Oct 102008

Two veterinarians describe how they coped with their pets’ death; their experience may help you say good-bye, grieve, and heal after your pet dies.

How to Cope With Your Pet's Death

If you’re struggling with grief and guilty feelings because of the circumstances surrounding your dog or cat’s death, read 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss. I interviewed veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts for the best ways to survive the death of a beloved dog or cat, and I included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways.

“Death…is not more than passing from one room into another,” said Helen Keller. “But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room, I shall be able to see.”

Imagine that your beloved pet can see now, is healed now, and is happy and even waiting for you now….let that comfort you.

Help Coping With Your Pet’s Death

The following stories about pet loss are from veterinarians who know what you’re going through.

A Veterinarian Shares How He Coped When His Dog Died

I remember losing our family German Shepherd as a 11 year old. I was devastated and it really was like losing a family member. The loss of a pet should not be taken lightly and it is not something most people get over quickly or easily – although many may think there is a social stigma not to grieve for animals as we do for humans. The fact is that the bond that is formed between people and their pets is in many cases even stronger than some of the bonds between people. Since losing our German Shepherd, I have lost two cats also – one was an elderly girl that had to be put down due to deteriorating health, whilst the other a couple of years later was sadly run over.

coping with pet loss

Laurie’s dog, Georgie – How to Cope With Pet Death

Each pet loss had a different effect on me, depending on the bond I had shared with each animal. I was particularly saddened by the death of our German Shepherd because I had grown up with her and because she had always been very close to me in my childhood. ~ From Veterinarian Mark Edwards

An important way to cope with pet death is to focus on you pet’s life rather than the death (regardless of the circumstances in which they died). As for humans, grief is a five step process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally the last stage – acceptance. Once you accept your pet’s death, it is not unreasonable to consider getting a new pet. This is definitely not something you should feel guilty about.

Getting your pet cremated can be a good way to remember him or her. You can chose to have their ashes given back to you in a wooden casket or an urn and can even have a picture and plaque put on this. Do give yourself plenty of time for the grieving process; you may even want to take time off work. You may be surprised how much the death of your animal affects you when it does finally happen.

If you feel guilty about pet loss, you might find Coping With Guilty Feelings After Your Pet Dies helpful.

A Veterinarian Describes Losing Her Pets Through Euthanasia

I’ve lost five dogs over the years; the last dog I lost was in April 2007. None died naturally, I had to euthanize them, and all but one had cancer. The other was euthanized as the result of a bad fall and was only 4 ½ years old.

I’m still sad, particularly about my “very best dog of all time.” She was euthanized 6 years ago, and I still miss her. We did everything together: she came to work with me, we camped together, and I haven’t had a dog like her since. Coping with grief because of your dog’s death takes time. Losing a pet is like losing a family member. You always feel a degree of sadness, but after a while it doesn’t hurt so much.

Some people like to get a new pet straight away because the loss of the old pet leaves such a hole. If you’ve always had a dog around the house, and then all of a sudden there isn’t one that can exacerbate the great sense of loss. In that case, a new pet can give you something to love and hug while you grieve the loss of the old pet. However, people need to be very careful not to compare the new pet to the old pet, as it will never measure up. ~ Veterinarian Rosie Brown.

Should you get another pet to help you cope with your pet’s death? If you have to put your cat or dog to sleep, it’s normal to go through the normal stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, guilt… I think denial and guilt are the two biggies when you have to say good-bye to your dog or cat. Many people feel guilt about choosing to “kill” their pet but it’s not like that at all. If it comes to euthanasia, then you and your vet are at the point where your pet’s quality of life will not be good, there’s nothing that can be done to make it better. You’re actually doing them a great kindness to end their suffering.

feel guilty caused pets death

When Your Pet Dies

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing by Alan D. Wolfelt is a guide for pet owners who are struggling with grief and guilt when their pet dies. This book will help you understand why your feelings are so overwhelming, and help you cope with the guilt you feel about your pet’s death. Pet loss involves stages of mourning, just like losing a loved family member or friend. With pet death, however, you may also be coming to terms with your decision to put your pet to sleep.

After your dog or cat has been put to sleep, be very kind to yourself and allow yourself to cope when your dog or cat dies. Take as long as you need to. Surround yourself with friends and family who understand what your pet meant to you, and who will listen to you and support you. The worst thing you can hear is “it’s only a dog, you can get another one”. Avoid people with that attitude, because it will only make you feel worse.

If you’re struggling with grief and guilty feelings because of the circumstances surrounding your dog or cat’s death, read Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss.

I interviewed veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts for the best ways to survive the death of a beloved dog or cat, and I included stories from real pet owners who coped with their pet’s death in sometimes surprising ways.

Are you coping with your pet’s death? I invite you to share below; describing your dog or cat’s life and death can help you heal.

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  362 Responses to “How to Cope With Your Pet’s Death – A Veterinarian’s Help”

  1. Dear Deborah,

    Thank you for being here, and sharing a little bit of Hailie’s life. She’ll be forever alive in spirit here, and in our hearts. My dog Tiffy is a 7 lb toy poodle, and I believe we have a deeper bond with those little dogs. Tiffy is so vulnerable, yet so brave and full of attitude! Don’t mess with her! When she dies, I will be heartbroken.

    It sounds like you feel like you betrayed her somehow — but I believe that letting an old dog go is the most loving thing we can do for her. The biggest, most important part of loving a dog is seeing when they need our help and compassion. Death is scary and sad, but it may also be a million times better than living in an old dog body with seizures and who knows what other aches and pains.

    You didn’t let Hailie down. You loved her right to the very end, and you made the supreme sacrifice of deciding to put her to sleep. She is resting in peace, not struggling in life. You loved her with all your heart and soul, and she knew it. She wants you to remember her with peace, love and joy…and my prayer for you is that you find the strength and courage to forgive yourself, make peace with Hailie’s life and death, and open your heart to love another wonderful dog who needs a human just like you.

    About healing from the extreme grief you feel about Hailie’s death – have you talked to a counselor? It might help you to process the pain, and learn how to let go of the guilt you feel for not “saving” her.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers.

    In sympathy,

  2. I just lost my Hailie girl almost two months ago. She started having seizures and at age 12 it was too much for her little heart to handle. She was an 8lb. toy poodle and I loved her with all my heart. I am sad every day and I feel I am not getting over this. She had to be put to sleep and my fiancé was with her. I went too, said goodbye to her, but had trouble letting her go. I got very dizzy, I couldn’t breathe and I felt faint. The people in the vet’s office gave me water but I felt like I was going to die. I miss her! I want her back. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried everything. Nothing is helping me. I know I am not alone but I feel I am because I was the only one who had Hailie. I was her mommy for 12 years. I feel I let her down. She trusted me. I am broken. What to do??? My poor Hailie girl. My little Booka. :(