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When a beloved pet falls ill with a serious disease like cancer, friends can sometimes be the first people we turn to for comfort. But what can the owner of a canine or feline cancer patient do to take advantage of this support without overtaxing or unduly upsetting the people who are trying to help? Here are some ideas for navigating this tough time.
In the human health world, there are support websites for cancer patients and their families, like Caring Bridge. The information on the website is private, and only friends with the URL can access the information. They can even set up preferences to receive alerts when a new post is published about the patient. If you can convince your friends to participate on a support website, such as Fight Dog Cancer for pet folk, you'll have the benefit of telling a story fewer times — and save energy to care for your sick pet in the process.
Sometimes your friends and casual acquaintances may not fully understand your pet's situation. It's OK not to listen to their advice. But if your closest friends and supporters — those who truly understand the nuances of your pet’s cancer treatment — are all saying the same thing, it's time to listen and seriously consider heeding their advice.
Other people love your pet too. Probably not as much as you do, but a whole lot. They are used to seeing the two of you interact or hearing about your joint escapades, so understand their need to also grieve over the loss of your pet. Be sensitive about the fact that they may be uncomfortable when they see you without your pet on a walk, or when they bump into you in the supermarket parking lot.
Thank friends for reading your patient support website, watching your sick pet while you are out running errands, taking you to the veterinarian’s office, waiting for hours while your pet has a crisis in the E.R. — and for listening. You know that you've talked about your sick pet too much, but you just can’t help it right now.
When you feel ready, read about Vetstreet's dos and don’ts for helping a friend or family member cope with a pet who has cancer — and learn how to help someone else over this life hurdle.
Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a practicing veterinarian for 25 years, is board-certified in both oncology and internal medicine. She maintains her clinical practice at The Animal Medical Center in New York City, providing primary care to her long-term patients and specialty care to pets with cancer and blood disorders.
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