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Thread: Study Finds Caring For Seriously Ill Pets Is As Stressful As Caring For Ill Humans

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    Veteran Member Madeline's Avatar
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    Study Finds Caring For Seriously Ill Pets Is As Stressful As Caring For Ill Humans



    KENT, Ohio - Caregivers of pets with chronic and terminal diseases can suffer the same mental and physical stress as individuals caring for their ill loved ones, according to a study.

    Mary Beth Spitznagel, a clinical neuropsychologist and associate professor in Kent State University's Department of Psychological Sciences, realized there was very little scientific research on caregivers of animals when she was facing stress while caring for her dog Allo, the university said.

    She realized she was suffering caregiver burden, which is linked to depression, anxiety and poor quality of life, and decided to study the topic further.

    The results were published in an article, "Caregiver Burden in Owners of a Sick Companion Animal: A Cross-Sectional Observational Study," in the journal Veterinary Record.

    Veterinarians at Stow Kent Animal Hospital and Metropolitan Animal Hospital co-authored the study.

    "There is a ton of research and support for those who care for humans, but virtually none for pet caregivers, even though 85 percent of pet caregivers consider their pets members of their families," Spitznagel said in a statement. "I could see, as a group, we were coping. But, we were all hanging by a thread."

    She created an online questionnaire using previously validated measures from human caregiver burden research and put it out on social media with general posts and specific online pet disease support group posts. She got an overwhelming response from 600 pet owners.

    "It turns out that the effects of caregiving for a sick pet - burden, stress, anxiety, depression, low quality of life - are in many ways similar to what we see in a person caring for a sick family member, for example, a parent with dementia," Spitznagel said. "In the case of this study, burden is at a high enough level that for some people, it could be causing symptoms of anxiety and, more likely, depression."

    Spitznagel created a science blog, petcaregiverburden.com, on the topic and is doing additional studies with pet owners and pet disease support groups.

    *Snip*

    One vet, Dr. Mark Carlson, treated Spitznagel's dogs for years, including Allo, who died a year ago after bouts with both Cushing's disease and transitional cell carcinoma in the bladder.

    While caring for Allo, Spitznagel joined a social media support group for pet owners going through similar experiences. While it helped to share and cope with the stress, it also made her realize the lack of research on those who care for pets.

    "It can be overwhelming for some - the burden of almost constant attention, sleepless nights and weekly trips to the doctor," Spitznagel said of those caring for loved ones. "Difficulty managing that stress contributes to anxiety or depression for many. Over the years, I've worked with dementia caregivers who seek counseling for these issues, and I've heard similar comments from some of our pet caregivers."

    Spitznagel said more work is needed to determine how to best help burdened pet caregivers, but the first step is to help people recognize that taking care of their pet is likely to take a personal toll on their own lives.

    "They need to know that it is okay to feel stressed out by the situation," she said. "Acknowledging the stress doesn't mean they love their pet any less."
    Caring for severely ill animals causes same stress as caring for humans, study shows | cleveland.com

    Most of us have had this horrible experience, or know someone who has. But until now, it would not have occurred to me to view it as creating this level of stress.

    Your thoughts?
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    Veteran Member Isalexi's Avatar
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    I used to bring my dog to the animal hospital in New York City where they actually had a therapist present ..she explained to me that losing a pet is like losing a family member but the difference is the grief isn't the same. With a family member it's more intense ...I was heartbroken when I had to put my dog down but I was able to go out the next day unlike when I lost my father
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    Veteran Member Madeline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isalexi View Post
    I used to bring my dog to the animal hospital in New York City where they actually had a therapist present ..she explained to me that losing a pet is like losing a family member but the difference is the grief isn't the same. With a family member it's more intense ...I was heartbroken when I had to put my dog down but I was able to go out the next day unlike when I lost my father
    My brother and his wife have not had a dog now for about 5 years, partially because he does not want that pain again. I keep trying to urge him past it.

    Poor man. He's still so sad about his dog's death.

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    Veteran Member EnigmaO01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isalexi View Post
    I used to bring my dog to the animal hospital in New York City where they actually had a therapist present ..she explained to me that losing a pet is like losing a family member but the difference is the grief isn't the same. With a family member it's more intense ...I was heartbroken when I had to put my dog down but I was able to go out the next day unlike when I lost my father
    I agree it's bad but for some reason for most people it's easier to get over than losing a human family member. In a month or two I was able to get my butt over to the local animal shelter and pick up another dog that needed a home. Ironically she has the opposite personality of the last one.

    My last dog couldn't get enough attention and needed to be the center of attention. Also very affectionate. This one is somewhat aloof and not the most affectionate. But I love her just as much. She is happy when I go away and come back.

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    Veteran Member Dr Sampson Simpson's Avatar
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    Instead of caring for, shouldn't you do the humane thing and put them to sleep? Seems kind of cruel. If its distressing, they must be obvious pain for the dog. I know someone who put their 15 year old cat through chemo, and it ended up dying anyway. THat is just ridiculously cruel and completely irrational.

    I would think getting another dog could be the best way to get over a lost pet. For me, it was about a week of coming home without the dog there and being sad but I got over it. Still sad sometimes when I think of her. I would get another dog in a second, just waiting to have a better situation, it was very hard to own a dog when renting and moving to new places not really having someone to take care if I went away. Plus, the freedom is kind of nice, not having to worry about getting home to let the dog out
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    Veteran Member EnigmaO01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madeline View Post
    My brother and his wife have not had a dog now for about 5 years, partially because he does not want that pain again. I keep trying to urge him past it.

    Poor man. He's still so sad about his dog's death.
    Death is part of life. He and his wife are missing out on new joy in their life.

    A friend says it well: Every dog I have owned gets a place in my heart. A new dog does not take that away.
    Last edited by EnigmaO01; 20th September 2017 at 08:54 AM.
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    Veteran Member EnigmaO01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Sampson Simpson View Post
    Instead of caring for, shouldn't you do the humane thing and put them to sleep? Seems kind of cruel. If its distressing, they must be obvious pain for the dog. I know someone who put their 15 year old cat through chemo, and it ended up dying anyway. THat is just ridiculously cruel and completely irrational.
    I agree but some people have a really hard time letting go. Some take it to extremes. As a taxidermist that specializes in fish, I have had people call me to ask where they can get their pet taxidermied or freeze dried. Even as a taxidermist I wouldn't even think of doing that to a dog of mine. I find it very macabre.

    I try to tell them their pet deserves a place of rest as in burial just like any human being. They need to grief and move on and get a another dog or cat that needs a home.

    BTW in many cases the argument of giving something extra time with Chemo whether it be pet or human is a sham IMHO if the cancer is terminal. I've seen the indignity of people that went that route and many times they didn't even live longer -- just were terribly sick and suffered the side effects of the chemo. In fact I would wager the chemo may have killed them sooner.
    Last edited by EnigmaO01; 20th September 2017 at 08:55 AM.

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    Veteran Member DebateDrone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Sampson Simpson View Post
    Instead of caring for, shouldn't you do the humane thing and put them to sleep? Seems kind of cruel. If its distressing, they must be obvious pain for the dog. I know someone who put their 15 year old cat through chemo, and it ended up dying anyway. THat is just ridiculously cruel and completely irrational.

    I would think getting another dog could be the best way to get over a lost pet. For me, it was about a week of coming home without the dog there and being sad but I got over it. Still sad sometimes when I think of her. I would get another dog in a second, just waiting to have a better situation, it was very hard to own a dog when renting and moving to new places not really having someone to take care if I went away. Plus, the freedom is kind of nice, not having to worry about getting home to let the dog out
    You make that decision for yourself and your pet.

    I am a firm believer in putting a suffering animal down...but I would NEVER suggest to anyone else what they should do. Never.

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    Veteran Member EnigmaO01's Avatar
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    The downside of putting a pet down is many of us tend to question it later on as in did I do the right thing etc.
    Thanks from johnflesh

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    Veteran Member Madeline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EnigmaO01 View Post
    I agree it's bad but for some reason for most people it's easier to get over than losing a human family member. In a month or two I was able to get my butt over to the local animal shelter and pick up another dog that needed a home. Ironically she has the opposite personality of the last one.

    My last dog couldn't get enough attention and needed to be the center of attention. Also very affectionate. This one is somewhat aloof and not the most affectionate. But I love her just as much. She is happy when I go away and come back.

    That is one gorgeous dog!
    Thanks from Blues63

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