Managing and Accepting the Loss of a Pet

Whether a chronic illness in its final state, or an unexpected, acute problem with no resolution, pet owners must sort through confusion, medical diagnoses, and sadness. Organizing emotions and logic can be difficult at best, so how is a fur parent supposed to manage decisions during the potential loss of a pet?

When faced with an animal that is painful or fighting to function normally, the first thing to consider is the animal’s wellbeing. While the loss of a pet is devastating, it is even more heartbreaking for an animal to slowly deteriorate (via age or chronic illness) or to suddenly have to fight to live while the body is weak or injured (due to acute illness or trauma). As fur parents, we must realize that a painful or struggling baby is not a happy one. As a result, while an animal may remain stoic, it longs for relief.

While the loss of a pet may hurt us as individuals or family units, having the ability to provide relief to our beloved animal is one of the kindest things we can offer. While it is a power that is not to be abused, when a pet no longer enjoys its favorite activities, lacks the desire to eat, or falls into a depressed state, euthanasia is a difficult act of selflessness, that benefits those we hold dearest to our hearts. It is not only a freedom for the animal, but it makes our loss easier to bear when we realize the animal is no longer suffering.

If debating euthanasia, discussing the quality of life with your family and other caretakers, will help to better understand any decline in the animal’s daily activity. Sharing thoughts with family members and helping children understand illnesses, disabilities and the inability to further assist the pet will encourage acceptance and support within the family. In addition, talking to your veterinarian about the future of the pet, whether or not options are still available, and the humane method of the euthanization process will reassure you that your choices are warranted.

If you’ve been assisting your fur baby over time and have scheduled the euthanasia, allow the remaining days to focus on the happiness and joy from them. Give extra treats, more hugs, and simply enjoy your time together. You’ll find comfort for the loss of a pet in knowing your last days together were not governed by sadness.

If given only a short duration to make a decision within the exam room of a veterinarian’s office, ask the doctor to give you some time to say goodbye. During these last moments, saying thank you, expressing adoration, and giving a hugs and kisses to your best friend can provide peace.

Decisions for one you treasure so deeply are never easy, and the loss of a family member will always sadden the heart. However, you can find comfort in knowing that during your last days together, you kept your pet’s best interest at heart.