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Newsletter

The staff at the Angel Refuge Pet Cemetery & Crematory Inc. are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to memorial and burial services, end-of-life care, grief counseling and more.

Current Newsletter Topics

October is National Pet Wellness Month

Though it may seem like only yesterday that your pet was a playful puppy or curious kitten, pets age more rapidly than humans. At age 2, most pets are considered adults, and by the age 7, pets have entered their senior years. As pets grow older, it becomes increasingly important to spot health problems before they become serious. In order to raise awareness of the pet aging process and promote twice-a-year wellness exams, the American Veterinary Medical Association and Fort Dodge Animal Health has named October "National Pet Wellness Month."

National Pet Wellness Month.

Regular wellness exams are a key part of keeping pets healthy and happy. While annual exams are a good start to keeping your pet healthy, more frequent exams are better. Twice-a-year wellness exams are a way for your veterinarian to detect, treat and, most importantly, prevent problems before they become life-threatening. These exams are also an excellent time for you to ask your vet questions about nutrition, behavior, dental health and other issues. Click here to calculate your pet's age.

Much like humans, as pets age, the risks of cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease and other conditions increase. Many of these conditions are treatable if diagnosed in time, making twice-yearly wellness exams extremely important. For adult cats and dogs (ages 1-6 years), wellness exams include immunizations, parasite and heartworm checks, dental exams, urinalysis and blood and chemistry profiles. For senior pets, these exams also include osteoarthritis exams, thyroid checks and other tests. Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests depending on your pet's health history.

Contact your veterinarian today to schedule a wellness exam for your pet.

10 Common Questions Asked after the Loss of a Pet

The loss of a cherished animal companion can cause extreme sadness, intense guilt and a whirlwind of other emotions. Often, you will seek answers to questions that may not be black and white. Below, you will find some of the most common questions pet owners ask of themselves while grieving the death of a pet.



1. When is the right time to euthanize a pet?

Your veterinarian will make a recommendation based on your pet's physical condition and long-term outlook. You, however, have the unique insight into your pet's daily quality of life. By evaluating your pet's health honestly, you will be able to work with your veterinarian to come to the most humane decision for your individual pet. The decision to euthanize will never be easy, but is often the final act of love you can provide a pet who is suffering.


2. Should I stay with my pet during euthanasia?

This is a completely personal decision that you will need to make. Many pet owners want to be there for their pets and witness it so they can see it happened peacefully and without pain. This can be traumatic, but not witnessing the death may make it harder to accept that the pet is really gone. Also, you want to gauge your own emotional strength- if you have an uncontrolled outpouring of emotions before your pet passes, it may be upsetting for him or her to witness. Euthanasia can sometimes be performed at home. Discuss your options with your veterinarian beforehand.


3. I've heard of the stages of grief, but what are they?

The grieving process is often illustrated by five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Typically, you will move through them progressively, but everyone grieves in different ways. You'll know you're beginning to heal when you're thinking more rationally and more often of the good times you shared with your pet rather than of the "what-ifs" and the guilt.


4. How can I cope with my feelings?

Having someone to share your feelings with will help you not have to keep them locked up inside. Don't deny how you feel or simply put on a brave face. You must acknowledge your feelings to work through them. Some of your thoughts may be misguided and as time passes you will be able to realize this. Do whatever works best for you as a means of emotional expression – go somewhere secluded and scream, cry, talk, write, paint, create a memorial, or find a new activity to fill the time you previously would've spent with your pet.


5. Should I just get over it?

It is common to hear the phrase "it was just a pet" when others find your emotions to be too extreme or too long-lasting. These people aren't aware that the death of a pet creates the same emotional response as the loss of a human friend or family member. Grieving is natural and thousands of pet owners can attest to that.


6. Who can I talk to?

Share your feelings with family or friends who have pets. Reminisce about your pet. Or, speak with your veterinarian or local humane association to identify pet loss counselors or support groups. Hospitals and churches also often have resources for grief support.


7. Should I do burial, cremation, or disposal?

This is another decision which should be based on your personal wishes. It can be easiest to have a clinic dispose of your pet's remains (often for a fee), but many prefer something more formal. Based on your living situation, a burial at home may be a good choice. However, both burial and cremation depend on your personal or religious values, finances and future plans. Your veterinarian or an online search will provide options available in your area.


8. What should I tell my children?

Be honest with your children and provide as much information as they seek in a way that matches their age and maturity level. Saying their pet was "put to sleep" is not advised, as they may begin to fear bedtime. Allow your children to grieve in their own ways and be open about your own emotions around them rather than teaching them to keep it all inside.


9. Will my other pets get depressed?

Your other pets may notice a change in the household. Based on their relationship, some may search for their companion, eat less and seem to be grieving. Giving your surviving pets extra love and attention during this time will be beneficial not only to them, but to you as well.


10. Should I get a new pet right away?

Generally, it is best to allow yourself time to work through your grief and loss before introducing a new pet into your home and life. A new pet is a unique individual, not a replacement. Try to avoid getting one that looks the same or naming it the same as your deceased pet, and don't expect it to behave exactly the same either. Getting a new pet too soon may lead to resentment or feelings of disloyalty because you still want your old pet back.

Burial Options for Your Beloved Pet

How you wish to handle your pet's remains after death is a personal choice dependent on many factors. Although cremation has become a popular option, other pet parents still prefer burial – either at home or in a nearby pet cemetery. Burial provides the bereaved with a sacred spot where they can go to visit with their deceased companion. It also allows the owner to feel that his or her pet is still present, still at home and not soon to be forgotten.

A burial site can be adorned with flowers, a personalized headstone or grave marker, or even a statue. Many pet parents will plant a flower or tree atop their pet's grave, or bury their pet beneath an existing and protective tree or shrub.

The Options

Home Burial

Home burial is not always an option. For pet owners who rent, move frequently, or live in an urban area, it may not make sense or it may be forbidden or illegal. Many cities prohibit home burials because of the potential hazard it may cause to public health.

If you do opt for home burial, ensure that your grave site is in an area that won’t be disturbed, is at least three feet deep, and that your pet's body is wrapped in or placed in something which is biodegradable.



Pet Cemetery Burial

Some pet owners prefer the formality of a cemetery burial – with or without an accompanying service. Others simply do not have the space of their own to bury a pet at home. Having your pet's remains buried in a pet cemetery comes with the assurance that the grave site will always be cared for and will never be disturbed. This can be reassuring for older pet parents or those who may move in the future and not be able to relocate their pet's remains.

Burial in a cemetery comes with many options for headstones and other decorative add-ons for your pet's grave or casket. Additionally, many companies exist that can pick up your pet's remains and help make arrangements for a complete funeral and memorial service if that is what you desire. Most states have several pet cemeteries. To locate the one nearest you, consult with your veterinarian or visit the International Association Of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories or the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance websites.

Urine Exam

You can learn a lot about the health of your pet from his or her urine. This smelly yellow liquid provides a variety of clues that can help your veterinarian solve the mystery of your pet's health.

Like people, pets should have yellow urine that has a characteristic odor. Most pets develop a pattern and urinate with the same frequency each day.

Changes in frequency of urination, blood in the urine and pain during urination are common signs of infection and/or irritation. Most pet owners are very good at noticing these signs.

Your pet's urine can be collected at home or in the veterinary hospital. The 'free catch' method for collecting urine can be done at home. When walking your dog, slip a plastic bowl or container under his leg when he stops to urinate. To speed up the process, you can feed your dog several ice cubes before leaving for the walk. Free catch does not require intensive labor, money, or time, nor does it upset your pet. There are some disadvantages to the free catch method. The free catch method does not provide sterile urine and may be contaminated by bacteria from the environment. If the urine is not transported immediately to the hospital, some of the tests may yield inaccurate results.

Urine Collection Vial

Urine Collection Vial

Your veterinarian or a veterinary technician can obtain a fresh urine sample from your pet by catheterizing the bladder. This collection procedure requires the animal's cooperation and often requires sedation.

Once the urine is obtained, the first thing examined is the sediment. Sediment refers to the cells floating in the urine. An increased number of white blood cells signals inflammation and helps with the diagnosis of a bladder infection. With bladder infections, large numbers of bacteria may also be present.

Canine Urine Sediment

Urine Sediment of a Dog.
White Blood Cells and Bacteria are Shown

Due to the long length of the urethra, female dogs are more prone to urinary tract infections than male dogs. Diabetic animals have an increased amount of glucose in the urine, which may promote bacterial growth and cause infection.

Animals can form bladder stones due to a genetic condition, if urine flow is decreased or if the bladder wall is irritated. Stones can sometimes be seen on x-rays and they can often be located during ultrasound examination. Surgery is usually required to remove large bladder stones.

Bladder Stones

X-Ray Showing 2 Bladder Stones

Examination of the urine is also important for diagnosing kidney disease. The specific gravity (of the urine) compares the weight of urine to the weight of water, detecting functional problems with the kidneys. The specific gravity indicates how well the animal is concentrating its urine. If the specific gravity is low (approaching that of water), the kidneys may not be eliminating the body's waste products properly into the urine. Instead of eliminating the waste products into the urine, they accumulate in the blood stream and cause problems.

Various minerals can solidify in urine to form casts and crystals. The presence of calcium oxalate crystals, for example, can be found as a result of ethylene glycol (antifreeze) toxicity. Ammonium biurate crystals are red flags for liver disease. The most commonly found crystals are triple phosphate (magnesium ammonium phosphate) and can signify a bladder infection.

Urinary Cast

Various Urinary crystals (A) Calcium Oxalate Crystals (B) Uric Acid Crystals
(C) Triple Phosphate Crystals with Amorphous Phosphates (D) Cystine Crystals

The kidney is composed of a series of tubules that aid in making urine. Substances are either absorbed back into the body or excreted in the tubules as urine. If casts are found in the urine, this may indicate a problem with the tubules in the kidney. Casts are solid clumps of protein cells or red and white blood cells. These cells collect in the tubules and are shed sporadically. These casts have a tube-like shape and can be seen under a microscope.

Urinary Cast

Large Granular Urinary Cast

Urinary Cast

Red Cell Granular Cast and Numerous Erythrocytes.
Early Stages of Acute Kidney Disease

Urine is so much more than a waste product. Your pet's urine test means a lot for his or her health. It provides many interesting diagnostic clues that help determine what's going on inside your pet!

How to Measure Your Pet's Quality of Life

Veterinarians take many things into consideration before recommending humane euthanasia for a sick, injured or elderly pet. When it comes to setting your own mind at ease, there are ways to rate or measure your pet's overall well-being.

The Veterinary Medical Center at Ohio State University published a survey designed to illustrate your pet's quality of life which was adapted from several other common methods. The survey asks you, the pet owner, to rate 25 different prompts on a scale from one to five. A score of one indicates strong agreement or a condition that is present all the time or is severe; a score of five indicates strong disagreement or a condition that is never present and nonexistent. Thus, higher scores indicate a better quality of life.



The Survey

Scale

1: Strongly Agree / All the Time / Severe

2: Agree / Most of the Time / Significant

3: Neutral / Sometimes / Mild

4: Disagree / Occasionally / Slight

5: Strongly Disagree / Never / None

My pet...

1. Does not want to play

2. Does not respond to my presence or doesn't interact with me in the same way as before

3. Does not enjoy the same activities as before

4. Is hiding

5. Demeanor/behavior is not the same as it was prior to diagnosis/illness

6. Does not seem to enjoy life

7. Has more bad days than good days

8. Is sleeping more than usual

9. Seems dull and depressed

10. Seems to be or is experiencing pain

11. Is panting (even while resting)

12. Is trembling or shaking

13. Is vomiting and/or seems nauseous

14. Is not eating well (may only be eating treats or if fed by hand)

15. Is not drinking well

16. Is losing weight

17. Is having diarrhea often

18. Is not urinating well

19. Is not moving normally

20. Is not as active as normal

21. Does not move around as needed

22. Needs my help to move around normally

23. Is unable to keep self clean after soiling

24. Has coat that is greasy, matted or rough-looking

25. How is my pet's overall health compared to the initial diagnosis/illness?

Once you have rated each prompt, tally up the number of responses for each number and then place an 'X' on a "Quality of Life line" labeled "Good" at one end and "Poor" at the other according to your most frequent response.

The purpose of this exercise is to help you better visualize your pet's general well-being. Of course, not all pets are the same and what is rated poorly for one may not be so bad for another. For pets currently undergoing treatment, some poor ratings may be liked to symptoms and side effects which will subside. It is always important to discuss your concerns and your pet's overall demeanor with your veterinarian, especially when considering humane euthanasia.

Crematory Options for Your Cherished Companion

How you wish to handle your pet's remains after death is a personal choice dependent on many factors. While some pet parents still prefer burial, cremation has become the most popular option. This may be because more people are renting or living in urban areas where home burial is often prohibited. Some believe that a body is merely a receptacle for a spirit and that more attention should be placed on honoring the memory of a pet than on its remains.

Whatever your beliefs may be, cremation offers the bereaved the option of having a pet's remains returned. They can be kept in a keepsake urn or spread somewhere sentimental. Some veterinarians perform crematory services or there are many crematories who cater just to pets. Since it has become so popular, there are several affordable options.



Private & Viewing

A private cremation ensures that your pet will be cremated alone and that the ashes you receive will be solely his or hers. Viewing cremations are sometimes possible, where you and your family can witness the process from a separate viewing room. This often provides the bereaved with the reassurance they their pet's remains were treated properly and with respect.

Semi-Private

In a semi-private cremation, several deceased pets are placed in the same chamber and divided by a partition. While the majority of the ashes you receive back should be those of your pet, some co-mingling of ashes does occur. Be sure to clarify which option you desire (and are paying for) as semi-private is sometimes labeled as private.

Communal

If having your pet's ashes returned to you is not something you desire, a communal cremation may be the best option. It results in the co-mingling of several deceased pets' ashes who are cremated together without any partitions separating the bodies.

Helping Pets in Grief

Although it isn’t known for sure if pets grieve the loss of an animal or human companion in the same way humans do, many do express their awareness that something has changed. Depending on how long your pets spent together and what their relationship was like, a death can create a significant void within the home that your surviving cat or dog may notice.

Symptoms of Grief

The ASPCA studied pet behavior after the loss of a pet companion during the nineties and found that 66 percent of dogs exhibited four or more behavioral changes. Some of these changes included:

• Loss of appetite
• More needy for attention
• More or less vocal than normal
• Restless during sleep
• Searching for deceased pet
• Wandering aimlessly



Allowing Your Pet to Say Goodbye

Many pet owners will attest to the searching behavior their surviving pets seem to exhibit after the death of a companion. When a friend suddenly leaves the house and doesn't return, he or she may anxiously wait for their return or search the house and yard hoping to find them. It has been suggested that allowing your pet to see the deceased pet's body can help him or her understand what has happened.

During this visit, your pet may: sniff, paw at, or try to "bury" the body; lay beside it; howl or whimper; invite play by bringing over a toy; or do nothing at all.

If letting your pet say goodbye in this way is not possible, consider clipping a lock of your deceased pet's hair for your surviving pet to smell. If your pet is showing any signs of grief, provide plenty of extra love and attention.

Your Pet's Allergies

The skin is the largest organ of the body. It's major function is to protect the rest of the body from the external environment. With it's sweat glands and rich blood supply, it is also responsible for regulating the body's temperature.

The exterior portion of the skin is called keratin. In animals, this protective waterproof layer is thickest on the paw pads. Under the keratin layer are the epidermal cells. These cells are constantly dividing, as new cells are replacing damaged older cells. The keratin layer and the epithelial cells are the body's first line of defense against invading microorganisms and hazardous environmental substances. These layers are also responsible for keeping moisture inside the body, preventing the body from dehydrating.

Like humans, animals have allergies. Some allergies are seasonal while others occur year round. In the northern parts of the U.S., flea allergies are commonly seen in the summer and fall. In the southern states, flea allergies often occur throughout the year. Food allergies are not seasonal. They can occur anytime during the year. The most common types of allergies in pets (particularly dogs) include: contact allergies, flea allergies, atopy and food allergies.



Asthma and hay fever are common symptoms of allergies in humans. Animals rarely develop these symptoms. Scratching is the most common symptom of allergies in pets. Some animals scratch so much that they mutilate themselves. It is not unusual to see an allergic dog with large skin wounds and areas devoid of fur (often called "hot spots"). Once the skin is injured, the animal is susceptible to a serious bacterial infection.

There are many ways to treat allergies in pets. Food allergies can be treated with hypoallergenic diets. Certain animals respond favorably to desensitization. Unfortunately, in most cases, allergies are extremely difficult to treat and require medication. This medication should only be dispensed by a veterinarian.

How to Celebrate a Safe Halloween with Your Pets

When witches, princesses and superheroes take to the streets in search of treats this Halloween, they'll have some furry friends by their side. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, total spending for Halloween is expected to reach $8.4 billion this year, an all-time high since the survey began 11 years. With nearly 171 million Americans celebrating Halloween, it's estimated 16 percent of households will not only pick out costumes for themselves, but for their pets as well. Superheroes and mermaids are the top choices for pet costumes, with bees, sharks and Stars Wars-themed garb rounding out the list.

If you plan on letting your pet don a devilish disguise, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind. First, make sure your pet wants to wear a costume. While some animals may not mind being outfitted with a pumpkin suit, others may experience extreme discomfort and stress while in costume. Try putting the costume on your pet in advance of the big night to make sure he or she is comfortable with the idea. And while your pet is out trick-or-treating, don't forget about the pets that may be coming to your house - keep a few dog treats by the door to hand out to any four-legged companions accompanying trick-or-treaters.

Whether your pet is dressed like a spider or a dinosaur, make sure the costume allows for easy movement and is not restrictive or confining. However, also be on guard for costumes that drag on the ground. These costumes can get caught in doors or snag on other objects. If your pet's costume includes a mask, modify the eye holes so they are big enough to accommodate your pet's peripheral vision. A pet that can't see may experience increased stress and could become aggressive as a result.


Halloween Pet Celebrations

When the trick-or-treating is over and the treats are ready to be had, be sure to keep chocolate away from your dog. Any amount of chocolate is harmful to your pet, so keep the treats out of their paws, no matter how much they beg. Those cellophane and foil wrappers left behind after the treats are gone are also a potential health hazard for your pet. The wrappers can be caught in your pet's digestive track and cause illness, severe discomfort and even death if the problem is left untreated.

Additional pet safety tips to keep in mind this Halloween:

• Jack o'lanterns and lit candles may look spooky, but they can pose problems for your pet. Rambunctious pets can knock lit pumpkins over and start fires, and wagging tails can easily get burned by open flames. Keep lit pumpkins and candles up on a high shelf to avoid accidents.

• If you're hosting a Halloween party, keep your pet in a separate room, away from all the hustle and bustle. Too many strangers in odd costumes may cause your pet stress. This will also prevent your pet from sneaking out through an open door and darting out into the night.

• Keep your pet indoors during the days and nights around Halloween. Pranksters and vandals have teased, injured, stolen and, in rare cases, killed pets on Halloween. Keeping your pet inside will keep them from becoming a target.

• With all the Halloween festivities, it's a great idea to make sure your pet has proper identification if they escape from your house or become lost while out trick-or-treating.


Halloween can be a fun time for you and your pet. Following the above safety tips will make sure the only scares you experience are all in good fun.