Dr. Matthew Phinney: We have Dr. Laurie Brush here with us today from Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. She is going to talk to us today about pet care, the benefits of pet ownership, and ways to make sure that you pet’s live long and happy lives. So, Dr. Brush, tell us a little about yourself and the journey behind it all?
Dr. Laurie Brush: I’ve wanted to work with animals since I was a child. I knew by the age of 13 that I wanted to be a veterinarian, yet went on to do other things instead because I wasn’t convinced that I could get into vet school. So, I worked in International Development for several years, and then realized that I missed my calling and went back to vet school. I became a veterinarian in my 30’s, and have absolutely LOVED it ever since.
I found out about hospice care for animals about 4 years ago at a convention when hearing other doctors speaking. I had a dog that helped teach me things all the way through vet school and up until my first year being a veterinarian. When his time came, I was able to help him pass peacefully at home. To me, that became the best way for pet’s to pass: with the comfort of being surrounded by their family, in their own bed, and stress free. That’s why I love hospice care so much!
Dr. Phinney: That’s an awesome story. Truthfully, I didn’t know that pet hospice existed before I met you so I am just amazed at your passion. So the pet industry is continuing to grow- why do you think it’s more common to own pets and animals now than ever before?
Dr. Brush: Well I don’t think that there are any more pets, but that their role in a family has changed. Pet’s have become members of the family, and are no longer just out-in-the-kennel dogs!
Dr. Phinney: I can definitely relate! Now what are some of the health benefits of pet ownership and having that companion always around?
Dr. Brush: Having a pet as been shown to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which decreases your risk of having a heart attack. We’ve seen heart attack victims recovering quicker because of pets, and help you stay healthy by maintaining your weight on those daily walks! Pets also help us to have more social interactions (example: people stopping to pet your dog on a walk). There’s definitely a huge role for pets in our health care.
Dr. Phinney: Love that. For you specifically, do you care of all animals or do you have a specific focus?
Dr. Brush: My focus is on companion animals. It is amazing what people sometimes think of as companion animals!
Dr. Phinney: Now, what are some of the challenges that pet owners themselves are facing as their animals age?
Dr. Brush: Most often, the aging process is the same as humans. We become slower, feel heavier, often get arthritis, and that’s the same with animals. So what we like to do is to help keep the pets interacting with the family. A sometimes-simple thing such as trimming their toenails helps them to walk on the floor better.
Dr. Phinney: Now what other things does Heaven at Home do to serve those aging pets?
Dr. Brush: We really want to help the pets stay part of the family. One of the big reasons why people call me is because their pets have starting vocalizing their discomfort at night by pacing and being restless. When that happens and there are other issues more serious beyond a urinary tract infection going on, that’s when I can get involved.
Dr. Phinney: Got it. So urinary infections would be a big one, along with vocalization, such as barking. So, what are some other things that pet owners should watch out for as their pets get up there in age?
Dr. Brush: If you notice that your pet is starting to have little changes, even not interacting with the family the way it used to (such as not getting up to greet you) then it could be a symptom of pain. Noticing simple changes like not interacting, eating as well, and getting up at night could be things that could suggest discomfort.
Dr. Phinney: These are all warning signs that are worth taking a closer look at. So when would be the right time to reach out to someone like you?
Dr. Brush: I think whenever you wonder if there’s anything we can do to help keep your pet comfortable. Often times my clients see their veterinarians regularly and think that they’re doing everything they can, but then it starts to get pets in their carriers anymore. If so, I can work with your regular veterinarian to find out what medications your pet is on, and then work with them to help keep your pet as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.
If you haven’t seen a veterinarian for your pet’s health in many years, it’s still best to call Heaven at Home.
Dr. Phinney: That’s great. As far as support systems go, are there any that you provide for grieving pet owners?
Dr. Brush: Yes, we have a support group that meets once a month, and lets pet owner’s talk with other pet owners to share stories & commemorate their pets’ lives. Sometimes that’s the best form of healing, because it is really hard for people to lose a pet.
Dr. Phinney: I agree 100%. Kind of wrapping this great interview up, what are 3 steps that listeners at home can implement today to assure a long, happy life for their pets?
Dr. Brush: Top 3… A huge number of our pets are obese. To help keep your pet as healthy as possible, help to control their weight. Part of that is through exercise, and not loving them to death through food. Steady, regular exercise is another thing that is important with arthritis. Trimming their toenails is the third thing that I would say. Especially with big dogs, keep their toenails trimmed. For cats, their toenails grow faster as they age, so doing it more often is a big thing.
Dr. Phinney: So proper diet, regular exercise, and trimming their toenails. That’s fantastic! Finally, how do people at home reach you, Dr. Brush?
Dr. Brush: You can find me on my website www.pethospicevet.com , google my name, or look on facebook. I’m the only pet hospice in West Michigan, so it should be easy to find me!
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This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Matthew Phinney.