The loss of a pet is a painful experience for you and your family. Most individuals and families will find that decision making is difficult at the time of loss. By making arrangements in advance, you are able to achieve peace and focus on what matters most—your beloved companion. We offer two different settings for saying good-bye to your pet.
Perhaps the kindest thing you can do for a pet that is extremely ill or so severely injured that it will never be able to resume a life of good quality is to have your veterinarian induce its death quietly and humanely through euthanasia.
A decision concerning euthanasia may be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make for your pet. Although a personal decision, it need not be a solitary one. Your veterinarian and your family and close friends can help you make the right decision. Consider not only what is best for your pet, but also what is best for you and your family. Quality of life is important for pets and people alike.
If your pet can no longer experience the things it once enjoyed, cannot respond to you in its usual ways, or appears to be experiencing more pain than pleasure, you may need to consider euthanasia. Likewise, if your pet is terminally ill or critically injured, or if the financial or emotional cost of treatment is beyond your means, euthanasia may be a valid option.
Your veterinarian understands human attachment to pets, and can examine and evaluate your pet’s condition, estimate its chances for recovery, and discuss its potential disabilities and long-term problems. He or she can explain medical and surgical options and possible outcomes. Because your veterinarian cannot make the euthanasia decision for you, it is important that you fully understand your pet’s condition.
If there is any part of the diagnosis or the implications for your pet’s future that you don’t understand, ask to have it explained again. Rarely will the situation require an immediate decision and usually you will have some time to review the facts before making one.
Once the decision for euthanasia has been made, you may wish to discuss the care of the remains of your pet’s body with your veterinarian and your family. Your veterinarian can provide information about burial, cremation, and other alternatives.
There are many stages of grief, but not everyone experiences them all or in the same order. You may experience denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance, and resolution.
Your first reaction may be denial—denial that the animal has died or that death is imminent. Denial may begin when you first learn the seriousness of your animal’s illness or injuries. Often, the more sudden the death, the more difficult the loss is to accept.
Anger and guilt often follow denial. Your anger may be directed toward people you normally love and respect, including your family and your veterinarian.
People coping with death will often say things that they do not really mean, perhaps hurting those whom they do not mean to hurt. You may feel guilty or blame others for not recognizing the illness earlier, for not doing something sooner, for not being able to afford other types of or further treatment, or for being careless and allowing the animal to be injured.
Depression is also part of the range of emotions experienced after the death of a special animal. The tears flow, there are knots in your stomach, and you feel drained of all your energy. Day-to-day tasks can seem impossible to perform. Sometimes you may even ask yourself if you can go on without the animal. The answer is yes, but there are times when special assistance may be helpful in dealing with your loss.
Eventually, you will come to terms with your feelings. You can begin to resolve and accept your animal’s death. Even when you have reached resolution and acceptance, feelings of anger, denial, guilt, and depression may reappear. If this does happen, these feelings will usually be less intense, and with time will be replaced with fond memories.
Although the stages of grief apply fairly universally, grieving is always a personal process. Some people take longer than others to come to terms with denial, anger, guilt, and depression, and each loss is different. If you understand that these are normal reactions, you will be better prepared to cope with your feelings and to help others face theirs. Family and friends should be reassured that sorrow and grief are normal and natural responses to death.
The bond that we form with animals is unique. The loss of an animal can have an impact on you that is as great or even greater than the loss of a family member or friend. This bond is what makes our interactions with animals rich and rewarding, but also what makes the grief process so complicated.
After your animal has died or been lost, it is natural and normal to feel grief and sorrow. Although grief is an internal and private response, there are certain stages of grief that most people experience. By understanding the process, you will be better prepared to manage your grief and to help other family members and friends who share your sense of loss.
They may not understand
Sometimes well-meaning family and friends may not realize how important your animal was to you or the intensity of your grief. Comments they make may seem cruel and uncaring. Be honest with yourself and others about how you feel. If despair mounts, talk to someone who will listen to your feelings about the loss of your animal. Talk about your sorrow, but also about the fun times you and the animal spent together, the activities you enjoyed, and the memories that are meaningful.
The hurt is so deep
If you or a family member have great difficulty in accepting your animal’s death and cannot resolve feelings of grief and sorrow, you may want to discuss these feelings with a person who is trained to understand the grieving process. Your veterinarian certainly understands the relationship you have lost and may be able to suggest support groups and hot lines, grief counselors, clergymen, social workers, physicians, or psychologists who can help.
How will my other pets deal with this loss?
Pets often form strong attachments to one another, and a surviving pet will notice the absence of his or her companion. An animal that has experienced the loss of a friend may react in a way similar to you. Your other pet may show signs of depression: tiredness, loss of appetite, lack of interest in favorite activities and so on. If this is the case, give your pet more attention and affection. Engage in a favorite activity, invite over for a visit human friends your pet likes and hide toys in treats in his or her favorite spot to find during the day. Like you, it may take a while for your pet to adjust to the loss. Time is the one thing that may help.
Should I get another animal?
The death of an animal can upset you emotionally, especially when euthanasia is involved. Some people may feel they would never want another animal. For others, a new animal may help them recover from their loss more quickly. Just as grief is a personal experience, the decision of when, if ever, to bring a new animal into your life is a personal one. If a family member is having difficulty accepting the animal’s death, getting a new animal before that person has resolved his or her grief may imply that the life of the deceased animal was unworthy of the grief that is still being felt. Family members should agree on the appropriate time to acquire a new animal. Although you can never replace the animal you lost, you can obtain another to share your life.
Remembering your animal
The period from birth to old age is much shorter for most domestic animals than for people. Death is part of the lifecycle. It cannot be avoided, but understanding and compassion can help you, your family, and your friends manage the grief associated with it. Try to recall and treasure the good times you spent with your animal. You may also wish to establish a memorial of some type or contribute to a charity in honor of your animal.
Cremation is a process by which the body is reduced to its basic elements using extreme heat. These elements are referred to as the “cremated remains”, ashes, or sometimes “cremains.”
Cremated remains are often returned in a small, plain container Many people prefer to have their pets cremated remains placed in an urn. In some cases, these urns will have very special meanings or are symbolic of their deceased pet. We offer the following cremation options:
- Communal Cremation — Pets are cremated communally with other pets. Cremains are scattered at sea once a month as a final farewell.
- Private Cremation — Pets are cremated in their own individual compartments. Cremains are returned to the owner in a cedar urn. A handmade paw print, personalized certificate of cremation and pet loss resources are included with this package.
- Special order urns are available upon request. You will be contacted by your veterinarian when your urn is ready to be picked up.