For many of us, pets are considered a part of the family. While no one wants to think about their pet’s eventual death, that loss is an event that all “parents” will face as loving pet owners.
Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), said that acknowledging your feelings toward your pet’s death is the first step in healing.
Sometimes pet owners face guilt or loneliness when dealing with the loss of a pet. Pet owners may take the blame for accidents, such as their pet being attacked by another animal or getting hit by a car.
“Recognizing the way you handle grief is important,” Griffin said. “Share your feelings with close friends and family so they can support and encourage you.”
Cherishing memories with your pet can also help with grief. Keeping pictures on shelves and other memorabilia of the pet can help you remember your pet in a positive light.
Children can be especially affected by the loss of a pet. Sometimes parents struggle with giving their children an explanation of why the family pet is no longer around. Being honest with children, providing emotional support, and holding a memorial service for your pet can help children cope, according to Griffin.
While losing a pet, either from natural causes or because of an accident, can be hard, in some cases, owners are faced with difficult decisions when their pet reaches an age or health condition that no longer allows them to enjoy daily activities. Euthanizing a pet is never an easy choice, but sometimes it may be the best option for your pet.
“One of my professors in veterinary school said she tells clients to pick the pet’s three favorite things, such as toys, treats, or playtime activities,” Griffin explained. “When two out of three of those things are gone, it’s time to let them go. Many pets will continue to eat and drink even when they are in pain. Keeping a daily record of good vs. bad days sometimes helps you see the quality of life they are living.”
Pets provide unconditional love and have a unique way of making us feel special. The loss of a pet is never easy, so don’t be afraid to look to others for support.
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org .