What to Expect When you Least Expect it: Animal Caregiver Expectations


When your companion animal is diagnosed with a chronic or terminal
illness or condition that requires you to care for them, you and others may
have expectations about what comes with that role. This month during the caregiver support group we discussed the challenging, negative, and unrealistic expectations that can be put on caregivers by themselves and others. This added pressure can make a difficult situation even more challenging to manage so it is important to let go of perfection and strive for what is best for you and your companion animal.

Things you should expect:

  1. Expect to make mistakes: you are not perfect and you do not need to be, mistakes happen and that is OK!
  2. Expect your companion animal’s progress to ebb and flow, get better, get worse, and to take time; most treatments are not immediate.
  3. Expect to need help and support: you are not alone and should not feel you have to carry the weight on your own.
  4. Expect some things to go wrong, or for your medical team not to have a perfect answer. Everyone on your team loves animals and cares about the well-being of yours, but sometimes the answer is not clear.
  5. Expect some friends and family (social supports) not to full understand what you are going through, and that they are not perfect. Social supports may try and help by saying or doing things that might seem unhelpful, but with good intent.

Things you should not expect:

  1. Do not expect perfection: from yourself, from your animal, from your supports, or from your medical team. No one is perfect, and we are all trying our best. Your medical team is highly skilled and will do anything they can to help your companion animal, however they are not perfect, and there are still things out of their control.
  2. Do not expect treatment setbacks to be your fault: Sometimes our treatment plans are not exactly what our animal needed, or it did not work as planned. This is not your fault, and you should hold no guilt around this.
  3. Do not expect yourself to do it all: It can be very hard when you become the primary caregiver for your animal and it seems like the rest of the world has continued on without noticing. Friends may ask to make plans with you, and it is OK to say “No” and instead to be with your animal(s). It is also OK to say “yes” and give yourself a break, and give attention to other areas of your life. This does not mean you care for your animal any less, but rather that you are also taking care of yourself.
  4. Do not expect to be alone: while it may seem like an overwhelming task to be the primary caregiver for your companion animal, you are not alone. Ask for help from those you trust, ask for support from your veterinary team, and reach out to other caregivers. You also always have support through Summit’s Veterinary Social Work community!


“My caregiving journey is challenging, but I do not journey alone, and my best is enough.” -Anonymous

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