End of Life Care for Pets, International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care


Michelle Nichols and Dr. Amir Shanan on WGN Radio

Fascinating discussion from the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, Dr. Amir Shanan and Michelle Nichols, a master in counseling, join me HERE on Steve Dale’s Pet World on WGN Radio to speak about end of life.

End of life is so hard for pet owners – and the good news is that fewer people are saying “it’s just a pet.”  Saying that makes it even more difficult for those suffering grief. And incidentally, of course, that grief is real.

How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye? Do our pets really ‘tell’ us when they’ve had enough? How do you where to do this, at the veterinary clinic or is in-home euthanasia? Do you just drop off the pet at the clinic and waiting in the waiting area or drive away? Are people waiting too long to euthanize, as I suggest? At times, they may euthanize too quickly as well, because they don’t want the pet suffer.

Even though, as Nichols says, you know your pet best. But I suggest it’s really hard to know when the time is right to say goodbye to your own pet.

No doubt family members grieve, but what about the loss for four-legged or feathered family members? Do other pets in the house also grieve loss? And if so, how do you help them to get over loss?

Nichols talks about how to best to prepare kids for loss.

Listener Jeff explains what he’s learned from pet loss and experiencing loss, and how hospice care helped him to “renew.”

So, what is hospice for pets? It’s also sometimes called Pawspice.

Sadly, Dr. Shanan notes that many pet owners question themselves after, “Did I do the right thing?” That’s human nature, but Dr. Shannon talks about how to potentially get over that issue.

I suggest we can learn a lot from our pets, but I believe that is especially true at end of life.

Ricky and me from circa 2000

I spoke at the dinner for the 10th Annual Conference of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, and talked about the relationship I had with my then famous piano playing cat, Ricky. And expressed the bond we shared. Ricky died of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a very common and often fatal heart disease in cats. With the Winn Feline Foundation, I initiated the Ricky Fund to learn more and we’ve raised about $200,000. As a result, gene defects that cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy have been identified in the Ragdoll and Maine Coon breeds. Now, a simple and inexpensive cheek swab can determine if individuals in those breeds may be carrying the defects. This test has reduced the disease in those two breeds, but more needs to be done. The International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care surprised me with a check for the Fund.