Overcome the Overwhelm: How to Cope with your Pet’s Illness.

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.

35 thoughts on “Overcome the Overwhelm: How to Cope with your Pet’s Illness.”

  1. hi all. I feel so sad and distressed. My 6.5 years old golden retriever has recurrent bouts of acute moist dermatitis. it pains me to see him with those active wounds. I clean the area, clip the hair around the wound, apply a medicine spray to his wound, and also make him wear the Elizabethan collar every day. but he still can reach certain parts of his body like the hind paw, thighs, etc. and he chews on them even if I have to leave the house for some work for 1-2 hours. or he chews on them at night when we’re sleeping.

    I can’t express how sad and frustrated I feel upon seeing him sick. I can’t bear it really. I’m really trying but I’m so tired now. I don’t know what to do, I don’t have too many financial resources either. + today his right eye is swollen, maybe an insect bit him last night. no clue. I’ll need to take him to the vet somehow max by tomorrow in case it doesn’t get better on its own. vets in my city are so expensive and the affordable ones are too far away. it’s really sad.

    Reply
    • Hi Krutika,

      I really hear you sadness about your sweet pup’s struggle and the frustration with the cost of veterinary care as well as not making progress with his itchiness. Your feeling are really valid. Dr. Angie does host a Q & A on Instagram every Wednesday at 12:30pm MST. This is a free resource that she offers to pet parents in the community. You are always welcome to join us there and ask any questions that you have. Additionally, Dr. Angie also offers one-on-one video consultations and this can be a very supportive way to have another set of eyes review your dog’s medical history, current symptoms, and to formulate next steps in a treatment plan. If this is of interest to you, please use this link to access Dr. Angie’s availability. Sending you so much love. You’re doing such a great job and are a wonderful guardian for your boy. Love, JoJo, Veterinary Nurse

      Reply
  2. I had a 13 and 14 yr old lab pass away last year. We decided to get another dog and immediately after my 13 yr old passed I ordered 2 puppies which took 5 mths to
    come. We got them at 7 weeks old and at the first vet appointment, a murmur
    was detected on Sam one month after getting him. They asked us
    to wait until he was 6 mths to get an eco cardio gram and yesterday we found
    out that it is very severe and he wont live past 2 yrs old. All we can do is medicate to make comfortable. I feel for his brother the black one. Sam’s valve to the heart did not form properly and he is rated 5 our 6..
    We are devistated. The puppy is 6 1/2 mths and we love them so much

    Reply
    • Oh, Linda. This is devastating. I can only imagine the pain you are feeling with this heartbreaking news, stacked with the recent grief of your senior labs.

      I know one this is true. These puppies are so lucky to have you, and I’m so glad that your babe’s short life will be one full of love and compassion.

      Big hugs,
      Claire Primo
      Veterinary Nurse

      Reply
  3. Kindly post the edited message
    ========================
    Thank you so much for this article . My black cat suddenly became ill after 12 years of not having a thing , is 13 years old he lost weight and it seems like lots of cats nowadays to be in a early stage of moderate renal illness . I am giving him a diet nutrition and a supplementary food . This year was a terrible year for me one problem after an other neither a good Xmas and New Year start . I am worked many years in the Aviation as such I got used to lots of troubles though this hit me most ,there are still so many unanswered questions into his health condition. I’m struggling with worries because he went from being very fit to losing weight and being not the cat I knew , mainly and foremost of the day I may lose him. Any help will be appreciated

    Reply
  4. Thank you so much for this article . My black cat suddenly became ill after 12 years did have a thing , is 13 years old he lost weight and it seems like lots of cats to be in a moderate stage of renal illness . I am giving him a diet nutrition and a suplemental food . This year was a terrible year for me one problem after an other neither a good Xmas and New Year . I am worked many years in the Aviation I got used to lots of problems though this hit me most ,there are still so many unanswered questions into his health condition. I’m struggling with worries because he went from being very fit to losing weight and being not the cat I knew , mainly and foremost of the day I may lose him

    Reply
      • Thank you so much Dr. Angie. I’ve just lost one of my 2 years old cat recently, and now my eldest cat who’s 6 years old got sick. It’s overwhelming to deal with his sickness because of the trauma i went through recently. He’s currently on syringe feeding and hopefully on his way to recovery if things go right. I needed all the support i could get through this journey. I wish you and your family a good health and happiness you deserve. ❤️❤️

        Reply
        • Hi Shimon,

          I am so incredibly sorry to hear about the recent loss of your kitty. 2 years old is so young :(. I know it must be so hard seeing your 6 year old sick now.

          I am sending you such enormous hugs and am hoping that your boy has turned a corner. Please keep us posted.

          So much love,
          Claire Primo
          Veterinary Nurse

          Reply
  5. I don’t know what to do , how things go well ?? as I’m experiencing very stressful period for my pet he may have bone related cancer in some future time and his leg swelled up , and i got to be here to relax my mind this is so stressful and restless for me I have dropped all my things which i used to do like gymming and listening to music . I’m already alone in my life don’t know how to cope with it

    Reply
    • Hi Sam,

      First – big, giant hugs. I am so sorry that you are now dealing with this. It is absolutely so hard and heartbreaking when our pets aren’t well – or worse.

      How is your boy doing now? Have you been able to get any diagnostic tests done to confirm whether this is cancer or something else?

      I know it’s difficult, but please remember you are not alone. So many pet parents understand exactly how you feel. Your being well (mentally and physically) is also a huge asset to your sweet boy.

      Big hugs,
      Claire

      Reply
    • I know exactly how you feel. I’m am recovering from an illness myself. I’m doing everything I can to help my animal because he was there for me when. I was sick. I pray alot. I also pray to him and with him. I think what’s worse is that they can’t “talk” to us to where we hear words.
      If he had no quality of life it would be different but he shows signs of a happy life half of the time. It’s just so hard. I feel your pain

      Reply
      • Hi Mia! How are you and how is your pet?? I feel you completely especially the part about being confused as to whether your pet is suffering or not because even my cat seems happy and walks around and purrs half the time! She has a chronic condition though and it’s so hard to manage and it’s also very depressing cleaning poop almost all day long. It’s a very difficult time and I’m engulfed in constant anxiety, pain and fear of having to say goodbye to her.

        Reply
    • I fully feel your pain Sam. I am extremely alone too. I’ve been crying and worrying so much. My whole life is revolving around my pet’s health and it’s a constant worry. She seems happy half the time and the other half she seems tired and done with life. Idk what to do. I spend hours every day cleaning after her, helping her urinate and defecate, feed her, keep her hydrated, give regular enemas and also try to keep her happy. I spend so much time crying and feel so alone and helpless. How is your ot doing? And how are you?

      Reply
  6. Thank you I really needed to read this I love my dogs and when they get sick I feel helpless but it was good for me to see that others struggle with the same thing. Thank you

    Reply
  7. Thank you for this article glad there is a place to share the pain when your “baby” gets sick all of a sudden. My Lynx(ie) has been diagnosed all of a sudden (Aug 9) with Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and I am in so much pain over my little guy. It is hard to watch him deteriorate and there is nothing that I can do to make him better. I am a crying wreck, but know I must carry on and concentrate on giving him lots more love. Thank you for the helpful article and the comments, it helps to know that we are not alone.

    Reply
    • Hi Milagros.. I am an absolute crying wreck too. I also recently went through an extremely painful breakup and it feels like one traumatic incident after another and idk how to cope. My pet has a chronic condition and I’m trying so hard to make her comfortable and keep her alive and happy but the care for a sick AND handicapped pet is harder than I ever imagined. It’s also extremely depressing. Idk what to do

      Reply
  8. Thank you for this article. My cat suddenly became ill and was diagnosed with anemia. There are still so many unanswered questions though. I’m struggling with worry because he went from being very active to very lethargic and I don’t know if he will make a full recovery. I’m doing everything I can for him and this article helped me find comfort in that.

    Reply
  9. Hello, Thank you so much for this article, my cat currently can’t use his hind legs, he used to hide, run and jump all over the house and now it breaks my heart to see him struggle, the depression and anxiety is real but your words are like sunshine in a dark day.

    Reply
  10. Hello,

    Thank you very much for this article. I didn’t think I would find anything with my quick Google search but I did — this. I care for 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 9 roosters. With the roosters, it is one health issue after another, and I feel like I never get a break. I am so overwhelmed almost all of the time now. Thank you for this.

    Reply
  11. Thanks for posting this. I had a special need cat for year’s. Who sadly passed away Feb. 2020. Now my 15 year cat is blind, arthritis in her back. And is stage one kidney disease. And my kitten is also worry me because his breath has been rapid. Hope you pets are doing well.

    Reply
  12. How does it affect dogs the longer They have Cushing’s. I feel bad because my dog was just diagnosed and she had the symptoms for two years is it harder to treat? I’m gonna go holistic all the way

    Reply
    • Hi Deborah,

      I am so sorry to hear about your pup’s diagnosis. I know you probably feel so overwhelmed!

      I think that every dog is different. How is your girl responding to a holistic approach? Do you, or are you able, to get a holistic veterinarian on her team to help provide guidance?

      BIG hug,
      Claire

      Reply

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