Eventually, as their pet’s age, many Guardians are faced with making final decisions for their pets. A decision concerning euthanasia may be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make for your pet, but it may become necessary for the welfare of the animal. Your decision is a personal one but it need not be a solitary one. Your veterinarian, your family and your friends can assist and support you. Consider what is best for your pet; quality of life is as important for pets as it is for people.
If your pet can no longer do with you and your family the things he or she once enjoyed, and if there is more pain than pleasure in his or her life, you may need to consider euthanasia. As you make your decision, you may wish to discuss the care of the remains of your pet’s body with your family and veterinarian. You have several options, and your veterinarian can provide information about burial, cremation, or other alternatives.
Family members usually are already aware of a pet’s problems. Encourage family members to express their thoughts and feelings. Even if you have reached a decision, it is important that family members, especially children, have their feelings considered. Children have special relationships with their pets. Excluding or protecting children from this decision-making process, because they are thought to be too young to understand, may only complicate their grieving. Children respect straightforward, truthful, and simple answers. If they are prepared adequately, children usually are able to accept a pet’s death.
The act of saying goodbye is an important step in managing the natural and healthy feelings of grief, sorrow, and sense of loss. Your pet is an important part of your life and it is natural to feel you are losing a friend – because you are. Once the decision for euthanasia has been made, you and other family members may want to say goodbye to your pet. A last evening with your pet at home or a visit to the pet at the hospital may be appropriate. Family members who want to be alone with the animal should be allowed to do so. Farewells are always difficult.
After the Final Farewell
After your pet has died, it is natural and normal to feel grief and sorrow. The grieving process includes accepting the reality of your loss, and adjusting to your new life that no longer includes your pet. There are many signs of grief, but not everyone experiences them all, or in the same order. Even before death has occurred, your reaction may be to deny your pet is sick or no longer able to experience pleasure in life. Anger may follow denial. This anger can be directed toward people you normally love and respect, including your family and veterinarian. You also may feel guilt and depression. This is when you usually feel the greatest sense of loss. The tears flow, there are knots in your stomach, and you are drained of all your energy. Sometimes you may even ask yourself if you can go on without your pet. The answer is yes, but there are times when special assistance may be helpful. Once you and your family come to terms with your feelings, you can begin to resolve and accept your pet’s death. With time, these feelings will be replaced with fond memories. Grieving is a personal process. Some people take longer than others to come to terms with denial, anger, guilt, or depression. Family members should be reassured that sorrow and grief are normal, natural responses to death.
Often, well-meaning family and friends may not realize how important your pet was to you or the intensity of your grief. Be honest with yourself and others about how you feel.
If you or a family member has great difficulty in accepting your pet’s death and cannot resolve feelings of grief and sorrow, you may want to discuss those feelings with a person who is trained to understand the grieving process such as a grief counselor, clergyman, social worker, or psychologist. At Pet Planet we certainly understand the loving relationship you have lost and we can direct you to community resources, such as a pet loss support group.
The death of a pet can upset you emotionally, especially when euthanasia is involved. Some people may feel they would never want another pet. A new pet may help others get over the loss more quickly. Just as grief is a personal experience, the decision of when, if ever, to bring a new pet into your home is also a personal one. Family members should come to an agreement on the appropriate time to acquire a new pet. Although you can never replace the pet you lost, you can get another one to share your life.
The period from birth to old age is much briefer in pets than in people. Death is part of the life cycle for all creatures. It cannot be avoided, but its impact can be met with understanding and compassion. Try to recall the good times you spent with your pet. By remembering the pleasure of those times, you can realize your pet was worthy of your grief. You may also wish to establish a memorial of some type in honor of your pet.
In many communities, there are support groups specifically designed to help you with the loss of your pet. To find one in your area, please contact your local Humane Society, Animal Shelter or Veterinary Clinic.