BrightHaven is unique because of the way we work and the results we get. Our Menu for Healing, which is the foundation of our work, focuses on the best quality of life at all stages, all the way to the most peaceful and loving dying process. The goal is to achieve optimal balance of body, mind and spirit.
Gail has an international consultation practice and is contacted by many vets and animal caregivers regarding our natural methods and protocols for animal care and hospice. She has been offering consultations regarding BrightHaven’s unique philosophy, diet, healthcare and lifestyle, hospice care and transition, etc. for more than fifteen years.
This question is representative of many that Gail receives.
I just brought my fifteen-year-old cat, Ashley, home from the vet after being told there is no hope for her to recover from her illness and that she will die. Euthanasia was recommended but I really want to support her through her dying process at home, although nervous that I can cope and also that I am doing the right thing. Ashley is still eating a little, sitting in her favorite spot in the garden and loving to be cuddled. Can you help me please?
First, please allow me to say that there is always hope. Our animals teach us to live and love in the moment. They do not look forward or back or worry or judge and in this situation my advice to you is to learn from Ashley and start to release your fears and worries and honor this incredible gift of extra time you are both being granted. It will be very important for you to take care of yourself in order to dedicate yourself to caring for Ashley.
At BrightHaven we care for our animals all the way to a natural end of life by honoring and respecting their process as well as continuing to care for them holistically in the understanding that healing is required to achieve a peaceful and natural death as well as sometimes to discover renewed life. The outcome not being ours to know…
Without knowing the full extent of Ashley’s illness, symptoms and treatment it is difficult for me to be precise in my recommendation, and of course I am not a veterinarian and so can only advise you based upon my own experiences over many years. That said here are my thoughts:
Your first task – choosing a veterinarian
Your email mentioned that you’re seeking a natural death process for Ashley and so your first task will be to locate a veterinarian experienced in the work of animal hospice care and able to help be of support to you all the way through Ashley’s journey to the end of her fully lived life.
Animal hospice care is relatively new to the field of veterinary medicine and still requires some classification to differentiate between hospice, palliative and end of life care and most especially to address the use of euthanasia where deemed appropriate.
The way hospice is defined for humans also applies to animals:
Hospice is a team-oriented interdisciplinary approach providing compassionate quality care and support on a physical, emotional, social, and spiritual level throughout the end-of-life process, tailored to the needs and wishes of the patient and the family.
BrightHaven’s guiding statement is:
At BrightHaven, when an animal enters hospice care our expectation is that the animal will have a painless, loving, peaceful journey followed by a painless, loving, peaceful & natural death.
If a place is reached during that journey where the caregiver, the veterinarian AND the animal, believe that the animal is in need of critical assistance, then euthanasia will be used.
The difference is of course euthanasia and some view animal hospice as the end of life care leading to euthanasia. Although we feel euthanasia is a good tool to have in your tool kit we passionately believe that when the time comes for a beloved animal to pass on, every caregiver should know there is an alternative option and what that option may entail. Do visit our website to learn more about our philosophy: https://www.brighthaven.org/animal-hospice/our-animal-hospice-philosophy/
If your vet is experienced in animal hospice care (which does not sound likely) then do enlist his help, and if not supportive of your decision and willing to perhaps collaborate with another practitioner, then your first task I believe is to find a vet who is knowledgeable, and preferably experienced in animal hospice care and willing to be of support to you both through the complete journey.
Holistic, Conventional or Integrative Approach
Your chosen practitioner may offer any of the above approaches. BrightHaven tends to use an integrative approach to end of life where we work mostly holistically but remain very open to providing pain medicine should it become necessary and unable to be controlled by various natural ways.
The BrightHaven Way
Over many years of helping animals achieve peaceful and gentle deaths we have developed a “what works” policy. Each animal has his or her own homeopathic veterinarian who prescribes homeopathic medicine throughout the journey – for the highest good of the animal and remaining very open to a return to better health. We consult closely with the homeopath (mostly via email and telephone) but also turn to our local veterinary support if our homeopath suggests an exam or diagnostic testing to help receive a better picture of the animal’s condition.
I am not sure if you are open or know much about homeopathy but I would love you to also consider working with a professional veterinary homeopath for Ashley’s wellbeing. I can help you choose one and you can read more about classical veterinary homeopathy here: https://www.brighthaven.org/holistic-healthcare/homeopathy/
Daily Life Tips
You mentioned that Ashley is eating still and so I would continue to feed her favorite foods, perhaps including a little immune or organ support if applicable and ask your vet if maybe the addition of subcutaneous fluid therapy may be appropriate to help her to maintain hydration at this time if her heart is strong.
If by chance you are familiar with Reiki, or know a practitioner, do please invite their help. There is nothing more rewarding and special than to sit in a sacred space of healing with an open heart to connect with your loved one. You can learn more about this beautiful art here at www.animalreikisource.com
The journey to the end of life is exactly that – a journey – and you must be open to change along the way. Educating yourself about the hospice journey as well as what to expect in the dying process will be very valuable. I have two books you may like to read in preparation: The BrightHaven Guide to Animal Hospice and Soar, My Butterfly: The Animal Dying Experience, available on Amazon.com.
I am happy to be of service to help you care for Ashley during her transition and would love to know a little more about her, her illness and her journey before continuing. In the meantime please take good care of yourself and remember that love IS the greatest healer. Ashley clearly shows she has a good quality of life and a will to live. I applaud your choice and am here to help as much as possible.
Do you have questions about how BrightHaven’s holistic healing or animal hospice care approaches can help your animal? Book a consultation with Gail by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
More Helpful BrightHaven Resources About Holistic Healing & Animal Hospice
- The BrightHaven Guide to Animal Hospice—learn how to care for your animal companions in their Golden Years and through the end of life
- Soar My Butterfly: The Animal Dying Experience—a simple guide to the signs and symptoms you may encounter during the final stages of the natural dying process
- COMING SOON! We’re putting the finishing touches on the first two modules of our new online self-paced learning program: One module focuses on the animal dying experience and the other one shares BrightHaven’s gentle shift from a conventional to a holistic healing approach.
***UPDATE: These 2 courses now available!***
- BrightHaven Guide to Animal Hospice: The Gentle Shift – Brighthaven Founders Gail and Richard Pope paint for you a simple picture of their healing philosophy by demonstrating how they progressively learned about holistic healthcare, embraced new concepts and witnessed healing miracles. For instance, they explain what happened when, with great trepidation, they completely changed their trusted commercial diet to one based on raw meat. Gail and Richard also share how a beautiful black cat profoundly shifted their thinking about natural death.
- BrightHaven Guide to Animal Hospice: The Animal Dying Experience – In this two-part course, Gail and Richard, who have been present at more than 600 animal deaths, will take you through the final stages of the animal dying experience and how this very special time of life is approached and honored at BrightHaven. They also offer some practical things that can be done by the caregiver for hospice support, which is focused on the animal’s comfort and wellbeing. You will discover that the dying process and death are nothing to fear, which is one more important life lesson from the animals.
Praise for Gail Pope’s Animal Hospice Expertise and Assistance:
He then laid it [his head] back down and stopped breathing—no gasping, no vocalizing, no jerking. It was as gentle as I could have hoped. I continued stroking him and loving him. It was the hardest and most meaningful 11 days of my life. I can’t thank you enough for your coaching, encouragement, advice, commitment, steadfastness, and more than anything, love. I just kept focusing on love and as long as I did, and as long as he wasn’t suffering, there was no question whatsoever about having made the right decision. — Jackie F.
She had a peaceful natural passing at home. I am so grateful. This has been my wish for her for so long and it was possible because of the work you do and what you taught me. — Peggy D.