Home > General Pet Ownership > Coping When Your Pet Dies

Coping When Your Pet Dies

By: Sandy Bolan - Updated: 17 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Death Euthanasia Children Seniors Grief

Pets are more than just dogs and cats, they're members of our families. So when our faithful companion dies, it is painful and we grieve.

Grieving Process

When people close to us die, it is natural to feel sorrow, express grief and expect those around us to understand what we are going through. However, when a pet dies, we cannot always count on our peers to understand our heartache. But that does not mean we have to bottle up emotions. There are numerous venues available to help pet owners work through their loss - your veterinarian, online chat groups and, of course, friends who are also pet owners.

Children

The loss of the family pet is often a child's first experience with death. It is natural to want to protect children from the harsh realities of life, and death, but it is important to not sugarcoat things. Being honest about what has actually happened to the family pet will go a long way in helping children to learn how to cope with death.

When explaining a pet's death to children, adults must avoid phrases such as 'put to sleep', especially when discussing euthanasia. "A child could misinterpret this common phrase… and develop a terror of bedtime," according to Jeff Feinman, VMD, CVH. Another phrase to be avoided is 'God has taken' the pet as this may create a spiritual conflict within the child.

Very young children (2-3 years old) typically have no understanding of death and equate it with sleep. At this age, the child needs to be re-assured that he/she did nothing wrong to cause the pet's death.

Four-to-six year olds have some understanding of death, however, they do not always fully comprehend the finality of passing away and believe the animal is asleep or living underground. At this age, children may also think of death as being contagious and fear the demise of others, and themselves, to be imminent.

Older children (7-9 years old) understand the irreversibility of death and become very curious about death and its implications. They may also develop concerns about their parents' death.

Seniors

The death of a pet can be particularly difficult for seniors, especially if they were living alone with the pet. Seniors will often feel an overwhelming sense of loss and emptiness. The pet's death may also trigger painful memories of other loved ones they have lost and further remind them of their own mortality.

Other Pets

Do the other pets in the household grieve when their playmate dies? Yes. "Pets observe every change in a household and are bound to notice the absence of a companion," writes author Moira Anderson Allen. "Pets often form strong attachments to one another and the survivor of such a pair may seem to grieve for its companion."

Surviving pets may express their grief by whimpering, refusing to eat/drink and by being lethargic. The best things owners can do for the surviving pets are give them a lot of extra TLC.

New Pet

Bringing another pet into the household is generally not a good idea for anyone - you, the children and the other pets. Everyone needs time to properly heal and grieve the pet's loss before a new relationship can be formed with another cat or dog.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • mis lizards
    Re: How to Train Your Pet Lizard
    Can i train my lizard to follow me?
    25 May 2017
  • SaferPets
    Re: The Dangers of Interactive Dog Toys
    Kgldsun - Your Question:Can I bring your attention to our frightening experience after giving our dog one of the 'filled'…
    16 May 2017
  • Kgldsun
    Re: The Dangers of Interactive Dog Toys
    Can I bring your attention to our frightening experience after giving our dog one of the 'filled' hard bone like treats.…
    15 May 2017
  • Guest
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    my ex dumped he's dogs with me over 18 months ago and has not paid towards there upkeep how long before they are legally mine?
    12 May 2017
  • Chels
    Re: Introducing a Puppy to Other Dogs
    I have just gotten a rotter shepherd. His had did first shots. Can he meet other dogs? I usually try to edit until they've…
    6 May 2017
  • Julie
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Is there any rules about how many dogs can be transported in a car at one time. Our neighbours have a small daycare business and transport…
    22 April 2017
  • Ali
    Re: Introducing a Puppy to Other Dogs
    My dog has just had puppies, 5 days ago. She is missing her best friend (my sisters dog) when would be best to introduce my…
    17 April 2017
  • Chrissy
    Re: Introducing a Kitten to Other Cats
    Hi I have a 2 year old tabby cat desexed male and we got a rescue kitty tabby 3 months not yet desexed male. It's day…
    10 April 2017
  • R87
    Re: Introducing a Kitten to Other Cats
    @Kaqs - your cats will sort this out by themselves if they are young. They have to establish their own territory and this…
    6 April 2017
  • Kaqs
    Re: Introducing a Kitten to Other Cats
    We had 2 kittens (one male one female ) around 3 months each, so we decided to get one more female almost the same age 3…
    6 April 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SaferPets website. Please read our Disclaimer.