August 2016

A Family Guide to Coping With Pet Loss

As a veterinarian, a person regularly tasked with the sacred duty of helping beloved family members pass over the Rainbow Bridge, you might think that I had lots of training in vet school about how to help people during such a challenging time. To be honest, I didn’t. Almost none, in fact, which is a shame.

Oftentimes, the death of a pet is the first major loss experienced by a person, especially children. We know now that for many people, the pain and grief of losing a pet is as profound as the death of a person, yet people are often expected to carry on the next day as if nothing has happened. Openly discussing grief makes others uncomfortable, mostly because they don’t know what to say.

Because of this, we are often ill-prepared for helping people navigate the complicated maze that is grief. After working in pet hospice for several years, I have a better understanding than ever before about how profound this experience is for people, as well as how often they are pretty much left to figure things out on their own. There is much we can do as a veterinary community to better prepare families for the death of a pet, and also much that pet parents can do as well.

How To Talk to Kids

How many of us grew up with parents who said, “Oh, Fluffy ran away”? For many years this was the accepted way of dealing with a pet’s death: Denial. Not only does this deprive children of the opportunity to mourn, many kids (myself included!) felt a deep sense of betrayal when we got older and realized our parents deceived us. Although it comes from a loving place, it’s always best to be honest with our little ones.

1. Be Direct. Children do not understand euphemisms such as “put to sleep”. Children under five may not understand that death is permanent. It is normal for them to repeatedly ask when their pet is coming back, even after you have told them that a beloved companion animal has died.

2. Be Reassuring. It is natural for death to cause anxiety in children, and they may even experience nightmares. By reassuring them and being there for them, children know that they can trust in their family even during sad times.

3. Allow Them to Be Present. Depending on your own comfort level, of course, I strongly believe that children benefit from being present during the euthanasia process. I find children to be curious, accepting and often a very big comfort to their grieving parents! It is healthy for them to see how peaceful the dying process can be, rather than relying on their active imaginations to fill in scary details.

4. Allow Them To Grieve. There are so many ways children can express themselves during the grieving process: talking, drawing pictures, having a ceremony. In our house we had a Celebration of Life for our dog, complete with a poem my daughter wrote. I know of other families who hold goldfish funerals. It’s good for kids to know that memories and love do not end when the body is gone.

How to Deal With Other Pets

For a long time, I was ambivalent about whether or not other pets in the family needed to be present when a pet passed. After all, most of the times I helped with a euthanasia, it was in the veterinary clinic. All of that changed when I started going to people’s homes and experiencing the death process with the entire family.

Dogs and cats understand death. Perhaps we tell ourselves this based on intuition, but having seen it firsthand I truly believe it. I have seen feisty dogs full of energy calm down and curl up next to their dog brother or sister after they have gone; cats may wander in for just a moment and wander off, but they still take note. Either way, they seem to be able to sense the change that has taken place, some moment imperceptible to us. Just like children are confused when a pet suddenly disappears, there’s no reason to think our fur kids are any different.

How Grief Affects You

Make no mistake, the loss of a pet is a terrible thing. There is no need to minimize that sadness or try to push it aside; deep sadness reflects the depth of your love. You need to allow yourself the time to mourn the loss of your friend, the loss of what they brought to your family, and the time in your life that they signified.

1. Be Gentle With Yourself. If you find yourself surrounded by people who say unhelpful things like, “It was only a dog! You can get another one,” or some other inconsiderate things, find new people to talk to! Many areas offer pet loss support groups; if those are not available, you can talk to one of many pet loss support hotlines or even jump on the daily internet Pet Loss Support Chats run by the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.

2. Know That There is No Timeline. Some people grieve for months or even years. Don’t let anyone tell you it is “time” to get over your loss.

3. Read Up On Pet Loss. One of my favorite pet loss resources for pet parents is The Loss of a Pet by Wallace Sife. This excellent book details the process of grief, specifically with pets, and also helps readers identify when grief is such that a professional counselor might be helpful.

4. Be a Good Friend. When a friend says goodbye to a beloved pet, remember how it felt for you and offer a kind word, a good memory and a big hug. Even if they say, “I’m OK!” it is often because this is what everyone expects them to say, and a compassionate ear can mean so very much.

It may sound strange to say this, but memorializing a loved one can be a truly life affirming moment. It teaches children (and ourselves!) that what is gone is not forgotten, that death is sad but it doesn’t have to be scary, and that we can get through anything when we support each other. The lessons we learn by saying goodbye to our fur kids carries over to other losses in our life, and helps us process grief in a healthy way so that we can move to a place where we are able to remember our loved ones with peace and joy.

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Our Foundation Awards Grants to Several Rescues

Did you know that every order placed at Life’s Abundance benefits our charitable foundation? It’s true! Whether you’re ordering the finest nutritional supplements for yourself or premium quality food for your pet kids, your business will help the plight of homeless animals across America.

This work is done through our non-profit wing, The Dr. Jane Foundation, which provides financial support to small and medium-size rescue groups who work to prevent animal homelessness, abuse and chronic neglect. Since 2007, we’ve awarded more than $190,000 in funding to well over 100 deserving groups! 

In an era where so many shelters self-identify as “no kill”, it’s shocking to learn that euthanasia is still responsible for the deaths of nearly three million dogs and cats every year. Obviously, there’s a lot of work left to do, and why we wholeheartedly support the very agencies who are striving to bring these numbers down.

In every state, small and medium-sized rescues are working their hearts out to save as many homeless animals as possible. While large groups attract huge amounts of funding through awareness campaigns, these smaller non-profits rely heavily on the goodwill of their local communities. When a national organization like our foundation helps out, it helps draw attention to their vital, life-saving efforts.

To qualify for funding from our foundation, applicants must meet rigorous criteria. Most of our grant recipients utilize one or more programs that have proven successful in curbing pet overpopulation and reducing the number of pet kids euthanized. These initiatives include low-cost spay and neuter surgeries, TNR (trap-neuter-return) management of feral cat communities, affordable adoption fees, and community education efforts regarding the proper care of companion animals and the dangers of animal abuse and neglect. And all of this is done in addition to the day-to-day activities undertaken by these committed rescuers to place their animals in loving adoptive homes.

Time and time again, we’ve seen witnessed amazing transformations. Animals who have borne the brunt of cruelty or long-term neglect and yet were still able to rise above their hardships and make full recoveries. Every new group brings its own stories of triumph in the face of adversity. With so many grant recipients, it’s hard to calculate the exact number of animals helped by our non-profit … but it’s easily in the hundreds, if not thousands!

Just think, simply by shopping with Life’s Abundance, you’re making the world a better place. How often do you get to do something positive without having to do anything different at all? As long as you keep purchasing our health-promoting products, you’ll be supporting rescues!

And we’ve saved the best news for last. Our Board of Directors just held a quarterly meeting last month, approving grants to the following six incredibly worthy recipients …

- Forever Husky, Inc. of Crystal Lake, IL

- Page Animal Adoption Agency of Page, AZ

- Second Chance Cocker Rescue of Santa Barbara, CA

- Action Programs for Animals of Las Cruces, NM

- Fix Smith County of Elmwood, TN

- Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue, Inc. of Columbus, OH

Congratulations to all of these groups for their amazing efforts to make the world a better place for companion animals in need! And check back soon for updates on these very groups, and what they are able to accomplish with this round of funding.

Check back next month for another update from The Dr. Jane Foundation. Together, we’re making a difference!

Multivitamins… A Good or Bad Idea

In an ideal world, we would eat the perfect amounts and proportions of just the right foods from pristine, organically grown farms so we could obtain optimal nutrition from each and every bite. Sounds good, right?

It’s important to understand that foods are complicated – in a good way. All foods contain a host of complex micronutrients that work together in perfect harmony. This is why I believe that you can’t pop a pill and expect it to replace all of the nutrition foods deliver in your diet. There’s no singular pill, powder or solution that can compare with the comprehensive nutrition that fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and other foods supply to the diet.

The problem is that this is the real world, not an ideal world and our food supply, lifestyles and unique nutritional needs make it difficult for us to get the all nutrients we need from food alone. Fruits and vegetables don’t contain the vitamins and minerals they used to years ago due to the depletion of these nutrients in the soil. They also lose nutritional potency in transit from the farm to your table, not to mention the nutrients lost when cooking them. And finally, our hectic schedules often get in the way of making the right dietary choices. For example, instead of a grilled chicken breast with a sweet potato and green beans for dinner, you worked late and picked up a bucket of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and an apple cobbler dessert. This is why only one out of five people get adequate vitamins and minerals from their food.

Here’s where I believe a daily supplements can be very helpful. Although they cannot replace all of the nutrition food delivers, when your body needs a little extra help, they will have your back and can go a long way to help nutritionally compensate those of us who live in the real world.

So now you may be wondering, “what should I be taking?” There’s so many options to choose from that it can get kind of overwhelming. Is a gender-specific formula the way to go, should I try compressed pills, capsules or a gummies, perhaps a mega-dose formula is right for me or should opt for a special supplement formulated for hair and nails, energy or my age? I believe a multivitamin that provides you with the essential nutrients for optimal health and no more makes the most sense. Because too much of “good thing” can have unwanted consequences.

I recommend Life’s Abundance Multivitamin because it provides a balanced approach to a daily supplement, providing all of the essential nutrients and none of the extras. Plus, we’ve added a unique spice blend of black pepper extract, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cinnamon, holy basil and cloves. These spices offer a wealth of plant-based phytonutrients and antioxidants so important for optimal health. And since I believe it’s important to reduce additives from the diet, it is free from magnesium stearate. Life’s Abundance Multivitamin veggie capsules are made from cellulose, which not only helps protect sensitive ingredients but also breaks down and delivers nutrients more easily than compressed tablets. And, last but not least, it is soy, grain and dairy free with no added sugar, artificial flavors, color or preservatives. So, do the best you can to eat as healthy as you can and if you need a little help, try Life’s Abundance Multivitamin.

 

Keri Keri Glassman, MS.RD.CDN