Many of us share a bond with our pet dog or cat that is akin to our feelings shared with members of our own family, as if they were our flesh and blood. Therefore, it is only natural that when our pet is seriously ill, suffers a fatal accident or dies of natural causes that we go through the process of bereavement in the same way as if it was a family member. We will experience feelings of grief and great sadness from our loss, which are perfectly natural and comforting that your devoted pet meant so much to you and your family. Coping with loss and dealing with death compassionately are important parts of the grieving process.
Humane death of a pet dog or cat
Making the decision to euthanize a pet dog or cat is often one of the most difficult decisions we have to make as our pets fall seriously ill, are really old or have suffered trauma (such as a car accident or fall). Your veterinarian will probably advise you of when this is something for you to consider and they can help you make an informed choice without causing unnecessary harm or discomfort to your pet. You will probably have reached the decision yourself but do not want to admit it. If you are unsure, you need to consider whether your pet is suffering, is your pet dog or cat active, interacting with you, affected by terminal illness and your family’s overall view in the best interest of your pet. Once you have decided that euthanizing your pet is the best option, and then spend his or her last days together. Whether you want to be there when your veterinarian carries out the euthanasia is your choice. You can remain in the surgery waiting area or be with your pet as he or she passes away. Euthanasia is carried out by injection of drugs in the paw and will happen quickly.
Death of a pet dog or cat
Most of us who own a pet dog or cat know that their animal friend is a close member of their family. Often children grow up with pets in their lives and they too will feel the trauma and emotions associated with the significant loss of their furry friend. Of course, we all deal with grief in our own way and no two people will experience the same level of grief. However, the more involved you are in your pet’s care, the age of your pet, and the bond you shared will all determine the level of grief you experience. It will be intensified if your own age and degree of coping mean that the departure of your pet will affect you deeply.
A pet dog or cat may be the only companion of an elderly person. Others may lose their four-legged companion due to death in service where a police dog gets shot in duty. For those who use a hearing dog or guide dog, the loss can be devastating on their ability to achieve more independent living.
Some owners have a pet dog or cat with a complicated health history that has meant much emotional and financial investment. If you were unable to pay for pet insurance, you may have had to make the difficult decision to put your pet to sleep rather than try to prolong its life.
Grieving for a pet dog or cat
Each of us grieves differently; it is something we individually experience. Like dealing with death of a person, grief is a staged process. You may have feelings of anger, depression, guilt and denial before we accept the loss and then seek resolve. Some people may feel they have grieved until an event triggers the emotional turmoil again such as anniversaries, picking up their lead or collar, or visiting places you used to go or play together.
You cannot hurry grieving for a loss of a pet dog or cat. It is important to take the time to grieve. It is natural to express your feelings about the death of your pet with others. Hiding your emotions will only make the process more difficult and it will take you longer to accept the loss of your pet.
Coping with the loss of a pet dog or cat
No one is better placed to say how you feel and how you are coping than you. You can find help through local groups and online fora that provide support and assistance to people struggling to cope with grief of a pet’s death. Thinking about your memories and planting a tree or similar memorial to your pet can provide you something to remember your pet dog or cat. While losing a pet can be overwhelming, remember that it is important to look after yourself. If you have other pets, remember that they can also be mourning their loss as well. Maintain your daily routine so that they do not suffer.
Helping children cope with loss of a pet dog or cat
For some children, the death of a pet dog or cat may be their first exposure to a death and the permanence of loss and its associated grief. Your children will experience grief differently to adults and they should be encouraged to express their feelings in their own way. Take care around feelings of guilt, shame, loss and anger. Children may feel afraid that every pet and person they know are going to die and leave them. Dealing with death in a sensitive way is important to help your children understand the cycle of life. Being honest about the natural order of life is important.
Moving on and finding another pet dog or cat
Being a devoted pet owner means it is likely you will consider finding another pet dog or cat to share your life with. Do not rush into making this decision as you have to grieve over your loss first. Adjusting to living with a companion pet, especially for the elderly, can be difficult when they may be concerned about having another one if their own abilities and health are deteriorating. No pet can replace the one you just lost. So, take time to make the right decision, choose the right pet for your circumstances and you can again enjoy many years of pet ownership.