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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Palliative Pets ~ Guest Post

What Makes a Palliative Pet?

Palliativepets.com is a website is for the entertainment and education of people who are now or in the future plan to join with their pets in supporting palliative and end of life care. The intent is to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas that reflect the highest standard of care for the care giver, the patient and the pet.

What makes a palliative pet? Primarily personality and physical attributes. Not every dog or cat can become a palliative pet. Just as you would not ask an old Pekinese to herd cattle in the Australian outback nor should you expect a young Border Collie to engage in palliative care. There are exceptions to the rule of course but on the whole, personality is greatly influenced by breed and a palliative pet must have a specific personality type. Let’s look at what services a palliative pet provides to help clarify an animal’s suitability for the role.

Palliative care is an approach to health care and delivery of medical services for people who are living with a life-threatening illness. The focus of care is on achieving comfort and ensuring respect for the person nearing death and maximizing quality of life for the patient, family and loved ones. Palliative care does not seek to cure, instead the intent is to manage pain and other symptoms, provide social, psychological, cultural, emotional, spiritual and practical support. Further, the role is to support caregivers and provide support for bereavement.

In a private setting or hospital or hospice, the environment is generally calm, quiet and temperate. Persons nearing the end of life do not engage positively for any length of time with high energy hyperactive people or animals. In my experience, a palliative pet must be calm by nature, enjoy the company of people without exhibiting excessive vocalizations or physical reactions. How would I define excessive? A simple greeting should not include barking, whining, pawing, scratching, jumping up, mouthing, nipping or licking. While engaging with a patient, the animal should be calm, submissive and willingly accommodate petting and stroking. The animal should not negatively react to gentle stroking or touching any part of its body. Small dogs and cats often find themselves invited to join the patient on the bed and should be comfortable with that. In such a situation, it is not unusual for a palliative pet and the patient to fall asleep together.

A patient’s day is often unmarked by change and a visit from a palliative pet is often a well anticipated highlight. The pet visit provides an opportunity for the patient to engage socially, emotionally and often precipitates enjoyable discussions of childhood memories and life experiences with animals.

So a palliative pet should be healthy, safe, and not pose any type of risk to the people being visited. They must be the appropriate size and age while possessing an appropriate attitude and aptitude for quiet interaction. A palliative pet requires well developed interactive skills that positively engage their end of life clients.

As a pet owner, you may have tremendous confidence that your animal meets these behavioural criteria, yet in a hospital or hospice situation more may be asked of you. It is often expected that an independent agency such as a veterinarian, the SPCA or a group dedicated to companion or service animals such as Pets and Friends or the Delta Society evaluate your animal for suitability. Not only does this ensure the suitability of your pet for the job in also ensures that liability insurance issues can be dealt with appropriately. You should also be expected to provide documented evidence that your animal has received its full complement of vaccinations and that it is free of transmissible disease.

To find out more, please visit palliativepets.com or contact your local hospice to find out the specific requirements that the facility requires.

The author of this post is Craig M. Smith, a retired health and safety specialist and clinical assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia. Since his retirement, he has been actively involved in end of life issues. Abby is an eleven year old Cockapoo who waves her magic tail and brings solace to the residents of a local hospice.


Two French Bulldogs said...

Wow, really interesting
Benny & Lily

CATachresis said...

I love these special pets. It's a gift I reckon!

speedyrabbit said...

animals can do amazing things!

da tabbies o trout towne said...

what an awesum post oskar; N high paws to Abby...we noe sum kittehs who R therapy animals...this is way kewl what theeze pups bee doin !

meowmeowmans said...

What a terrific post, Oskar and Pam. These are issues that pet owners really need to think about.

heyitsjethere said...

Hey Oskar, Jet here. Hi Miss Pam.

Outstanding post. Mom and Koko did a bit of palliative care at the childrens hospital. There were a few children facing end of life issues and Koko and Mom spent a few hours with a few of these children. They both considered it the ultimate privilege.

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