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Dog Euthanasia, Hospice, and Lap of Love

Dog Euthanasia, Hospice, and Lap of Love | Dr. Dani McVety


Summary

Until recently, most vets didn’t get any classes on euthanasia in vet school. Learn about the growing focus on hospice and end-of-life care for dogs.


Episode Notes

Lap of Love is a company dedicated to hospice care and home euthanasia for ill pets. Founder Dr. Dani McVety shares her insight on how to talk to your vet about hospice care for your dog, the “four budgets” that you need to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue euthanasia for your dog, and what to expect during a euthanasia appointment.

She also has an amazing alternative to the dreaded agony of trying to figure out the exact Right Time. Instead, she has found that there is a window of time. Listen in to learn more.

Links Mentioned in Today’s Show:

Lap of Love

Dog Cancer Support

Lap of Love Grief Resources

Related Links:

Dog Euthanasia: What Happens podcast episode

Dog Euthanasia: What Happens article

Signs a Dog is Dying: A Vet Reveals What Your Dog May Be Experiencing podcast episode

About Today’s Guest, Dr. Dani McVety:

Dr. Dani McVety founded Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice just 3 months after graduation from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Now an Inc 5000 company, and 8 time recipient of the Gator 100 award, Lap of Love visits over 100,000 families a year, with a nationwide network of over 400 passionate doctors and a full time interdisciplinary support staff. Their team is dedicated to making the end of life experience for pets, and the people that love them, as dignified and peaceful as possible.

Dr. McVety has become widely known among veterinary students nationally and internationally for her ability to authentically share her personal struggles through veterinary school. Her underlying message is one of accountability, hard work, and a focus on entrepreneurism.

Dr. McVety and Lap of Love have been featured on numerous local, national, and professional media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Huffington Post, and many more. She is proud to be a Gator and is the youngest recipient of both the UF CVM’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award (2013) and the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s President’s Award (2014). She was honored to also receive the Tampa Bay Up and Comer’s 40 under 40 Hall of Fame award and the Pet Industry Woman of the Year in 2017 and has most recently received the AVMA’s 2022 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award!

With a home base and business headquarters in Tampa, FL, Dr. McVety’s most prized moments occur at home, with her husband Dominic, and children Baron, Collins, Lion, and Maverick. Her non-human kids include dogs, Blitzen and Grace, and horses, Bianca and Waffles.

LinkedIn

Other Links:

To join the private Facebook group for readers of Dr. Dressler’s book “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide,” go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/dogcancersupport/

Dog Cancer Answers is a Maui Media production in association with Dog Podcast Network

This episode is sponsored by the best-selling animal health book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity by Dr. Demian Dressler and Dr. Susan Ettinger. Available everywhere fine books are sold.

Have a guest you think would be great for our show? Contact our producers at DogCancerAnswers.com

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Transcript

[00:00:00] >> Dr. Dani McVety: I dislike it when veterinarians tell their clients, you know, "You’ll know when it’s time, you’re going to know when it’s the right time. You’ll see that look in their eyes." It’s not that simple. The most important thing I can tell you is that there’s a subjective period of time when euthanasia is a good decision. It doesn’t mean your only decision, but it’s a good decision.

[00:00:22] >> Announcer: Welcome to Dog Cancer Answers, where we help you help your dog with cancer.

[00:00:28] >> Molly Jacobson: Hello friend. Here at Dog Cancer Answers, we usually focus on dog cancer treatments, but today we’re going to focus on that sort of murky time at the end of life, where you might be starting to consider euthanasia for your dog. We’re joined by Dr. Dani McVety, who is the co-founder and CEO of Lap of Love, which is a network of veterinarians that is located across the United States. She’ll talk to you a little bit about her business during the interview, but mostly Dr. Dani McVety shares her really deep insights into hospice, grieving, and euthanasia.

Dr. Dani McVety, thank you for joining us today.

[00:01:10] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Thank you for having me.

[00:01:11] >> Molly Jacobson: It’s such a pleasure to get to meet you. I know many, many dog lovers who have availed themselves of your amazing supportive services for hospice and also for euthanasia services with Lap of Love. So why don’t we start there? Just tell me a little bit about Lap of Love.

[00:01:29] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Sure. Okay. So I, um, let me see I’ll um, I guess I’ll, I’ll jump way back to the beginning, but give you the brief overview. When I was in undergrad, I volunteered for human hospice and I really had no idea what that experience was going to be and kind of where it was going to lead in, in my life. But I just, you know human hospice has this amazing way of treating the patient and not necessarily focusing on the disease, and they kind of care more about what ice cream you like, than, you know, whether or not you take your medicine today.

So the philosophy that they have and the way that they treat people – and then as a volunteer, I went through a little training that they have as well. And that kind of really opened my eyes to that. And I had not had a significant loss in my life at that age of 20 years old, you know, so it was, it was very eye opening for me.

So fast forward, you know, I got through undergraduate studies and then I got into veterinary school and graduated veterinary school in 2009. And the economy was kind of crashing in 2009. So, you know, the jobs were a little bit more scarce than they were today and particularly in veterinary medicine. So I was doing emergency medicine, which I loved, so I love emergency medicine, but I also found myself in a lot of end of life conversations in emergency medicine, because it’s, it’s obvious, you know. A lot of times people will bring their dog or cat in on a Friday and maybe they have a terminal illness and they know that they’re facing euthanasia.

You know, they know that that’s coming. But we don’t have to euthanize that day and we could euthanize the next day or Sunday, or they would say something like my goodness, you know, I wish I wish she would hold on for my wife who gets, you know, who gets home on Sunday, or my husband gets home on Monday, is there any way we can just, you know, keep them going?

And, and to me, that’s when I started saying hospice. I’m like, yeah, we can hospice him through these next couple of days. And then, gosh, I’ll come to your home on Sunday or Monday and you know, we can say goodbye there. It really just kind of took off, you know, people got it. And as soon as I would say the word hospice, their shoulders would, would relax. They would just, they would kind of like breathe this breath of just, you know, understanding. And, because to me, as a doctor, I think that they knew that I could talk them into a thousand dollars’ worth of treatment that night, you know, but my favorite line from Jurassic Park, you know, is just because we can doesn’t mean that we should.

And just because I can do all these things doesn’t mean that that’s going to benefit the quality of life of your pet and be valuable to you in your experience of losing your dog or your cat. Again, it was just this natural process for me. And I think a lot of that was anchored with volunteering for human hospice.

So anyway, I was three months out of school when I started Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice. And I thought it was just going to be a part-time thing, was just going to be a side gig that, you know, use to pay back my student loans, and I’ll do it in between my ER shifts and, you know, and, and I, and again, I loved it.

I really enjoyed it. And what surprised me was that it really picked up very quickly. And within a year and a half, I had to stop working ER, because I was just so busy. And then about a year after that, I called my, um, good friend and, you know, classmate from veterinary school, Dr. Mary Gardner, who she had designed software before she got to veterinary school.

And I was like, Mary I’m growing too fast, use software to help me with all this paperwork, and oh, by the way, I’m getting calls from veterinarians around the country wondering how they could start something like this as well. And, you know, kind of fast forward from there, Mary and I partnered up and we, you know, basically designed the software that allowed us to replicate the business model over and over again.

[00:04:57] >> Molly Jacobson: So at this point it sounds like Lap of Love is not just a service company, but actually a tech company. And how many people have you helped with their dogs?

[00:05:09] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah. That’s interesting that you say that. I have had tech people say that to us, you know, but at the end of the day, we’ll always be a veterinary service.

[00:05:15] >> Molly Jacobson: Of course.

[00:05:16] >> Dr. Dani McVety: That’s what we are, but, but tech runs us, like it runs many businesses out there. But at this point, um, gosh, almost 13 years after we started, we have over 200 doctors, almost 500 employees, and we help almost 10,000 pets a month say goodbye in the comfort of their own home. And at this point we’re in about 36 states.

[00:05:38] >> Molly Jacobson: That’s amazing.

Yeah. I, I went to your site, typed in my zip code. You’re not here. Unfortunately.

[00:05:44] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Where are you?

[00:05:45] >> Molly Jacobson: We’re in Maui.

[00:05:46] >> Dr. Dani McVety: You know what, a good friend of mine almost started in, in Hawaii, then she ended up not living there and coming back to the states. But yeah, yeah.

[00:05:53] >> Molly Jacobson: We’re used to being on the, on the lagging end of new services, but no, no, no. That leads me to ask, how do people who would like to have home euthanasia or would like to hospice their dog, is there any way that they can access your services?

[00:06:10] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah, so obviously the places that we have veterinarians, you know, it’s as simple as just going on our website and finding us. But, you know, I, I don’t, I don’t want to blow the hospice thing up too much because regular veterinarians have been doing hospice for generations ,you know. We just, haven’t always called it hospice care.

[00:06:27] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:06:28] >> Dr. Dani McVety: And I think that that was the big turning point for me. And, and when I go and lecture to veterinarians and just reminding them to use that word hospice, because that tells the families, look, I’m not going to be doing all this extra stuff. You know, we’re not going to do all these tests and everything ’cause it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, we all know what’s going to happen. We’re all going to die. All of us are gonna die at some point. And at some point we start focusing on quality of life and then start focusing on the quality of death instead. And to me, that’s what hospice is about is providing a peaceful, loving, compassionate, you know, arms around you type end of life experience.

So people that don’t have Lap of Love or don’t have any other service like us in the area, probably the best thing you can do is Google "mobile veterinarian" and find a doctor that’s willing to come to your home. Um, your pet cat, or dog, is going to be most comfortable in their home. But if not, ’cause there are some mobile veterinarians and mobile vets, because of the business model, they can be, get booked up very, very far in advance.

[00:07:23] >> Molly Jacobson: It’s true.

[00:07:23] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So that’s not always, always an easy thing to do. Really just talk to your regular veterinarian and say, this is something that’s very important to me. I would like to keep him comfortable for a couple of days. I’d find that there are not a lot of people that are averse to euthanasia. I think most pet owners are very welcoming of the ability to stop suffering in the moment.

But at the same time, I don’t necessarily want anybody that has potentially lost their pet from natural causes or unmedicated death, you know, to feel badly about that. Because I think 99% of the pets on the face of this earth die without euthanasia, you know, the ones in the wild and Serengeti and all that stuff.

Right? Most animals die without euthanasia. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just like an epidural. So an, euthanasia is like, literally like having an epidural for the dying process just like an epidural makes the birthing process, coming into this world, you know, a little bit easier, although the process is going to happen, whether or not you have an epidural, I’ve got four kids, I know.

Process is going to happen, you know. Um, epidural just makes it a little bit nicer. Again, the, the death is going to happen anyway. So I think that it’s it’s imperative, and this goes just for human medicine as well, you know, to, to decide what you want for your pet and to work with your veterinarian and be very clear about what you would like.

Now, I will tell you that whether we are able to hospice a pet, and to what extent, is extremely heavily weighted on what the disease process your pet has. So if your pet has congestive heart failure and you want to wait until the very, very last moment and you want to have a peaceful end of life experience, those two things aren’t compatible. Because the heart is going to work until the second that it doesn’t. So it’s like a cliff, it’s just going to, once it stops working, it goes downhill very fast. Minutes to maybe an hour, you know? So I just can’t, you know, particularly where we work, I can’t get to you in an emergency type situation.

So in home euthanasia in and of itself is not an emergency response where it’s an urgent care model. So it’s definitely one that you need to work with your veterinarian on to talk about the disease process your pet has, what’s possible, you know, to hospice through, and what’s not possible, and then kind of make a plan from there.

[00:09:31] >> Molly Jacobson: So that, that is a really, really critical topic. I think one of the things that dog lovers really struggle with: how do I know it’s time? Do I take my dog to emergency? Am I already in the end of life or is my dog just having a hard day? How do you know?

[00:09:52] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah. So I think that first of all, is there’s the misnomer that we would know, you know. And I don’t, I definitely don’t like that. I dislike it when veterinarians tell their, their clients, you know, "You’ll know when it’s time. You’re going to know when it’s the right time. You’ll see that look in their eyes." Right. And what about the look that everyone says that they give. And it’s just, it’s not that simple. So the most important thing I can tell you is that there’s a subjective period of time when euthanasia is a good decision. And it doesn’t mean your only decision, but it’s a good decision.

And, you know, before which I’m going to refuse to euthanize because there is a quality of life exists, right? And euthanasia is not an appropriate decision. But then after this subjective period of time, I’m going to insist on euthanizing because there’s sustained suffering. And that typically happens in the emergency room, right?

Those are difficult deaths. But this larger period of time is this very subjective period of time. And everybody’s very different. There are a lot of people that want to wait until the very last moment, you know, and they’re going to push that boundary on their pet potentially dying unmedicated, you know, which is not always a peaceful way to go. Or there’s some people that like to make the decision soon.

So I’ll give you an example. You know, I had a family one time that called me and their Golden Retriever had osteosarcoma, bone cancer, and they hospiced their pet and we got him another six months and it was a beautiful six months and, you know, they did everything. I mean, literally these people did everything, oncologist and all of it.

And it was almost six months to the day that they got from the diagnosis. And they knew that as soon as he couldn’t make it to the mailbox anymore, they were going to say goodbye. So that was one experience they had. About two or three years later, they called me on the way home from the veterinarian with their second dog who was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma. And they were like, we want, we need to do it today or tomorrow, this week. They’re like, we just can’t, we can’t do that again.

So the point is that, you know, everybody has different experiences. And even if you push those boundaries with one pet, something that I have found, and I would never have guessed this, but is that people don’t tend to like to do that again.

And again, everybody’s a bit different, right, but there are the vast majority of the families that I help, once they have gone through that long, stressful, just drawn out hospice experience, the next time it happens, they literally, they’re like, Doc, we just can’t do it again. We don’t want to go through that again. It was so long. Every day you’re wondering is today the day? Is today the day?

And it’s this, that, you know, you delay vacations and you delay guests coming down and you delay all these things because you just, you put everything on hold for your pet. And I think what happens is that when people do that, sometimes they look back on it and they don’t think that that was quality time that they got anyway. Because it’s stressful and you’re shoving pills down their throat.

And so, again, you know, my purpose of, of saying that story is that there’s uh varying degrees of what people are willing to put up with and what they’re able to do. And I’ll expand one more on that if it’s okay with you, but-

[00:12:49] >> Molly Jacobson: Please.

[00:12:50] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So the way that we explain it in the homes is that there’s four different budgets that people have.

The first is the monetary budget. Everybody understands that budget, right? Like I can’t, can’t afford to take my dog to the oncologist once a month. Can’t afford to take my dog to the internist once a month. I can’t take, I can’t afford to do this big, huge surgery to remove a spleen, to maybe get another couple of months.

I just can’t afford it. Right?

[00:13:10] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:13:10] >> Dr. Dani McVety: And that’s a viable thing. I think people get very, very, they feel very guilty about that stuff. But, you know, if you Google, what is the average disposable income that people have, it’s something like a few hundred dollars, right? Like-

[00:13:22] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah. Four hundred dollars I think is what it was last year. And it’s probably less now.

[00:13:27] >> Dr. Dani McVety: No. You’re exactly right. Yeah. ‘Cause when gas goes up, we lose a few cents, right?

[00:13:30] >> Molly Jacobson: Gas and food is up. Right.

[00:13:32] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah. So, you know, it’s, it’s fine. When people in emergency room all the time, they would tell me things like, oh, I’ll go refinance my home to make this happen. And I was like, no, you’re not, no, you’re not, you’re not going to do that.

Okay. Because just because you have a million dollars, doesn’t mean I can buy you more years with your pet. You’re not going to go refinance your house just so you can get a few more weeks with your animal. I know that those words sound really amazing, like it does, right? It sounds amazing. And we’re not talking about your human child here.

I mean, the human child is like, that’s a whole separate conversation. And I know some people treat their pets like human children. I get that, you know, but my point is is that I’m not going to put you in a position that you are crawling out of debt for the next 40 years of your life, just to get in another couple of months.

And if that is okay with you, then that’s fine. That’s your own personal decision. But I was always very clear with people. And I found that the vast majority of people were very appreciative of the clarity of providing that type of release from guilt and release from judgment.

[00:14:30] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah.

[00:14:30] >> Dr. Dani McVety: That they think that I have and they think they should have on themselves.

[00:14:34] >> Molly Jacobson: Yes. Don’t you think that people feel like, they often feel like, I have to let you know-

[00:14:40] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yes.

[00:14:40] >> Molly Jacobson: -that as I contemplate what feels very much like killing my dog-

[00:14:44] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yup.

[00:14:46] >> Molly Jacobson: -that I don’t want to do this and I would do anything to avoid having to do this. And they need to signal that to themselves and to everybody else around them, because that is such a terrible choice to make, whether it’s the right choice or not.

It’s a terrible choice. It’s hard.

[00:15:03] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Exactly right, which is why, you know, the conversations that myself and the doctors that do this type of work, the conversations that we have in the home with people, almost always, it’s about giving the families permission to say goodbye. And I let them know, you know, they’ll say things like, I don’t want to make the decision.

I’m like, you’re not making the decision. I’m making the decision. You’re partnering with me in the decision. You don’t go to your spinal doctor and say, I need surgery. You say, my back hurts what do I do?

[00:15:31] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:15:32] >> Dr. Dani McVety: And then he says, this is what we’re going to do. And then you say, okay, it sounds like a good idea. Or not, you know, you can say no, obviously.

And I tell them that, I mean, look, you can say no, but I’m telling you that this is, you are within this period of time when it’s an appropriate decision. And your two options are to do nothing, which is almost always not an option. You know, I say, you’re not going to do that. You’re going to do something. And you’re either going to go to the clinic and you’re going to get heavy pain meds, and we’re going to hospice him up and we’re going to do all these things.

I’m gonna spend about a thousand dollars of your money tonight getting him, you know, back to comfortable, or we’re going to say goodbye in a peaceful way that’s going to leave you with as little guilt as possible. And look, there’s always some guilt, right? I mean, I think that there’s always some guilt with a natural death, even a human death, like there’s always: Did I do enough? Did I say the right things? Did he feel loved in his life? Did we give him enough treats? Right. I mean, like there’s always some guilt and I deal with that with my own personal pets too.

But the point is, is that, you know, I feel like my job in this is to explain, based on my education and my experience in doing this, I’ve helped thousands of families through this. And I’ve seen them before and I’ve seen them after and I’ve seen what they struggle with and what they don’t struggle with. And I’ve seen them over multiple euthanasias and how they’re, the evolution of their thoughts and their feelings, you know, happen. And it’s just so important that we do the very best we can and leave it at that and not bring that guilt home.

Oh, and I didn’t talk about the other three budgets too.

[00:16:52] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:16:54] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So the monetary budget, right. We all understand, like I can’t afford it. It just seemed like, can’t afford it. And that’s viable. It’s a viable thing, okay. The second budget is time. Maybe, you know, you’re a single mom. You work two jobs. You could afford to do these things, but I just don’t have the time to take my cat, you know, to get subcutaneous fluids once a week, to the veterinarian.

I don’t, I don’t have that time. And that again, that’s a hugely viable thing. I don’t have the time to give my dog two injections a day, you know, for diabetes. Like that’s a really, really big commitment to make. So that’s the time budget. And then there’s the physical budget as well. Maybe you don’t actually physically, you can’t get pills in your dog’s mouth.

You can’t lift your 180 pound dog up to move him and clean him. And when he pees and poops on himself, because he can’t move up, you know, can’t get around anymore, you have to clean that up. Like that’s a big physical, you know, commitment as well. So there’s the physical budget. And then the last one is the biggest one, which is the emotional budget.

And the emotional budget is, again, that’s a real big drain on people and it can kind of go both ways. Sometimes this is the last animal that they had that belonged to their wife, to their husband, to, you know, to their mother or father, or even your child, and you know, this person, this family member died, and this is the last connection you have to them. And so losing this pet again is like losing that family member again.

[00:18:12] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:18:13] >> Dr. Dani McVety: And it’s huge for people. And so I walk them through that of it’s okay. Yada, yada, you know, I mean, there’s obviously a whole bunch of things that we say. But that’s also a very, very viable situation, you know, a viable budget to have. So I take those four budgets into consideration in talking to families and helping them, helping them through the decision making process and even just identifying those budgets sometimes helps them understand what’s standing in their way to say goodbye and, you know, and kind of moving on.

[00:18:42] >> Molly Jacobson: I’ve spoken to people who are literal billionaires, and they could afford anything. And at the end of, in that subjective period of time, they’re faced with the same, exact same decision as all the rest of us are who don’t have billions of dollars.

[00:18:56] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Right.

[00:18:56] >> Molly Jacobson: And the ability to recognize those other three budgets, I think, is really, really valuable to our listeners for sure. That your time and your emotional management and your ability to physically manage this, counts.

[00:19:14] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah. And it’s okay to say I’m drained physically. I’m drained time. I’m drained emotionally. You know, it’s okay to say that, even if you can afford everything. And again, even the people that can still have the same, like you said, they have the same things that they get pushed up on. It’s it’s funny, even as an, as an ER doctor the the people that came to me and they would say open checkbook, you know open credit card, do whatever you can. Those are the scariest ones for me ’cause I’m like, oh, uh-oh, okay, let me make sure that I’ve got all the bells and whistles, you know, but-

[00:19:44] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah, because they want to spend money in order to save their dog. And so you need to get a lot of resources lined up for them that are viable, that you feel comfortable, I assume, as a veterinarian saying, this is a reasonable choice to make if you’re gonna.

[00:19:59] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Even if I do that doesn’t mean that I can save them. You know, I could, I could have an open, you know, invoice with them. But like that just doesn’t mean that I can actually save them.

[00:20:08] >> Molly Jacobson: Money doesn’t stave off death.

[00:20:10] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Not at all. Not at all. And I think it was Steve Jobs that said, like, I can hire somebody to drive me. I can hire somebody to do everything. I just can’t hire someone to take this cancer from me.

[00:20:17] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

So you mentioned there was a subjective window of time. Do you have any milestones that you see as a veterinarian that you can help our readers and our listeners – see, I’m a writer first, thinking of my readers – do you have any guidelines that you can share with our listeners to make sure that they know whether they’ve moved into that subjective window of time?

[00:20:44] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah. That’s actually a really good point and it it has a lot to do with the disease process.

[00:20:49] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.

[00:20:49] >> Dr. Dani McVety: A lot. So let me give you a couple of examples. So with, um, arthritis, so arthritis is probably 70, 75% of the dogs that we see that are over 70 pounds are, we’re typically saying goodbye because of arthritis. And arthritis is one of those conditions where you have the blessing and the curse of time.

[00:21:06] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.

[00:21:07] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So you have the blessing of being able to have a very, very long subjective period of time. But also the curse of waking up every day and saying, is today the day? So with people that have arthritic dogs, if they’ve been through it before, they will tend to make the decision when, when that dog is having a significantly difficult time getting up and moving around.

Now, I will say that there are a lot of medications that help significantly with that. Now at some point, they’re going to stop working. So at some point, you know, gabapentin and Rimadyl and the occasional Tramadol on board, and at some point you’re going to be giving those, you know, very, very regularly and they’re still going to have trouble getting up. Because what happens with arthritis is at first it’s the bones that hurt.

And then it becomes the muscles that atrophy, because we’re just getting old, you know. And those fast twitch muscles, atrophy faster than the slow twitch ones which is why they can’t get up as readily, but when they do get up, they can sometimes walk. And that’s where people have the hard time, because they have a hard time getting up, but once they are up, they can kind of walk. They’re like, okay, he’s fine. I don’t want to say, you know, I don’t want to do anything now.

So that’s where this blessing and curse of time kind of happen. So with arthritis, I would say that when your dog is having a significantly difficult time getting up and has already been on medication, then you’re absolutely within that window. Now, I’m not going to discount all of the budgets that we just talked about and if those medications are too expensive for you to get on, then once your pet is having a difficult time getting up, you know, consistently having a difficult time, then that’s something that you might be saying to yourself, you know, this is going to get tough. And what happens is that they start peeing and pooping on themselves because they can’t get around.

You know, a lot of times these arthritic dogs also start whining and crying if you leave the room because they can’t follow you as readily. And then they also start this, I call it sundowners syndrome and, you know, in, in arthritic dogs, they’ll pant and pace and then whine and cry, and usually at nighttime. So this will keep the family up.

So anytime any of those are present absolutely you’re within that period of time. And there is no veterinarian that’s going to tell you that it’s, it’s not the right time, you know. It’s just a matter of what, again, what you’re able to work with and not work with. Like, you know, just, give you an example, I’ve had families that have newborn babies and the dog whining and crying at nighttime and panting and pacing around is really, really disruptive to the family. And they’ve had the dog on meds and there’s nothing that they can do. And now the little, the tiny little babies are crawling up on the dog and the dog is starting to growl a little bit because he’s painful.

And so you put the whole picture together, you know, and somebody that’s single can hold on for a really long time. But when you have two little toddlers crawling around, you know, you just like, absolutely, it’s, it’s a good time to say goodbye before this gets worse and before the family gets disrupted any more. And we say goodbye in a peaceful way because that’s how you want your dog to go. You know, you don’t want to have to lock them in the back for another two months until he’s really bad, and then you euthanize him.

[00:23:57] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:23:58] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So we get nuts. That’s what I mean by you put the whole picture together, you know?

[00:24:01] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah. So some other, um, obviously our, our listeners are generally dealing with dog cancer, although I know many whose elderly dogs have cancer and they already have, you know, pre-existing arthritis, so that’s very helpful.

[00:24:15] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah. Some cancer examples, you know, so osteosarcoma is a really big one, you know osteosarcoma cancer, bone cancer. The risk with osteosarcoma is a pathological fracture. And that means that it’s a fracture of the bone that has the cancer even by doing something normal, like just standing up. So that is a condition that’s kind of like congestive heart failure where it’s a, it’s a cliff condition where they’re literally just going to go straight downhill once it happens.

So families that I’m, dealing with osteosarcoma, once you have that diagnosis, it is a good time. You’re within that window. Everybody’s different, right, and some people like to wait until the very, very end, but by the time we’ve diagnosed it in the bone, almost always it’s already in the lungs.

[00:24:58] >> Molly Jacobson: 95%, I think. Right?

[00:24:59] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. Almost always. It’s already, it’s in the lungs.

So it is it’s, it’s an appropriate time. And sometimes the cancer is going to grow faster in the lungs than it is in the bone and causing problems and stuff. So it’s important that those families really have a heavy duty pain medicine on board and really make sure that you’re monitoring those pets. They’re, almost always with those families, there’s something, there’s like a day that happens and they’ll call me and they’re like, okay, we have the diagnosis, I’m going to wait, you know, I, I know you’re there, just have my information. And there’s almost always something that happens. It’s like their, their dog takes a turn or for whatever reason, he normally gets up just fine and all of a sudden he can’t get up. And that’s when I really suggest you make that decision.

There’s this one thing that happens. And again, it’s different for everybody. It’s like, he used to make like, make it to the mailbox, now he can’t make it out the door. That’s it. You know, so I highly recommend that particularly with osteosarcoma that the death occurs by euthanasia and not by a pathological fracture that you’re then rushing to the ER, because it’s, it is pretty painful for them.

It’s very painful. I’ll give you a couple more examples because I’m sure that the, hopefully it’s what people want to hear.

[00:26:05] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah.

[00:26:05] >> Dr. Dani McVety: But uh hemangiosarcoma is another big one for dogs. So blood vessel tumor, right. And it’s usually in the spleen. That’s also a cliff condition. If you’ve been diagnosed with hemangiosarc, there may have been a slow bleed already, which is why, you know, the abdomen swells up a little bit, and then you take an x-ray or radiograph and maybe an ultrasound, and now you’ve found this mass in the spleen.

So with those families, that’s also, once you had that diagnosis, you’re within that subjective period of time. And in fact, a lot of cancers aside from maybe lymphoma or something like that, but honestly, I’m actually struggling to find a cancer in my brain that you’re not within that subjective period of time.

Now, again, some families are going to want to go to the oncologist and want to really talk that out and absolutely a hundred percent, there are a lot of cancers that we can manage for a very, very long time.

[00:26:50] >> Molly Jacobson: Absolutely.

[00:26:51] >> Dr. Dani McVety: But if you take all your budgets together and put them all in a nice little box, then, you know, again, there’s, there’s going to be – I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about not being able to make certain things happen with their pet.

I mean, maybe a mast cell. I know, you diagnose mast cell in a lot of pets and they’re completely fine. And I would be like, no, don’t, don’t euthanize now, you know, if you, if you can’t afford to do anything, then literally just don’t do anything until, you know, until he’s coughing or, you know, something else happens.

But I think it’s, it’s, I forever, I’m sorry. I’m babbling now.

[00:27:20] >> Molly Jacobson: You’re not.

[00:27:21] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Okay. Okay, good. I have always wanted to do this. I wanted to make this video of – but I think somebody would find it morbid. So I haven’t done yet. I’ve always wanted to make a video of a veterinarian telling a dog he has cancer and watching the reaction of the dog’s face, which of course is nothing. Right? They don’t have an emotional reaction to this word. They don’t.

[00:27:45] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:27:45] >> Dr. Dani McVety: They live in the moment. They enjoy their mom and dad and their brothers and sisters and their family. And they enjoy that ball and they enjoy that Frisbee and they live in the moment and there’s going to be, come a day when, oh my goodness, they can’t get up because it hurts. Or because it, oh my goodness, I can’t breathe very well. Or oh my gosh, you can’t do this. Right. But they don’t even have an emotional reaction to that. They don’t. And there’s so many families that I’ll I’ll work with them and they’ll say I would never amputate my dog’s leg.

I would never do that, because, yeah, I just wouldn’t do that to him. Like, what do you think he’s like going to be ashamed at the dog park that he has three legs? Like, they don’t have an emotional reaction to that, you know? Or I’ll never do a feeding tube for my cat, you know, in particular when they get oral carcinoma, but the feeding tube is great and they don’t have an emotional reaction to it and it gets some food and then they, and then you can choose when they die, peacefully, instead of them having to wither away slowly because they can’t eat.

Again, there’s these things that, you know, as humans, we take this so personally, and we just anthropomorphize everything that our pets are going through, but they are okay. They are better at this than we are. So that’s why it’s not a bad thing for you to take that diagnosis, go home, decide what you want to do with your pet, decide what you’re able to do, decide what your family is capable of doing. And just love on your pet and be with them until there’s an outward, visible sign that he’s not feeling good.

So it really is okay to wait until you have these signs. Now, listen, veterinarian’s job is keep them out of pain.

[00:29:14] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:29:14] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So communicate that with us. Sometimes we can manage that pain and sometimes it’s going to be pain that we can’t manage. Like for example, uh bladder cancer in a dog, you know, there will become a point when there’s a significant amount of pain in that dog because of the growth and where the growth is in the bladder. And I can’t medicate that at all.

[00:29:35] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.

[00:29:36] >> Dr. Dani McVety: And so if somebody came to me and said, my dog has bladder cancer, I want him to die naturally. Can you hospice them through? I’m going to say pretty please don’t do that. Pretty, pretty please don’t do that. It’s going to be very, very difficult.

If somebody comes to me with a congestive heart failure and says, oh, you know, I would like to wait until the very last moment, I would say, it’s not going to be pretty, but no problem. I’ll help you through it. You know.

[00:29:56] >> Molly Jacobson: What are other circumstances in which you know as a veterinarian, this dog is in pain that can’t be helped. Because I think this is a huge thing. People think, I’ll take care of my dog until the very end, as long as he or she is not in pain. So what are there other like hard stops for you? Like bladder cancer pain can not be medicated past a certain point, what else?

[00:30:21] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Another thing that I can’t medicate through is the inability to oxygenate. So a lot of the time-

[00:30:26] >> Molly Jacobson: Lung cancer.

[00:30:27] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Lung cancers, or even metastases to the lung, there’s nothing I can give them except oxygen, you know, but at some point that’s not even going to work. Right? ‘Cause the heart can’t pump blood throughout the lungs. So if the heart’s not pumping properly, you know, and then so some heart-based tumors are the same way they’re going to, they’re going to show up the same way. So I would say anything that’s significantly bad with the brain, the heart, the lungs, and then some of the other organs like the bladder, and then, um, even like the spleen.

So if you have hemangiosarcoma and there’s a, there’s a very rapid bleed internally. Now, rapid bleed isn’t gonna last long. So it could be minutes to maybe an hour before they’re going to pass away on their own anyway. But those types of things, I just, I can’t medicate through. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a conversation, but at the same time, I also, I want to make sure people know that like, even if your dog did die, ’cause I’ve had people call me and they’re saying like, can you come over right now?

He’s dying. And I said, I’m not going to make it. Even if I’m there in lickety split time, you know, just be with him, just pet his head, put your hand near his nose so that he knows you’re there. And just put your hand on him and he’s, you know, this is, this is Mother Nature’s way. It’s not pretty, it’s not perfect. Birthing process isn’t pretty or perfect either, you know, but this is just the natural way of happening. So it’s tough. It’s I, I will go back to a word you didn’t say, but what you were insinuating is the word suffering, also, that people say all the time, right? It’s like, I just don’t want her to suffer. And we did not really learn about suffering in veterinary school, but we all know what it is.

Right. We all know just by seeing it. So I’ll give you some words to, to help identify it. So suffering is anything that robs you of your own intention. So sometimes people would call me and they would say, my dog is suffering. Can you get here right now? Okay. Well tell me what’s going on because I need to know if I need to, you know, if I can make it or not.

And they’ll say like, well, he’s just, he’s laying down. Like, well, can he look at you? Yes. He looks at me. Well, can he sit up? Yes. Will he come to you if you call him? Yes. But if your dog is down, you know, laying on his side, not responding, and just breathing, and then I’ll say, put your hand in front of his nose, you know, is he moving his nostrils, like he can, you know, like he’s identifying you? Or is he, if you get down and look him in the eye, does he actually look at you? If your dog or cat can not look at you and if you can’t get their attention, then they’re suffering in some way. Either that, or they’re crying out in pain, obviously, you know, that, that’s suffering.

And sometimes they will look at you and they’ll kind of come to you if they are in pain, but they’re panting and they’re in there, they’re whining, right? And they can’t catch their breath and that’s obvious, but it’s the ones that are laying down that are typically not as obvious for people. Sometimes I’ll walk into a home and the dog’s laying on his side and the owner’s like, yeah, he’s been like this for a little bit.

And then I’ll point out, I’ll say see how he’s breathing. He’s, he’s abdominally breathing. He’s pushing out as hard as he’s breathing in. So breathing is typically a passive process. That’s like this. But that, that sufferable breathing is like, right.

[00:33:19] >> Molly Jacobson: Oh yeah.

[00:33:20] >> Dr. Dani McVety: They’re just plain exhaustive and then once I point it out, they’re like, oh, I didn’t see that. You know? So again, it’s, it’s obviously something as veterinarians we’re trained to see, and that is, I’m not always, I don’t want to say that’s always suffering, but to be honest in my clients, it usually is because they’re old, they have co-morbidities, they have a lot of different things going on. So that is, in usually some form, suffering.

[00:33:43] >> Molly Jacobson: In your experience as a human hospice volunteer that sort of, you know, just pushed you into this whole field, do you think it would be useful for our listeners to start applying some of the same things they might apply if their father or mother was in hospice and they’re looking at them and saying she’s obviously suffering. He’s obviously suffering. And then they look at their dog and they see a similar – like that kind of labored breathing I’ve seen in relatives and friends who are in hospice near the end, right? Like a lot of these signs sound very much like the symptoms in human fields that kind of tell you we’re towards the end of life. Is that accurate?

[00:34:23] >> Dr. Dani McVety: You know, I, I would say that it’s, it’s very difficult to extrapolate that from human medicine. It’s, it’s really tough. Sometimes when I say something like that, they’ll say, oh gosh, yeah, that’s right. My, my mother and father, grandmother did that as well. But it’s, it’s not, it’s not a lot. It’s just because like in humans, a lot of it’s the skin. You know, you can see changes in the skin, but in our pets, we can’t see those types of things. The other reason is, is because in human medicine you might have a disease and then that disease progression causes other problems and then everything together then causes death.

But in veterinary medicine, there’s usually a reason, there’s like a disease that we’re euthanizing for, even though that disease may not be the thing that causes death.

[00:35:03] >> Molly Jacobson: I see. Like arthritis.

[00:35:05] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So arthritis doesn’t cause death in and of itself, but if we left it, you know, to go just unchecked, then like out in the wild, right, an animal that gets arthritis is just going to get eaten or taken by predators, or it’s just going to get, you know, sick from not being cared for and moving around.

[00:35:23] >> Molly Jacobson: Right. Or just starve because it can’t get up.

[00:35:25] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Starve because he can’t get up. And then exactly. So the reason why we euthanize is not always the cause of death. And that’s why it’s just always just a little bit different.

[00:35:34] >> Molly Jacobson: I see. That’s really helpful. So what are the signs that you would say, somebody, like if your dog is experiencing these things, call emergency?

[00:35:43] >> Dr. Dani McVety: I would say labored breathing.

[00:35:45] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.

[00:35:45] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Obviously whining and crying at night time. Uh, well, no. I mean, the panting and pacing and you know is bad, but if there’s sustained whining and crying, obviously, I mean, I feel like most of these things are pretty obvious for people, but I think that the biggest thing that people forget is the breathing, you know, the labored breathing.

Because as humans, sometimes we can feel like we have labored breathing, but when a dog or a cat has labored breathing, it’s a significant problem to be addressed, you know, quickly. Because they can’t like take a deep breath and calm themselves down. Like their bodies start just going in survival mode.

[00:36:16] >> Molly Jacobson: So labored breathing is always, is always a problem.

[00:36:21] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Always.

[00:36:22] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.

[00:36:22] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Labored breathing is always a problem that needs to be addressed by a veterinarian so that we can fix it immediately.

[00:36:28] >> Molly Jacobson: This is a really good spot to take a break. So we’ll be right back with Dr. Dani McVety.

Dr. Dani McVety, thanks again for being here with us today. I wanted to ask you a little bit about life quality. That’s always something very important to our listeners, that their dog has a high life quality, no matter whether they have cancer or not, that’s what they want. And so what is life quality and how do you measure it?

[00:36:57] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah, you know, I think quality of life is about your pet being in your family. Right? Are they interacting in your family? Are they part of your family? Are they able to be present in a way that is, I guess, conducive to how they always have lived in your family? You know, if you have a cat that’s never been part and always lives under a bed, you know, then that is not going to be a significant change.

If you have a dog that is typically with you and follows the family everywhere, is in the living room and everyone’s sitting down and watching TV together, you know, now all of a sudden is not able to join you, maybe is having a hard time getting up and moving around, that type of thing, then that’s when you start questioning quality of life. It’s difficult to give one specific thing, because if it was one specific thing, then we probably wouldn’t even have this conversation, right. But it’s a lot of different things that make the quality of life of not only the pet, but of the family. And those four budgets that we talked about earlier, that is very much what the quality of life of the family is about. But again, what we’re talking about here is the quality of life of the pet. And, and again, I don’t, I don’t want to undermine at all the fact that the quality of life of your pet is heavily dependent on the disease process that he has.

So your dog might have, let’s say congestive heart failure again, you know, and, and you might think that he’s doing a wonderful job and, you know, joining the family and all that type of thing. But if there’s, you know, maybe anytime his heart begins to increase in, in rate at all, then he potentially faints or something like that, you know, then you need to start questioning the quality of life that like, oh my goodness, you know, my dog can’t get up or move around.

And all of a sudden, you know, now we have a questionable quality of life. I think, you know, a lot of people put a lot of weight on the water and food. So eating and drinking. And eating and drinking is only as important as it has ever been to your dog. So for example, my Poodle is not a big eater. Like she just eats to survive. She doesn’t really care about food otherwise. And then, I mean, don’t get me wrong. She’ll love a good steak. Right. But.

[00:38:51] >> Molly Jacobson: She is a dog after all.

[00:38:52] >> Dr. Dani McVety: She just doesn’t like, but she’s not this like, you know, our little Boston Terrier is, he is just a little tubby tub, like he’ll eat all day long, you know? So my point is that like when they get to be elderly, the fact that my Poodle stops eating for a day or two is not going to be a major concern to me because she’s always been like that.

But if my Boston stopped eating for a day or two, that would really concern me because something significant is going on in his life. Now, I will say that the eating and drinking, human hospice has a saying, that food and water are for the living, and the body’s not going to eat or drink for a future that it knows doesn’t exist.

So a lot of times families will get very upset about the eating and drinking, you know, maybe they stopped, but that doesn’t mean the death is imminent. It just simply means that the body is focusing a little bit more on, you know, on something else, some other body system, than it is on, you know, actually eating or digesting food at that point.

So water is a little bit different. Water can really sustain life for a very long time. Cats that have chronic renal failure, even some dogs that have renal failure as well, subcutaneous fluids is really, really good for them. So getting some type of fluid in them, even if it’s subcutaneous fluids, you just take a needle and put it under the skin and you get the stuff from your vet, you know, and they give them a bolus of fluid, that can be a really, really big help. But even wa, you know, putting water on their tongue and keeping their eyes nice and hydrated and that type of thing.

But usually we don’t get to the point of that being too much of an, of an issue through hospice care, because typically something else has happened that’s significant enough to warrant euthanasia by that point.

[00:40:20] >> Molly Jacobson: I have a question about drinking, actually about eating as well. We have a very active Facebook group for readers of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and one of the things that comes up often is my dog’s not eating, how do I get my dog to eat. And then sometimes the dog’s not drinking, how do I get my dog to drink. And there are people who actually contemplate trying to force their dogs to eat or forcing their dogs to – not a good idea. Correct?

[00:40:47] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Don’t ever force food or water.

Never. Never, never, never. The problem is that you can get it down into their trachea and then they can get aspiration pneumonia which means that you’ve gotten a little bit of food or a little bit of water down into the trachea and then down into the lungs. And then of course they’re not supposed to be there, so the body attacks it.

And then now of course, you’ve got pneumonia.

[00:41:07] >> Molly Jacobson: On top of everything else that the dog’s going through.

[00:41:09] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Top of everything else. Very, very bad. Yeah. So, no, I always say, do not ever force food and water. Again, the body is not going to eat or drink for a future that it knows it doesn’t have. So, and that’s okay. Again, it’s not something that you need to fight. Sometimes, you know, I think it’s a good idea to, you know, to try something new. That’s why I love hospice care because I can, I can just tell people like, look, just go get some Vienna sausage, like get some hot dogs and get anything you want. Just try to get him to eat anything, you know. Another good thing you could put a little bit of chicken broth in the water to help them drink, just to kind of like spur on that little desire to drink a little bit. So, will they get diarrhea from the hot dog that you give them? Yeah, maybe. If you give them like 10 of them, they might get diarrhea, but I’m sure they’re going to enjoy the hot dog more than they will dislike the diarrhea. So-

[00:41:51] >> Molly Jacobson: It’s a life quality treatment.

[00:41:53] >> Dr. Dani McVety: It is.

[00:41:53] >> Molly Jacobson: Yes. Okay. So no forcing, but encouragement, and then letting them have their own experience and letting them say yes or no, or, and trusting them.

[00:42:03] >> Dr. Dani McVety: And just let it be. Yep.

[00:42:04] >> Molly Jacobson: Yep.

[00:42:04] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Just let it be.

[00:42:05] >> Molly Jacobson: Yep. Can you talk a little bit about, because this is something else I know people always wonder about, especially if they haven’t been through it before, or if they’ve been through euthanasia for a dog that was in an emergency situation where there was a lot of things going on, they didn’t necessarily track what was trying to help the dog survive and what was then given to help the dog pass.

[00:42:28] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah.

[00:42:29] >> Molly Jacobson: Can you just talk a little bit about what actually happens?

[00:42:32] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So the euthanasia drug that we all use is the same medication, whether or not it’s pink or purple or blue, whatever color it is, it is sodium pentobarbital. So it’s an overdose of barbiturates. It affects the brain first. So the brain goes to sleep first and then the respiration center in the back of the brain is turned off because the brain gets turned off.

And then after that, the heart stops because the body’s not breathing anymore. So it’s a very, very peaceful process. It’s just like going under for anesthesia, you know, for surgery, but then just not waking back up. So sometimes people will say to me, well, that’s the drug that stops the heart, right? And I say, no, no, no, it doesn’t stop the heart.

It shuts off the brain. And then because the brain has shut off, that then the heart stops. So it’s a very peaceful process. Now that’s the euthanasia solution. With Lap of Love and most veterinarians now we’ll, we’ll do some type of sedation before the euthanasia. Now I want to make sure everybody understands. It’s not medically essential that you do the sedation beforehand.

When we’re doing an in-home euthanasia, it just makes the experience peaceful and calm for everybody, including the pet. Again, not that it’s a bad thing for the pet, but I’ll explain that in a second. So the sedation injection is typically given either IM or SubQ, so which means in the muscle or under the skin, or very rarely you can give it in the vein as well.

I don’t like intravenous sedation because it causes them to go from consciousness to unconsciousness immediately. And it’s like watching a loved one pass out. It’s not a peaceful thing to watch that. And that’s what happens when you give the euthanasia solution directly in the vein as well. They just go from consciousness to unconsciousness in a second.

So that’s not a peaceful, beautiful, you know, transition that you want for your pet, or that’s easy to watch rather. The pet doesn’t really care because they go immediately to sleep. So we give that slow sedation, takes three to five minutes and the pets just gently, calmly, relax, you know, kind of curl up and then put their head down.

And then after that, then we give the euthanasia solution and typically the euthanasia solution gets given in the vein. Now there are other avenues to give the euthanasia solution. It can actually be given in the kidney for cats. Crazy enough. It’s a very, very fast process. In fact, when I’m on call, I do about 80% of cat euthanasias, I give it directly into the kidney and under heavy sedation already. So they’re already out.

Again, it’s the kidneys are so hyper profused, meaning so much blood goes through them, that it’s just as quick, if not a titch quicker than giving it in the vein. And cat veins are just so tiny. They’re like hairs sometimes. And we’re all very good, veterinarians can, can hit those veins, but sometimes it means that we have to hold off on the cat’s legs and you know, they’re old cats and giving it just directly through the abdominal wall is usually much nicer.

But there’s other ways also. So if you experienced euthanasia that the veterinarian had to give it in, even in the body cavity somewhere or anywhere else, it’s absolutely approved under heavy sedation. And there are other avenues that we do depending on the disease process of the pet.

But, um, I’ll come back to this, uh, euthanasia now. So the euthanasia takes about 30 to 60 seconds to take effect. It will take longer if your dog has any type of heart condition where the heart is not pumping blood through the body as quickly as possible. It happened to me with uh one lady. And, um, it was early in my career and I forgot to tell her that it might take a little bit longer.

And she took a couple of minutes instead of, uh, you know, 30 seconds. And she was just convinced that it meant her dog didn’t want to die. And I was like, Ugh, God, I forgot to tell her. You know, so I make sure to tell people now that that can possibly happen. But other than that, then afterwards, you know, it’s, it’s very rare to see any type of side effects, but the most typical side effect we see is a little bit of muscle twitching, usually in the mouth area.

But on a, sometimes an agonal breath is what we call it, but it’s a hiccup. And that happens after they pass, that happens more commonly in cats. And then, um, after that, you know, families are welcome to either bury at home, if they’d like. Um, I grew up in a farm, so we buried our pets at home and. Or there’s cremation. Um, there’s either fire cremation or there’s water cremation. And then there’s private cremation where you get the ashes back, then there’s communal cremation where you don’t get the ashes back. So that’s a brief overview.

[00:46:32] >> Molly Jacobson: One last thing before we wrap up is to ask you what resources do you suggest people explore for handling both the emotional prep, if they have time to prepare, if this is something they can prepare for, and it’s not an emergency, how can they prepare? And then how can they deal with their grief afterwards? It seems like you’ve got a beat on this topic. So I thought I’d ask.

[00:46:56] >> Dr. Dani McVety: We’ve had that question for so many years that once COVID hit, we actually started our own pet loss department.

[00:47:01] >> Molly Jacobson: Did you?

[00:47:02] >> Dr. Dani McVety: A pet loss department. Yep.

[00:47:03] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.

[00:47:03] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So we have three different offerings through Lap of Love. We do free Zoom support groups every single day of the week. And some days have multiple support groups. So you can jump on at any time, just go to our website and then register and then we send you a link. Completely free to join any of these groups.

And then the second one is a paid group. It’s six weeks long. It is for people that just need a little bit more, you know, they just need a little bit more kind of coaching and walking through the grief process. So that’s six weeks in length, and then we have one-on-one coaching as well with our pet loss team.

So that’s what you can do virtually with us. But then of course, look, loss is loss. Grief is grief. So if you’re having a really hard time and you think you need somebody to help walk you through it, then just Google grief therapist and, and you’re going to be able to find somebody in person. There’s, not enough can be said about in-person therapy, you know to help families through that.

We do have, uh, two other offerings with our support groups. We actually have the only one that we know of in the country for anticipatory loss. So these are people that are actually preparing for the loss, and they’re just having very difficult time. So go on our website, we have a Zoom support group for that.

And then we also have one for children. Obviously the parents need to attend with the child, but we have a support group for children and those both go once a week.

[00:48:20] >> Molly Jacobson: That’s wonderful.

[00:48:21] >> Dr. Dani McVety: So really in, for anticipatory loss, it’s, it’s a lot, a lot of reading, you know, get online, read. There’s caregiver’s fatigue that you can look up, you know, this is something that’s very, very common in human medicine. There’s a lot of data on that. And it’s, it’s the same whether or not you’re caring for a human or a pet. It’s the same.

[00:48:38] >> Molly Jacobson: Absolutely.

Loss is loss. And sometimes in my experience, the bond we have with an animal can be unconditional in a way that we wish our bonds with humans could be. Right?

[00:48:50] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah.

[00:48:51] >> Molly Jacobson: And so when you lose somebody who is following you around and, you know, my dog Kanga looks at me every day and says, you’re just the best. And then she does, multiplies it 20 times. Right? And so that is a constant beaming of adoration and love towards me. And that is a huge loss to not have that on a daily basis anymore, for anybody, right? So I think it’s a really important service you’re offering. We’re going to make sure that we have links to all of this in the show notes for this, so people can find those for you. Is there any last piece of advice or insight you want to impart to our listeners?

[00:49:31] >> Dr. Dani McVety: I would really encourage everybody that really, that rings with that word, hospice, you know, something rings true with you, bring them to your regular vet and talk to them about that. Because our profession is growing, you know, and if you’ve ever felt judged or misunderstood by a veterinarian, you know, I can tell you that even when I went to school 13 years ago, we didn’t get any information on euthanasia. You know, just be patient with the veterinary profession and we’re, we’re going to get there, but it’s what you ask for and what you’re bringing in, what, the words that you’re bringing to them are what they’re going to focus on.

[00:50:04] >> Molly Jacobson: You didn’t get any information on euthanasia during vet school.

[00:50:07] >> Dr. Dani McVety: I had no classes on euthanasia. None. It was a failure, right. If we euthanise then we didn’t, we didn’t do our job.

[00:50:14] >> Molly Jacobson: I see.

[00:50:14] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yeah.

[00:50:15] >> Molly Jacobson: So the idea was, that’s not something that you need to prepare for because we’re preparing for you to, to win in the field of veterinary medicine.

[00:50:22] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yep.

[00:50:22] >> Molly Jacobson: And so that must’ve been something you had to learn about on the job.

[00:50:25] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Oh, completely, completely. And now, my business partner and I, we teach the course in University of Florida. So now they do get a class.

[00:50:34] >> Molly Jacobson: What a service.

[00:50:34] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Yes. Talk about giving back. Yep. We’re like, okay, we’re going to be able to give back to you guys.

[00:50:41] >> Molly Jacobson: Wonderful.

Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your insight and your care for dogs and cats and all animals.

[00:50:49] >> Dr. Dani McVety: Thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it.

[00:50:53] >> Molly Jacobson: And thank you listener for joining us today as well. I was really struck by, the entire conversation was just fascinating to me. Dr. McVety shares so much insight about the end of life for our dogs and our cats and other animals. And that idea that she’s informed by human hospice really struck me as well, because I think anybody who has had someone they love in hospice knows that in human hospice, it really is a window of time.

You enter into a window. At some point in the next months to year, death is going to occur and we’re preparing for that. One thing I know that we see all the time in our Facebook support group, for example, is this idea that people want to get the timing right. They think that they can get the exact day, the hour, the minute correct. And what I really learned from Dr. McVety today is that there is no right time. There’s a right window of time. And that is really a useful way to think about the end of life.

So I hope that if you have any questions about this or any other show that we’ve done on Dog Cancer Answers, you’ll make sure to call our Listener Line. It’s (808) 868-3200. And I hope that you enjoy your time with your dog and all of your companions and that you make the most of this time because as Dr. McVety says, life quality is individual to the dog, and it’s individual to you. So enjoy your time with them.

I’m Molly Jacobson. From all of us here at Dog Podcast Network, I wish you a very warm, Aloha.

[00:52:38] >> Announcer: Thank you for listening to Dog Cancer Answers. If you’d like to connect, please visit our website at dogcanceranswers.com or call our Listener Line at (808) 868-3200. And here’s a friendly reminder that you probably already know: this podcast is provided for informational and educational purposes only.

It’s not meant to take the place of the advice you receive from your dog’s veterinarian. Only veterinarians who examine your dog can give you veterinary advice or diagnose your dog’s medical condition. Your reliance on the information you hear on this podcast is solely at your own risk. If your dog has a specific health problem, contact your veterinarian.

Also, please keep in mind that veterinary information can change rapidly, therefore, some information may be out of date. Dog Cancer Answers is a presentation of Maui Media in association with Dog Podcast Network.