Stand by Me: Caring for Your Aging or Ailing Dog by Ellen L. Bassuk M.D.

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Stand by Me book cover

Stand by Me is a pioneering new book for dog owners who hope to extend the life of their beloved pet, rather than turning to euthanasia before it may be necessary. Stand by Me reflects the growing movement to provide supportive care to elderly and ailing dogs, and to hold off on putting them down while there is still opportunity for a good quality of life. This easy-to-use guide provides pet owners with advice from experts on home care for older and sick dogs. Topics including feeding, walking, hygiene, and daily care are succinctly and straightforwardly addressed, including how to make difficult decisions. Read an excerpt below...

Foreword by Dr. Alice Villalobos, DVM, founder of Pawspice Care (and Grey Muzzle Advisory Board member)

"Millions of dogs are prematurely lost to loving families because pet owners are unaware that there are real alternatives to euthanasia when responding to a diagnosed life limiting condition…I urge dog lovers to read this book to learn about your options before agreeing to euthanasia…the primary disease can be managed and symptoms such as pain or incontinence addressed by the pet owner and veterinarian working together as a team.

'Stand by Me' offers a tremendous amount of practical information for dog lovers to help them decide if they are up for the challenges – and considerable rewards – of providing veterinary supervised palliative medicine and hospice care for their beloved older and ailing pets."

Excerpts from Chapter on Pain

Incredibly, it was once an accepted fact that dogs do not feel pain. Of course, we now know better. As we learn more about dogs and are better able to manage their pain, many people are choosing to give their dogs as much time as is manageable and comfortable, regardless of the difficulties this may present.

We – as our dog’s family – are in the best position to observe subtle signs of discomfort. We observe our dogs throughout the day, and can notice the general location and relative intensity of our pet’s discomfort.

Since our dogs cannot describe their pain, we must speak for them. Identifying and addressing painful conditions early, such as joint disease in its early stages, can give our pets many more years of active and fun life. There are better ways to treat pain than resorting to euthanasia.

The Human Touch

You will probably know when your dog is suffering and when his suffering becomes intolerable. There may be times during palliative care when you cannot provide relief with medicine alone.

When one of our dogs was close to the end and in uncontrollable pain, we would lie near her, hold her lightly, and sing her a soft song. She would lay her head down, her breathing would slow, her body relax, and she would close her eyes. When the song was done, she would open her eyes as if to ask for more.

We all know what a dog can give to us. We are not always so aware of what we can give back. For many dogs, nothing is as vital as the human touch.

How to Support Your Aging or Ailing Dog

  • Help your dog get to and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Continue exercise within your dog’s comfort zone.
  • Have dental care done if needed; a diseased mouth causes pain and spreads bacteria throughout a dog’s body.
  • Use heat or ice when beneficial.
  • Make accommodations in your house:
  • A thick soft bed for sleep.
  • Non-slip surfaces on floors.
  • Raise food and water bowls if your dog appears in pain and lowers her head when her bowl is on the floor.
  • Use ramps where needed.
  • Talk to your vet about medications, supplements, or special foods.
  • Explore ancillary treatments, like physical therapy, massage, Reiki, acupuncture, cold laser, and others.

 

About the Authors:

Ellen L. Bassuk, M.D., is a distinguished researcher who has dedicated her life to understanding and ending family and child homelessness. “I’ve always had a dog at my side – sometimes two or three – and the love and support they give is like no other. But to love a dog is also to lose them, and that’s when it’s time for us to give back.”

Julie Santoes is a high-energy veterinary technician who specialized for 15 years in providing home hospice care. “I’ve been on the frontlines of pet care for more than 20 years. I’m still inspired every day by the compassion and caring I feel for animals, and being their voice – especially when they are suffering.”

Kate Pittman, D.V.M., has practiced as a house call veterinarian for nearly 30 years. Trained at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, she views veterinary care as caring for the whole pet and the family around it as well – a practice especially suited to pets in their senior years.

Christina Ean Spangler is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design who works as a freelance illustrator. “I grew up in a home with pets, including cats and dogs, and have many cherished memories of them. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the collaborative effort for this book.”