Medicine and Pain Management
Pursue options for pain management, medicine, and supportive medical care as advised by your veterinarian. When working with senior animals, the goal is to provide comfort as opposed to cure. Your veterinarian is the best person to help with the management of signs that indicate pain, side effects of the medical conditions, treatments and anticipated complications as the patient’s condition declines.
Helpful Medicine Tips:
Greenies Pill Pockets: Insert your pet’s medication into a pill pocket to get them to take it. For dogs: If you put a pill in a small ball of cat food, he or she will eat it readily. Dogs love cat food!
A tool called a "pill popper," available through your veterinarian, will help in administering pills to a cat that is reluctant to take them voluntarily.
Liquid Medicine: For dogs, liquid medicine should be administered on the side of the animal's mouth. Consider using a 3cc or 5cc syringe. Give your dog water in the same way. Giving liquids to a cat is more easily done from the front of the mouth.
I'm Shadow and I am 21 years old
Pill splitters and digital thermometers: These may also be helpful for the administration of medications and monitoring your pet’s temperature.
Medications that are required to be taken with food: Some drugs and/or herbs that are required to be taken with food may upset your pet’s stomach if they have begun to lose their appetite and are eating less. In addition, antibiotics and other drugs can actually cause the loss of appetite. Some ways to soothe any discomfort that your pet may be experiencing from these medications and lack of food are homeopathy, gentle body or energy work, warm towels and warm water bottles.
Medication: There are several medications available to address signs of incontinence. One that I have used, which was recommended by my veterinarian, is called Proin. There are others that may be more appropriate for your pet. Please consult your veterinarian to explore the options.
Dog Diapers: In addition, there are doggie “pants” (diapers) available through online catalogs and local pet stores. “Seasonals," “Pooch Pants," “Doggie Wraps," made for male and female animals. “Clean GO Pet '' makes disposable doggie diapers. “Pooch Pads," ‘Oops Pads’ absorb liquid and can be placed under your pet to avoid an accident in their favorite sleeping spot.
Accidents and Bedding: As some pets age, they will “piddle” on their beds. This has happened in our home, particularly when a senior animal goes into a deep sleep at night. I do not like foam core bedding because it is typically difficult to clean. Other types of bedding, tends to be bulky and will take up the entire washing machine when laundered. My suggestion is to wrap the foam core, or other bedding liner in 39 gallon plastic bags (if the bed is large, you may need two one for each end. Allow them to overlap). Take duct tape and secure the plastic bags by taping around the bags in the middle, top to bottom and side to side. Then, put the cover of the bedding over the now secured plastic bags. Now, if your pet piddles on their bed, you will only have to wash the outer cover of their bedding. The plastic bags can be quickly wiped off with a paper towel.
Animal Slings: There are slings designed for helping your pet walk outside with your assistance and that allow them to stand while relieving themselves. The slings go by the brand name “Quick Lift," “Soft Quick Lift." There are animal stretchers, “Quick Carry” and “Soft Quick Carry." “Quick” products can be ordered from the Four Flags Over Aspen company (see Resources). The “Bottom’s up Leash” is also an option.
Pumpkin in a can. We use Libby's 100% pumpkin--check the can. It can be added to the dog’s food (a heaping tablespoon for a large dog, less for a small dog) to add fiber.
Rice can also be added to your dog’s food to add fiber.
If your dog experiences diarrhea, the first thing to try is not feed them canned dog food, which is very rich. Take them off canned dog food and feed them only dry food and see if it makes a difference. If this doesn't work, consult your veterinarian.
You may also find that over-the-counter anti-diarrheals such as Immodium A-D will be helpful - check with your veterinarian as to proper dosage.
Pediatric electrolytes can be offered to your pet in addition to water. Think of it as “doggy Gatorade." It will replace electrolytes lost during the time your pet has loose stools.
There are Flower essences and essential oils that can offer support to your pet during these times.
There are T-Touch massages that can strengthen your pet’s immune system. Please look under resources to see the various T-Touch books available and select one that is appropriate for your pet.
Don’t forget to play healing music for your pet!
During a seizure: You may observe the limbs becoming very straight and rigid. The bones can become fragile during a seizure, so be careful moving your animal companion. Rather, move objects around your pet that might interfere with your pet's movements. It helps to surround your pet with pillows or anything soft so the animal does not injure themselves during a seizure. If the seizure is severe, take your animal to a vet immediately after the seizure has passed. If the animal does not seem to be coming out of a seizure in a relatively short period of time, take your pet to a vet, but carefully wrap the animal in something soft and be careful not to try to bend the animal's legs or body because of the potential for hurting the animal further.
Logging seizures: Start a log of your animal's seizure, even if the animal comes out of the seizure relatively quickly without much after effect. Log the time of the seizure, length of the seizure, and anything that you observe. This information will help your vet address the seizure medically. Continue to maintain the log, even if the seizures seem to occur quite a bit of time apart. I have had dogs that had a seizure and didn't have another (so far, knock on wood). Some dogs have seizures very infrequently; still record all observations in a log, since they may occur more frequently later in the animal's life.
Other Helpful Tips
Animal Communication: I understand that not everyone believes in animal communication. Everyone’s belief system is different. However, in special circumstances, I have found the skills of an animal communicator to be quite useful in helping me understand the dying process from the perspective of my pet. They have also helped me understand the difference between a human’s experience and concept of death as different from an animal’s. I’ve listed the name of the animal communicator that I use under “Resources." There are others that may meet your needs. If you decide to pursue this option, do some exploration, make calls, and ask questions until you find someone that you feel comfortable working with.
Flower essences: I have used flower essences in conjunction with other therapies. Though I do not believe they are a replacement for veterinary medicine, they can make a remarkable impact on an animal’s health and well-being given the individual animal’s needs. Two sources for purchasing flower essences that I have found to be reliable are listed under “Resources," specifically, Bach Flower Essences and those sold by Green Hope Farm. I’ve used and love “Transitions” sold by Green Hope Farm, which is listed under their Animal Wellness Collection. I would also recommend “Coral Pink Rose." Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower Essences) should always be kept on hand.
Essential Oils: Essential Oils can be used in response to a variety of emotional, physical, and spiritual issues. I use Green Hope Farm. With your order, they will send you lots of information on using essential oils. Because of their purity and concentration a little goes a long way! If an animal is weak or sick, there is an essential oil that correlates with the animals particular need at the moment. Go to their website for more specific information. Essential oils such as lavender and citrus can have a calming and peaceful effect. Mix a few drops with distilled water in a spray bottle to spray into the air, or diffuse with a cold-air diffuser made specially for aromatherapy. Do not use perfume or perfume-grade oils--only therapeutic-grade essential oils. To create a more spiritual environment, use oils from ancient scripture such as frankincense or myrrh.
Creating a Comfortable Environment
Creating a comfortable environment for your animal to live out the final days or weeks of its life is essential to their well being and happiness. An animal who is dying may be feeling the warmth and compassion of a caring human for the last time.
Sensory overload can exacerbate illness and behavioral issues. Animals are highly sensitive. A chaotic environment creates stress and discord for them. Work to create and maintain harmony among family members and friends, especially those people in the animal's immediate environment.
Pets should be in calm spaces, on their favorite beds, or in the final hours, on a linoleum surface where bedding can be placed under them as well as pads to absorb bodily fluids. Animals that are sick or dying frequently have lower body temperature. A warmer room or an extra blanket can help to increase their comfort.
Offer soft, diffuse, preferably natural lighting during the day and low lighting in the evening. Avoid a dark environment. For comfort, take your pet’s collar off. Keep other animals away from the immediate area. Offer gentle touching, massage (T-Touch), and petting. Place your hand on the forehead using a gentle touch and keep it there, or lightly brush the brow. This is similar to the 'laying on of hands' that many traditions use with humans. Clearing your pet's energy field can be accomplished by placing both of your hands approximately three inches above the body. Move your hands in short, sweeping motions downward, moving from the head to the back feet. I like to stay especially close to my pet in their final hours. In the evening hours, I sleep next to my pet in a sleeping bag on the floor.
Music and Sound:
Soft, low music may be soothing. Pleasant, natural sounds can offer comfort. Singing birds or running water can be a source of peaceful relaxation. Use music that is soft and unobtrusive. Try The Healer’s Way, Volume I: Soothing Music for Those in Pain by Stella Benson, certified music practitioner, composer and author. Another recommended CD is Self-Healing with Sound and Music, a 2-CD set by Andrew Weil and Kimba Arem.