Skip to comments.Caring for a sick pet can take a major toll
Posted on 09/20/2017 8:49:19 AM PDT by AuntB
As much joy as a pet can bring to the life of its human, when a beloved dog or cat falls ill, the emotional toll can be high.
In fact, caring for an ailing animal often ends up placing a significant "caregiver burden" on its owner, new research finds.
"Think of the phrase, 'Giving until it hurts,'" said study author Mary Beth Spitznagel. Essentially, it's the heavy emotional burden one can experience when the act of caring stretches a person's physical, emotional or even financial capacities to the breaking point.
"We found that individuals with a chronically or terminally ill pet showed greater caregiver burden compared to those with a healthy pet," said Spitznagel, an associate professor in the department of psychological sciences at Kent State University in Ohio.
To explore the idea, her team focused on 238 adult pet owners. Nearly all were white and female, at an average age of 48.
Most had a dog (174), while the rest owned a cat. Half of the pets were deemed healthy, while the other half of the animals struggled with a chronic or terminal illness.
A series of surveys and mental health tests were administered to assess each owner's overall state of mind.
In the end, the team determined that symptoms of depression, anxiety and/or stress were notably higher among those caring for sick or dying pets. Quality of life was also impaired, while overall "caregiver burden" was characterized as "elevated."
The findings were published Sept. 18 in the journal Veterinary Record.
"Most pet owners consider their pet to be part of the family, so it was not a surprise that the pet caregiver's emotional response would be similar in nature to the response we often see in people providing care for a sick family member," Spitznagel said. "However, I was surprised at just how high the overall level of burden was in this group."
"Because this is the first study to demonstrate that this problem exists, we do not have any data to tell us how to best solve the problem," Spitznagel acknowledged. But she suggested that it's critical to educate pet owners about the illness at hand, and make sure they have solutions for any problems that may arise.
For example, Spitznagel noted that when caring for a person one problem might be, "How do I prevent my father with dementia from wandering when he becomes confused?" The pet caregiver equivalent, she said, might be, "How do I get my cat to take its medications?" or "How do I get my dog to tolerate wearing a diaper?"
"We will need to do more research to determine what is most helpful for pet caregivers," she added. "But I think interventions focused on problem-solving will be key."
Spitznagel also noted that the issue may also apply to vets as well, although her study didn't explore that possibility.
Veterinarian Dr. Katherine Goldberg, author of an editorial that accompanied the study, noted that the "conclusions are not surprising to me, given the level of pet owner stress and grief that I see.[snip]
Aunt B, with all due respect, you are nuts.
I pity your ailing, old parents as you took care of them.
Put down the animal. If it’s that sick, yer doing it a favor.
We lost our Shep/Lab rescue - 14 years old - earlier this year to a fall, which revealed bone cancer. We were so despondent. What really helped was rescuing another one and welcoming her to the family two months later. Siberian Husky whom we adore.
They’re pets! When they fall ill with life ending illness’s, put them down.
If you noticed they only asked this demographic.
***To explore the idea, her team focused on 238 adult pet owners. Nearly all were white and female, at an average age of 48. ***
The dog probably needed to be put down. I’ve had many dogs over a lifetime and never had the problems described. But then I’m not the type to give chemo to a sick dog.
You just do it because it’s the right thing. We can bitch about it but that just serves our own need for attention.
It’s hard no doubt. Suck it up.
I’m caring for an elderly parent. In two years and nine months I’ve been away overnight a total of six days and one of those was for a funeral.
Just do it.
And what do you do when the Vet says NO! Vet says it’s for ‘my convienience’ and they won’t put him down. You have no idea how this can destroy your life. Try it for 3 years.
So what is wrong with the demographic...that’s the age and sex that ALWAYS caregives!
Wow. You are a jack ass and have no idea of which you speak. Looks like FR has been filled with idiots.
When our dachshund lost control of his bodily functions, I fed him the bones from an entire slab of ribs and we put him down. He was old and had had a good life except he never got over our daughter moving away from home but he was a dog, I had two special needs children, and my mother was in hospice.
The study group was a bunch of attention whores.
Been there. Done that. There are alternatives that do not involve a veterinarian.
I seriously doubt a vet would not put down an animal that was terminal or chronic. Do you have any friends in rural areas?
It's MUCH worse (your words) taking care of a dog that should have been put to sleep? You are cruel. I wouldn't let you near my pets. Much less actual people that deserve better than you.
You find a vet who will put the animal down.
Many safe, humane methods that can be done inside city limits even.
Thanks for your comment to Aunt B. Have to agree...Aunt B is nuts.
My daughter specializes in pet pain management and this article is exactly right. Pets in pain really affect the pet owners as much or more and Vets have to work with both the animal and human side of the suffering.
I was going to thank Aunt B for posting this; my thanks are tepid because of her awful comment.
Being in my 60s, our family has had to deal with elderly ailing parents as well as the loss of pets, so we know what it takes in both cases. We just put our 14 year old dog down a couple months ago and it is a terrible decision to have to make.
If the vet’s patient is put down, that vet loses revenue.
I suspect the vet said no, because he saw Aunt B as an easy target.
Instead of doing the right thing and putting a suffering animal down, some vets con owners into spending (wasting) thousands of dollars.
All the while - the poor pet suffers.
And I’m a “jack ass”? Hoo boy.
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