Tech Talk – Surviving Pet Loss

On Saying Goodbye

A few years ago, I had to say goodbye to my beloved Great Dane “Jolie” after she was diagnosed with bone cancer. I adopted her at 8 yrs old knowing from the start that I wouldn’t have that long with her. The life span of Great Danes are typically 8-10 years, and I only was able to spend 3 wonderful months with her. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye so quickly, and it took me a while to move on from the loss.

Looking back at my memories with her, I still tear up knowing how happy I was those last months with her. It’s never easy having to say goodbye to a pet whether they’ve been your life long companion or only with you for a few months. Our pets become such a major part of our families that it’s hard to deal with the loss of a loved pet. Even though there is no right or wrong way to get over the loss, here are a few suggestions that could help you cope if and when you’re faced with such a situation.

For many, a pet is not simply a dog, cat, or reptile. Our pets are beloved members of the family, and when they pass away, you can feel traumatic loss. Much like when dealing with human loss, everyone grieves in their own, sometimes deeply personal way. Some find that grief comes in stages where they experience a series of feelings like denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves or a series of highs and lows. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months, but for others, the grieving process can be measured in years.

Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the healing process to naturally unfold. Reaching out to others who have lost their pets can also help. Expressing your feelings with someone who truly understands what you’re going through can be a great alternative to holding feelings inside. It’s ok to cry or not to cry, but it’s also ok to laugh and find moments of joy.

If your friends or family members do not work well with the grief of pet loss, you can try other resources such as online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and grieving support groups. Other helpful alternatives include expressing your feelings in a poem or letter, telling a story about your pet, or rearranging photos and making a memorial collage.

Pet owners may ask the question, “Will my pets grieve?” Pets observe every change in a household and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. They often form strong attachments to one another, and the survivor may grieve for its companion. You may need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this time. Maintaining their daily routine or even increasing exercise and play time will not only benefit the surviving pets but may also help elevate your own outlook too.

I hope this has provided some useful techniques for helping cope with the loss of a pet. I still miss Jolie, but I now celebrate her life and the joy she brought to me and others.

Kathryn

Surgery Assistant

Tech Talk – Diabetes and Pets

Dogs and Cats Get Diabetes Too!

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month for humans but also for our furry friends too! Many people are not aware that dogs and cats can have diabetes just like their human counterparts. While the disease process can be slightly different in pets, there are many similarities too. This article will provide a brief simplistic overview of canine and feline diabetes. Remember, if you suspect there may be an illness in one of your pets, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your family veterinarian!

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a disease that results in persistently elevated blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. In humans, this is caused by either a lack of insulin production from the pancreas (Type 1) or a developed insulin resistance (Type 2). Type 2 is the one typically linked with obesity, other disease process, decreased activity, and poor diet. Diabetes mellitus in a cat is more similar to human Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes of the dog is more similar to human Type 1 diabetes.

The most common symptoms in a pet with diabetes are excessive drinking and urination, weight loss and increased appetite. A complication of diabetes is a condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a very serious condition that may have symptoms such as depression, lethargy, anorexia and vomiting. This is most commonly seen in newly diagnosed diabetics or those with concurrent disease processes. As always, if you notice any abnormal symptoms in your pet, have them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Your vet will first perform a physical examination on your pet and get a detailed history from you. They may want to run blood tests such as a blood glucose level and perhaps a full lab panel including a CBC, blood chemistry, electrolyte panel and urinalysis. They may also recommend a blood test called a fructosamine, which looks at the average blood glucose level over time. This is done to try to rule out influences such as stress that can artificially raise the blood glucose level as many patients are stressed at the vet clinic. They may recommend doing radiographs (x-rays), abdominal ultrasound, urine culture or other specialized tests. You and your doctor will come up with a plan specific to fit your pets and your family’s needs.

Once a diagnosis of diabetes is obtained, your doctor will likely recommend starting your pet on insulin therapy. This typically consists of twice daily subcutaneous injections of insulin, given after your pet eats a meal. Your veterinarian or their staff will show you how to give these injections and how to make it a positive experience for your furry friend! It is important to note that if your pet is not eating, you do not want to give them insulin as they may develop low blood sugar. If your pet is not eating, call your veterinarian right away for help. It is also important to make sure that the type of insulin syringe you are using, matches the type of insulin you are giving. Be sure to ask your doctor to explain the difference to you. There will be other details for them to teach you such as how to store and mix up insulin. Lifestyle and diet changes may also need to be made depending upon your pets case.

When your pet is first diagnosed there will likely be frequent visits to the vet to make sure they are on an appropriate dosage of insulin and are responding favorably. The majority of diabetic patients are easily managed by your family veterinarian. If they are having trouble regulating the blood glucose or your pet is still showing signs of illness, they may refer you to a specialist, such as an Internal Medicine Specialist.

When pets have difficult to manage diabetes, they often have concurrent underlying diseases that a specialist can help to uncover and treat. Controlling this underlying disease process can then help to control the diabetes in the long run. Occasionally, patients may go into remission and no longer insulin therapy. This is seen more commonly seen in cats. The majority of patients however will need lifelong insulin therapy and veterinary management.

Your dog or cat with diabetes can live a long and happy life with proper management from your veterinarian and of course, dedication from you!

Cheers to National Diabetes Awareness Month!

Lupe’s Story

A Thank You to the awesome team at Sunstone Veterinary Specialists:

Lupe first met Dr Su this summer when she developed a perineal hernia and was uncomfortable both peeing and pooping. Dr Su helped us put together a plan for two staged surgeries to get her back to health. The team members at Sunstone were always so kind and gentle with Lupe. They always made her feel safe and pampered, which is really how she likes things! Dr Su, Alicia, Sarah and the entire team at Sunstone always made me and my husband always feel cared for too. The professionalism, kindness, patience and compassion extended to us through this whole journey has been top notch. We are so thankful.

Lupe healed beautifully from her procedures and is back to being the queen of our household. She goes on walks to check her pee-mail and even goes to work several days a week to supervise or act as a greeter at the front desk. She is healthy, happy and sassy – all thanks to Dr Su and the team at Sunstone!

THANK YOU!!!

Katy Felton DVM and Alex Simpson CST

Tech Talk – Adopting Senior Pets

Why Adopt a Senior Pet?

Puppies and kittens are the best, right? They’re cute, cuddly, full of energy. Even just looking at a kitten makes my day a brighter and better day. Who wouldn’t want one? There’s another population of pet potentials that gets overlooked though and it’s unfortunate that every day in our communities, beautiful loving pets are being euthanized.  Why? They’re older, and because they’re older, they’re not considered adoptable. They’re passed over for those cute and cuddly puppies and kittens.

Most often, older animals are left behind in shelters as prospective adopters want a pet that they can raise and have for a long time. This means that older canines and felines have higher euthanasia rates than the younger ones, or are left to live the rest of their lives out in a shelter kennel. It’s a sad fact, but one that needs to be discussed.

November is a great month to bring awareness to this issue; it is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month! Any dog and cat 7 years or older is considered “senior.”  Walking into a shelter, you’re bound to see older dogs and cats sitting patiently awaiting a soft voice, a kind hand, or even a friendly glance, a glimmer of hope that maybe this is their day that they get chosen to be a part of a loving family.  They sit and wait, often scared, depressed, and almost always overlooked by potential adopters. Yet, ironically, they are often the perfect candidates for adopters; quiet, calm, housebroken, good with kids, affectionate and easily acclimated to a new home. They sit there patiently, waiting for someone to love them, until many times, it’s too late.  I know this is a depressing topic, but it’s a topic that has become more and more important to me.

There are definitely pros and cons to adopting an older pet, but the same goes with puppies and kittens. One hesitation for a lot of people is that they don’t want to get attached to an older animal because they’ll have fewer years to live out. But turn that around. Think about it. You can give that older sweet lab, or that geriatric skinny black cat or even the Chihuahua with the overbite who’s so ugly that he’s cute the best life for their remaining days. That could be one year, it could be five or even ten. The point is, these animals are just looking for love and a forever home. You would be saving a life that someone else threw away. You would be a hero to that animal.

Here are a few other reasons you should adopt an older pet:

-Older pets tend to be calmer than younger ones, which often make them easier to train. They are more mellow and relaxed and ready for a new home. Most senior pets are just happy sitting at your feet or curled up next to you on the couch, just happy to finally have a place to belong. This brings me to reason number two:

-Senior pets are great company for senior citizens. Many elderly people find the calm presence of an older pet very comforting. They don’t mind hearing the same stories over and over again and are content to move through life at a slower speed. The perfect pairing!

-Senior pets are typically less demanding. Older animals have their routines and, while they still love to play, they love to relax, cuddle, and nap as well. As a result, they tend to fit in more easily into your daily routine.  Senior pets also take the guess work out of a dog’s potential size, the nature of a cat’s adult personality, or the energy level of an adult. You get what you currently observe!

-Senior pets demand no huge lifestyle change. You don’t need to worry about kitten and puppy proofing your house and constantly training them. And older pets let you get a good night’s sleep! They don’t demand the time and attention that a younger dog and cat does and are satisfied with casual walks, cuddling, and a short play time.  Many senior pets will snooze the day away inside while you’re at work and are waiting calmly at the door for you when you return.

-Senior pets are stress relievers. Life can be hectic and studies have shown that animal guardianship can decrease blood pressure levels and reduce stress. Senior pets enjoy leisurely walks and gentle play, which will encourage you to take a nice stroll through the neighborhood even just for a few minutes on your busiest days.

-Adopted senior pets are grateful. Somehow, older pets seem to know you gave them a second chance, when no one else would. Many new owners form a close bond very quickly with their senior dog or cat, because the pet shows them a level of attention and loyalty that is unique in adopted animals. You have become that animal’s saving grace.

Those are just a few reasons why everyone should look into adopting a senior pet. Kittens and puppies are fun, but don’t overlook the senior pets; they need love just like puppies and kittens do. Love has no age limit.  Why not give them the best life possible? Adopting a senior pet changes not only their life for the better, but yours as well.

We are on the brink of the holiday season. What better time to provide a loving home for a shelter pet? Help one less animal spend the holiday season in a shelter. Be their Christmas miracle. You will be their forever hero.

Alicia, AA, AAS, LVT

Surgery Technician

Introducing Tech Talk!

We had so much fun blogging for Veterinary Technician Week, and the response from our friends and family was so warm, we’ve decided to make it a weekly event!

Every Tuesday, one of our amazing support staff members will post a short blog, giving us a glimpse into their jobs and life as technicians and assistants in the world of specialty veterinary medicine.

Our support staff has an especially amazing ability to connect and engage with our clients and patients, and we’d like to share that with you, our readers!