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End of Life

The last trip to the veterinarian’s office for a terminally ill dog or cat often is stressful and full of sadness for the owner. Dogs and cats who are terminally ill and who have indicated to their owners that they are ready to move on are much more at ease making the transition in the comfort of their own homes.

Our practice is uniquely suited to making these house calls as needed. The decision to euthanize an animal often is made in advance to suit the schedule of the veterinary hospital. Fortunately, with house calls, we can be contacted and do our best to arrive at the home of an animal in need as soon as possible. Often owners call us days in advance to alert us that their animal is not doing well and that we may be needed. This allows us to keep an opening in the schedule and to prepare for the visit.

Procedure

Our procedure for at-home euthanasia includes the use of homeopathic flower essences and essential oils to calm and prepare the animal for the transition. The animal is permitted the time needed to prepare after these are given. Next, a sedative is given intravenously such that he or she is not conscious of the final drug being administered. After the animal is completely asleep, the final injection is given. These transitions are peaceful.

At the owner’s request, we will remove the animal from the home and provide cremation services with or without ashes returned.


Snickers

My dog, Snickers, was an amazing, smart, loving, and caring part of our family. He had a huge smile as he’d watch you walk toward him to pet him, or as you awoke in the morning. Last April, he had symptoms of a cervical spinal pain. Dr. Blankenship treated his pain with acupuncture and, at times, an anti-inflammatory.

As the weeks went by, it appeared we were unable to cure his problem, and one night he was not able to get up off the floor, for all his pain. On the advice of Dr. Blankenship, we took him to the emergency clinic, where the diagnosis was a mast cell tumor in his front leg. The clinic advised amputation. What about his neck? The clinic told me it was a nerve root tumor at his elbow! That was why he had c-spine pain. After the surgery, the biopsy came back as stage 3 mast cell cancer, meaning the disease was probably systemic, and the prognosis was he had three to four months to live. Snickers rebounded from the surgery and was able to smile again!

For all my private hope and belief that the surgeons were mistaken about my 11-year-old dog’s life span, Snickers developed a small tumor on the side of his neck, which grew large enough that the middle of it died for lack of blood supply. Still, it seemed not to bother him, as he would smile and “beg” to be petted. His spirit was strong and happy.

One morning, I found the tumor had more than doubled in size overnight and Snickers had no appetite. Dr Blankenship examined him, but we three — Dr. Blankenship, Snickers and I — determined that he wasn’t ready yet to pass on. As Dr. Blankenship sat with us, she let me know that Snickers was fine with passing on and that he knew he was here for a temporary time. He was better that day, but by the next night he wasn’t holding down his food. Same the following morning. Also, Snickers wasn’t getting up and following me around as he usually did.

Dr. Blankenship came to the house after I called her. We determined it was Snicks’ time to leave us. Dr. Blankenship explained exactly what the injections were for and how they worked. She was very calm and deliberate with us and kept a sharp eye on Snickers and the meds she was administering. Snickers passed with his people around him, gently, surrounded by love, in his home.

It was a tough day. It was, however, amazing to have the grace of Dr. Blankenship helping us through it. There was an odd peace about it and a closure because we were able to handle his body as we saw fit, which now rests in a wonderful spot out back by the trees, next to the gardens. He will be loved forever.

— Becky | Culpeper, Va.