is important to establish a long-standing and honest relationship with your veterinarian so that they can help guide you as medical issues arise. Maintaining this connection can help ease difficult decision-making if your veterinarian has had the opportunity to get to know you and your pet, their medical history, and also have a sense of the individual relationship you have with your companion.

However even with all the love and medical attention one may be able to provide it is almost inevitable that at some point a pet’s quality of life deteriorates to an unacceptable level. The pet may have a terminal disease, mobility issues, unmanageable pain, or multiple concurrent problems.

It can be helpful to use certain criteria when assessing your pet’s quality of life. Does he/ she still enjoy their favorite activities? Is he/ she comfortable or are they in pain? Is he/she still social with the family or have they withdrawn? Is he/ she eating well? Sometimes there are more emergent or traumatic situations when owners are thrust into having to make a euthanasia decision unexpectedly and hurriedly.

In either case owners will frequently experience a myriad of swirling emotions such as guilt, confusion, sadness, remorse, uncertainty, and grief. There can be added factors such as conflicting opinions amongst family members, navigating the discussion with children, or having to take into account the economic factors of pursuing a medical treatment. It is important to remember that making the painful decision to euthanize a pet is one made out of compassion, love, and respect for the bond you have with your friend.

Although this is a very sad decision to have to make, euthanasia should be viewed as a loving gift, allowing the pet to be free from suffering at the end of their natural life. As a veterinarian, I feel fortunate to have euthanasia as a treatment option for my patients. I make every attempt to help owners navigate through the multitude of factors and emotions that are involved in the decision-making process and the actual procedure.

 

In next month’s blog I will explain how the euthanasia procedure usually takes place, options for the pet’s remains, and resources available to help owners with difficult emotions.

 

 

 

 

Avian Influenza A

What It Means For You and Your Cat

A Bird and a Cat Meet

Diagnosis in New York

Recently, it has been reported that a shelter in New York has tested a number of cats who have been diagnosed as positive for Influenza H7N2. No cases have yet been seen in Washington State. As with last year’s outbreak of the “Canine Flu” (H3N2), Seattle Veterinary Associates is keeping abreast of the news and making sure everyone is prepared for what this means for our patients. Happily, so far the answer is “not much.”

This strain of Influenza commonly called Avian Influenza A is found primarily in birds and has had multiple outbreaks in poultry farms within the U.S. since 2002. As with all influenza viruses, there is a chance for the virus to mutate and infect animals of different species. In this case, a cat was likely directly infected by a bird before being surrendered at the shelter in New York. That cat came into contact with a number of other cats in a shelter setting and the illness spread quickly.

Signs

Signs of influenza in cats can include: coughing, sneezing, colored discharge from the nose or eyes, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and decreased appetite.

The majority of illnesses you or your pet might face cannot be passed between you. However, it is also important to remember that when either a cat or human is sick with an upper respiratory disease, it may possible for that illness to mutate to infect the other species. Because our cats are such an important part of our lives it can be difficult to maintain distance, particularly when one of you is sick. However, taking basic precautions can help keep both humans and felines healthy.

Basic Precautions

If you or your cat has signs of influenza:
• Do not nuzzle or kiss your cat. Facial contact makes transmission easier.
• Avoid sneezing on or being sneezed on by your cat.
• Wash your hands frequently before or after interacting with your cat, when handling food or water dishes, or cleaning kitty litter.

In Humans

The only human who was diagnosed as having caught the flu from the cats was a veterinarian who was helping to collect samples for testing. The veterinarian became mildly ill but has since completely recovered. Of the over 100 cats who tested positive at the shelter, only one died— a geriatric patient humanely euthanized due to pneumonia that was not improving.

Bringing Home a New Cat From the Shelter

Cats coming from shelters will often have upper respiratory infections and parasites that require care. Whether the infection is specifically Avian Influenza A or something else, it is important to have your cat checked by a vet if it is showing signs of illness. While there is no vaccine or cure for Avian Influenza, supportive care can help your cat feel better quickly.

Holiday hazards: Identify and conquer!

 

We’re sure you’re all busy making plans for a memorable Christmas holiday.  We’d like to provide you with information that will make it easier to include pet safety in those preparations and avoid common holiday hazards.

cookie2

The following are some of the top hazards pets encounter during the holiday season.

Christmas trees

Pets can incur injuries from tipping over and/or trying to climb Christmas trees.  Take care to anchor your tree to keep naughty and clumsy pets safe.

Ornaments

Fallen ornaments that break can have sharp edges which, when stepped on, can puncture and/or lacerate pets’ feet.  When picked up, their mouths and possibly their gastrointestinal tracts can suffer the consequences.  Take this into consideration when choosing ornaments for the tree.

Tinsel / Ribbon

Tinsel from the tree and ribbon from opened gifts can wreak havoc on a pet’s body when swallowed.  These can get stuck under the tongue or in the stomach and start to cut through the intestines, resulting in a life-threatening emergency.  Ideally, households with pets should forego using tinsel altogether, and ribbon from opened gifts should be promptly discarded.

Wires

Plugged-in wires such as those used for lights, when chewed, can result in burns in the mouth and/or fluid accumulations in the lungs (as a result of electric currents).  Keep wires out of the reach of pets when possible or unplugged when the room being lit is unoccupied/unsupervised. Keep in mind that chew deterrent sprays are not always effective.  When effective, these products should be reapplied regularly, sometimes even daily.

Poinsettias

Contrary to popular belief, Poinsettias are only mildly toxic, resulting primarily in gastrointestinal upset and irritation of the mouth when ingested.  Contact with the skin can result in skin irritation as well.

Holly

Holly, when ingested, can cause severe gastrointestinal upset. The pointy leaves can result in mechanical trauma both in the mouth and lower down in the gastrointestinal tract, compounding the inflammation caused by its toxic principles.

Mistletoe

European mistletoe is more toxic than the American variety.  Small ingestions can result in mild GI upset while larger ingestions are toxic not only to the GI tract but also to the heart (i.e. arrhythmias) and the nervous system (i.e. seizures).

Lilies

Different types of lilies vary in their levels of toxicity.  Adverse effects resulting from their ingestion can range from minor oral irritation (i.e. contact with so-called benign species) to outright failure of the kidneys.  The flowers, leaves, pollen, and even water from a vase containing toxic species, can be lethal.  Households containing one or more cats should avoid these flowers altogether.

Please see our Halloween article for information regarding additional concerns, including chocolate, xylitol, raisins / grapes, and candles.

If you find that your pet has become entangled with one of these or any other dangers during the holiday season, please remember that early intervention is always best. We hope you have a safe and happy holiday.  Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa!

Dr. Joyeeta De

Green Lake Animal Hospital

 

Don’t Share Your Feast with Your Beast

turkey

Prevention of Pancreatitis in Dogs

With the holiday season fast approaching, we want to help remind dog parents that even though it may be tempting to let your dog have some extra treats or table scraps, this may end up being very harmful to them.  Common problem foods include turkey and gravy and any desserts. When dogs get extra food items, especially very rich or high fat foods, they could be at risk of developing irritation of the gastrointestinal tract and/or pancreatitis.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

The stomach and intestines can get overwhelmed with some food items which can lead to vomiting and/or diarrhea which may even contain blood.   Dogs can become extremely dehydrated and weak pretty quickly if this process goes untreated.  The pancreas can also become inflamed and lead to life threatening pancreatitis.

How the Pancreas Works

When fatty foods pass out of the stomach into the small intestine, the pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes to break down these fats.  However, the pancreas can become overwhelmed if it is delivered large volumes of fat or rich foods that it is not accustomed to receiving.  The pancreas then releases an excess of these powerful enzymes and the organ becomes very inflamed.  Pancreatitis can cause vomiting, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, lethargy and/or diarrhea.   Treatment for pancreatitis requires aggressive fluid therapy, anti-nausea medication, pain medications and intensive care.  Pancreatitis, depending on the severity, can be lethal.

Avoid Table Scraps

Going into the holidays it is not uncommon to hear of pet parents “treating” their dogs to table scraps, extra treats, etc.  However, common holiday foods (gravy, turkey skin, desserts, etc.) are relatively high in fat, especially when compared to a dog’s normal diet.  Rather than using these foods as offerings for your dog, try to stick to normal dog treats or bland, gentle food treats.  If you get concerned your dog is showing any signs of vomiting, inappetance, lethargy, abdominal pain, etc., especially if there is any history of he/she getting extra treats or into the garbage, please seek veterinary care.

Lisa Edwards, DVM

Green Lake Animal Hospital

 

 

Halloween Safety Tips For Your Pet

The Holidays are fast approaching. When it comes to Halloween, our family pets often find the evening full of people, costumes, and noises overwhelming and even scary.

Here are a few things to consider when preparing for the festivities:

Candy

There are many potential toxic goodies this time of year.  Chocolate is the most concerning Halloween treat; eating even small amounts can lead to gastrointestinal upset, but in sufficient quantities it can be fatal. Raisins are another possible toxin and ingesting even a few can lead to kidney failure. Candy wrappers can become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract leading to bowel obstruction. Xylitol found in chewing gum can lead to fatally low blood sugar and liver toxicity. Overindulgence of candy in general can lead to painful and sometimes fatal pancreatic inflammation. It is not surprising that Halloween is the busiest holiday for poison control hotlines.

Decorations

Lit candles can easily get knocked over by wagging tails or cause burns to curious pets. Cats find glow sticks intriguing and if punctured the contents can cause painful oral irritation.

Escape

With all of the commotion and a constantly open front door, many pets escape and flee. Before the trick-or-treaters arrive, place pets in a separate room for safety.  Always be sure pets have proper tags and IDs, including a microchip.  Also be sure the tags and microchip are up to date with your most current contact information. If you have questions, we’re happy to check for a chip, place one if needed, and help you to make sure your pet is properly registered.

Noises

The constant ring of the doorbell, unknown voices and the sounds of children yelling and laughing can lead to anxiety..  Turning on the television or playing music to help cover the noises can be helpful.  Pets with excessive anxiety may benefit from behavioral modification training or additional medical support.  We can help you decide how best to treat your pet.

Pet Costumes

It is important to make sure that pet costumes fit appropriately. Pets can easily get entangled and may chew up and ingest costumes leading to intestinal obstruction.  Some pets find costumes to be upsetting and are best left out of the season’s entertainment.  No pet should be left unattended while wearing a costume.

Seattle Veterinary Associates is here to help you and your pet have a great and safe holiday season.  Please contact us if you have questions or concerns on how best to keep your pet healthy and happy!

Valissitie Heeren, DVM

Northwest Veterinary Hospital