Caring for a sick pet can be complicated. It’s stressful when a family member is sick even our four legged family members. Whether you are deciding what diagnostic tests to run, what type of treatments to use or how to fit long term expenses in your budget, it’s easy to become overwhelmed quickly.

I get it! Not only do I get it, but I live it! I am a wife, mother, business owner and guardian to two horses, two cats and a dog. I am regularly overwhelmed by the health needs of my herd. My oldest cat has hyperthyroidism, arthritis, and overgrooms his hair. My youngest cat has IBD and has high maintenance litter box needs. My oldest horse has Cushings Disease and my youngest horse has severe arthritis and asthma. And finally my dog has hypothyroidism and allergies.

Not only do I get overwhelmed but I witness my clients experiencing those feelings, too.

I have put together a few tips that help me cope and stay focused when caring for sick pets.

1. Let go of the guilt. As tempting as it is to feel guilty when we can’t give our animals everything, it is counter productive and won’t help you or your pet. Do the best you can, that is enough. Some days, my dog misses a dose of his thyroid medication. Currently I am a month behind checking my cat’s T4 levels. The box of medication for my horse has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a solid two weeks. Remember everyday is a new day.

2. Let go of perfection. This goes hand in hand with releasing the guilt. As a veterinarian that uses both alternative and traditional therapies, my clients have more therapeutic options to choose from. Many people want to utilize every therapy available but don’t have the time or financial resources available. It’s ok to do what you can. Would pretty much every animal benefit from weekly acupuncture and massage? Yes, but wouldn’t you too?

3. Get organized. If you have several animals on several different medications or if you have one animal on a complicated regimen, staying organized can give you a sense of peace and control. Many of my clients use spreadsheets or dry erase calendars to help remind them of medications or other treatments.

4. Ask for help. If you live with friends or family, ask them to help. Maybe you need to hire a technician to give your kitty fluids or a dog walker to walk your arthritic dog. Also, ask your veterinarian for help. Talk to them when you feel overwhelmed and ask them if they can help you prioritize.

5. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are making your health, both mental and physical, a priority. You can’t be much help to your animal if you don’t keep yourself well. So often I see guardians sacrificing their own well being to care for their animal. Unfortunately this leads to a sick guardian and an animal not receiving care.

6. Enjoy your pet. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your animal’s illness and forget to enjoy the simple things like snuggles on the couch or playing fetch. When you can relax with your pet, they can relax and heal.

You love your animal and they love you too! Some of your circumstances may not be ideal and maybe you wish they were different. Forgive yourself, let go of perfection and enjoy the precious time you have with your pet.