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Going On Vacation When You Have A Senior Pet

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You just booked a well deserved and long overdue vacation. Between now and the day of your departure, there is so much to look forward to: time off work, shopping for resort wear, rum punch on the beach, and the list goes on. The world just seems a little brighter…until you think about your dog or cat.

It’s bad enough the poor pooch will have to live without you for several days, but how will you ever trust anyone with his/her care? There are so many options out there, but it’s all about what’s right for YOUR fur baby? 

With an extended absence away from your senior or geriatric pet, you may be feeling guilty or stressed about asking someone, even a close friend, to watch him/her. In some cases, you may even be considering saying a final goodbye before you leave town simply because the stress is too much on your pet, and the burden too great on a caregiver. 

Consider these questions when deciding what to do with your geriatric pet during your absence, and remember to ask your regular veterinarian or our team at Claire Place Veterinary Hospice for guidance:

 

1.       What kind of stress is my senior pet in when I leave?
Some pets have a terrible time when their person is away! And stress, particularly for an older animal, is detrimental to their health. Make sure your elderly pet is stable enough to undergo your departure.
 

2.       Who can I trust to be in charge of my geriatric pet when I leave?
This is a very important question. You have a few options: board your pet with your veterinarian or at a pet resort, hire an in-home pet sitter, have a friend come to your home, or ask a trusted person to watch your pet at their house. Each of these needs to be examined with your elderly pet’s comfort in mind. If he/she needs a great deal of medication and/or the health stability is of biggest concern, then consider intensive 24/7 care like a veterinary clinic. Conditions that involve the heart, lungs, brain, or anything that may rapidly decline like congestive heart failure, collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, hemangiosarcoma, or frequent seizures should be monitored closely by professionals. These pets should not be left alone for any extended period of time as they can go from “ok” to “very bad” in minutes.  If your pet is going to be left alone for any amount of time, make sure he/she is in a safe environment. Stairs, slippery floors, and pools can be deadly to a geriatric pet; while a friend’s expensive carpet near your incontinent elderly pet might be detrimental to your relationship!
 

3.       Will I be able to relax and enjoy my holiday time away from my elderly pet, or will I be too worried about him/her?
Commit to either the benefits of leaving (family time, vacation, etc), or commit to staying home. Leaving and remaining worried, stressed, or overcome with anxiety will be draining to your family and unfair to those around you. Most importantly, you may completely negate the benefits of leaving (being with family, relaxing) if you are worried sick about your furry family member at home! Commit to one, formulate a plan, and accept your decision.
 

4.       What if the worst thing happens while I’m away?
The best advice we can offer is to be prepared. Provide your friend/pet-sitter with a signed Petsitter Authorization/Power of Attorney and Directive that allow for medical care, with or without a monetary cap on the cost of care, and some kind of direction on how to make the decision to euthanize, should suffering be deemed untreatable. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s specific condition and ask for common “stop points” based on the most prominent disease process affecting your elderly pet’s quality of life. 

If you chose to leave, make sure you are emotionally prepared for this possibility.  How would you feel if you weren’t there when your pet is euthanized?  Would it be a relief or would you feel regret for not being able to comfort him? Would this decision be too big of a burden for a caretaker to make without your guidance? These are difficult but important thoughts to ask yourself. 
 

5.       Should my elderly pet be euthanized before I leave?
This is a question that can only be answered with the help of your regular doctor or a veterinary hospice service like Claire Place Veterinary Hospice. Remember that your pet’s quality of life during your absence and your quality of life away from your pet (should you chose to leave) are both valid in this equation. If your pet will be in good hands and his/her medical condition stable, then do your very best to enjoy your holiday away. Try to bring him/her with you, shorten your trip, or find the best sitter you can possibly hire to help alleviate your guilt. However, if you feel your pet will be highly stressed away from you, his/her condition is unstable, and your guilt/grief over leaving will be too much to bear, you should consider requesting the advice of your veterinarian, potentially saying goodbye before you leave, and perhaps using your holiday time to grieve your loss with the support of family and friends. No, this is not a selfish decision. It is better to help a friend a day too early than a second too late. 

 

There are many factors to consider when leaving your geriatric pet alone for extended periods of time. Make sure you are properly weighing your options and discussing them with veterinary professionals based on the medical condition of your pet. We are here to help remove the burden of the decision and to guide you on the best, most peaceful path available.

Excerpts from article by Dani McVety, DVM Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice