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How To Cope With The Death Of A Pet

Updated on June 15, 2014

Our pets can become the most wonderful companions and friends anyone can ever have. They bring so much happiness and love into our lives that we cannot help loving them. Once we fall in love with a furry little one, they become a loving member of our family. If we bond with our fur ball, we both will begin to read each other’s body language, habits, needs, and wants. They sense when we are sick and suffering and will be there for us to morally support us until the end. If they are not feeling well, we will know, after all they become like our children and every parent knows when their child is not feeling well.

Sadly the day will come when our furry friend will have to leave us. It is a thought every pet-loving owner tries to avoid. If they have never experienced the death of a pet, they can only imagine what it will be like until the time comes when they are faced with the dreaded moment. Once the day arrives, panic can set in and they are at a loss not knowing what to do or how to handle it. For those that have already faced the death of a beloved pet in the past, they know what has to happen and can only brace themselves for the inevitable heart-wrenching pain. However, whether you are a first-time pet owner or an experienced pet owner, losing a beloved pet is a heart-breaking emotional experience that can send you into a journey of grief and mourning.

The experience is different for everyone. For many losing a pet is very painful and some find it just as or even more painful than losing a person. The pain and guilt that follows after the loss of a pet is very common. Pet owners somehow feel at fault for the death of their pets even when it was not through any fault of their own. And if you have children or other pets in the household, you will notice that you will also have to deal with the grief of your children and your other pets as well.

Recently I was faced with the recent death of my beloved Poppy, a 15-year-old Cocker Spaniel mix. When I adopted him, we bonded immediately and he became like my second child. However, the last two years were turbulent as I sadly watched his health slowly decline. I knew the day would come when I would be faced with not having him around anymore and I dreaded having to face the decision of having to put him to sleep. In the past, I had done for him as much as I could possibly do but when the day came that he became suddenly very ill, I was faced with a decision I was not prepared for, emotionally or financially.

Financially I could not afford the very expensive tests the Vet was offering with no guarantee of his survival. And after recommending a set of very expensive X-rays, I was left with only enough money to make one of two decisions: to use the rest of the money for more expensive tests or the one decision I did not want to make, to put him to sleep. Since I did not have the financial resources to continue with their expensive suggestions, with no guarantees I remind you, I painfully decided on the latter.

The guilt of not being able to do more set in very quickly and the pain I was faced with was excruciating. However, I was faced with a greater challenge; I had to deal with the grief of my other little dog that is still around. He did not eat for five days after that and I thought I was going to lose him as well. I had to put my grief on hold as I tried to pull the other one out of his grief and try to save him. I remember quietly crying for days, not wanting to stress my surviving little one. By the end of the fifth day, he finally ate a little and I was finally able to let the hurt rip out as the pain exploded within me.

Once again I was facing a great loss in my life. I have lost other pets in my lifetime and they were just as painful but this time I had more experience in how to deal with the loss of a beloved pet. If you are experiencing the loss of a pet or are faced with a pet that is very ill, here are some tips that may help you prepare for or overcome the pain of losing your pet:

  1. If your pet is ill and suffering, your Vet is the best source to consult as to your pet’s condition and make recommendations; however, remember that you are the best judge as to the quality of your pet’s life and any decisions made will be ultimately yours. If after evaluating and discussing your pet’s health with your Vet, you are left with no choice other than to euthanize your pet, take comfort in knowing that you are giving your beloved pet the greatest gift you can give them, the chance to go peacefully and painlessly. Furthermore, you are selflessly not allowing your pet to go through any more suffering or pain.
  2. Once your pet is gone, cry, scream, break something, or go for long, long walks. Allow yourself to grieve for your loss for as long as you need. They were part of your family and as such, you are allowed to grieve for them. The grief process is different for everyone; it can last you days, weeks, and even months. You may cry for a few days then stop and a month later you can find yourself crying again. One moment you could be fine and the next you are not. Your grief is very personal and unique and not everyone grieves the same way.
  3. It is normal to feel guilt, denial, anger, and depression after the death of your pet. You may feel remorse for things that may have been beyond your control. Your mind will begin to wonder about the things you could have done differently or shouldn’t have done. However, consider that the things you could have done may not have made a difference if your pet was ready to go. Do not torture yourself and know that you loved your pet and they loved you and appreciated you. There is no greater gift than love and you both take that with you.
  4. If possible, be there for your pet even in those last minutes. Your pet will appreciate you being there and it will bring them comfort. It will also allow you to say goodbye to your friend and help give you closure. Ask your Vet to give your pet a sedative before putting them to sleep, even if your pet is not in distress or suffering; it will help your pet to go peacefully and give you peace of mind at the same time. At this time, some people find comfort in taking a lock of their fur as a keepsake.
  5. In the midst of sorrow you will be left with the decision of how you are going to handle your pet’s remains. Some pet owners chose to cremate their pets and bury their ashes in a favorite spot and some prefer to keep them in an urn. There is also the option of having your pet buried at a pet cemetery. Other pet owners find it easier to leave their pet at the clinic for disposal. Remember there will be fees involved for any of these services.
  6. Now that your pet is gone, talk to others. Not just anyone but people that have or have had pets and know what it means to lose a beloved pet. Sometimes grieving pet owners will confide in people that do not understand the bond between a pet and their owners and the other person may come off as being insensitive even if they did not mean to be.
  7. Join a support group for grieving pet owners. If there are none in your area, try the internet and Google pet support groups. In a support group, you will not only get the understanding and support from other grieving pet owners such as yourself, but as you talk with others and begin the healing process, you will also learn to comfort and support others that are in your position.
  8. If you have children, they may not know how to cope with the loss and you will have to help them. If they are very young, they may not understand that their pet is not coming back. Talk to them and listen to them. Explain to them what had just happened and always be honest. Allow your children to express their feelings freely and be there for them. Resist the urge to get another puppy to help them cope with their grief or they may see it as a disloyalty to their beloved pet. Let them know that they have that option and let them decide on their own when they are ready to adopt another pet.
  9. If you have another pet, they cannot express grief with words as humans do. They only know their friend is gone and miss them terribly. They may lose interest in the normal things they usually do and may not want to play, eat or drink. Be sure that if they are not eating, they are drinking. If they go a day without drinking, contact your Vet for instructions. Dehydration can set in quickly, and their condition can become very serious. Try to not leave them alone for the first few days and spend time with them. Give them extra attention and take them out for walks. In a few days you should be able to see a change in them as they adapt, along with the family, and learn to cope with the loss.
  10. Know that you are not crazy to feel the pain you are feeling. Intense pain and grief is normal and natural after losing your beloved pet. Do not allow anyone to trivialize or belittle your feelings or tell you that it is not normal for you to feel this way about a pet. They are your feelings and they are valid. Find comfort in the little things your pet left behind; their toys, blankie, photos, etc. Keep a journal. Pray. In time you will begin to heal and will remember them without the pain and the tears, perhaps one or two, but not like before. You may even begin to want another little furry companion. When that time comes, look into the unwanted pets in animal shelters and rescues first before buying one; there are many unwanted pets in the world looking for someone to love and that will care for them and love them back.


As a final word of advice, remember to be kind to your pets while you have them. They are sensitive to cold and heat. When they get sick, they need doctors and medicine just like humans. They feel hunger and thirst, and they feel pain but most of all, they need love just like humans. If you are not going to be a responsible and loving pet owner, please pass that job on to someone who will appreciate them and give them the care and love they need. Our pets are not toys for our entertainment or enjoyment; they are living creatures just like you and me. The commitment you make when you adopt should last a lifetime, theirs or yours.


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    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 6 years ago from Sunny Florida


      Letting out our pain is just a start to dealing with the pain, but as you say, time will have to take over to bring about total healing.

      I agree, it is very painful to be there with them in their last moments, but being with them brings the pet a sense of security and makes it less stressful for them when they are being surrounded by strangers. It also gives us closure and a chance to tell them one last time how much we love them and appreciate them.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      "Once your pet is gone, cry, scream, break something, or go for long, long walks." - I've lost several pets in the past and I did just these. I've realized that only time heals but we can make the grieving process bearable.

      "If possible, be there for your pet even in those last minutes." - This is a really tough thing to do but something I did before we put one of our beloved dogs to sleep. I had to say goodbye and thank you to our doggie.

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 6 years ago from Sunny Florida


      May God keep little Mickey in kitty heaven full of joy and peace.

      I can relate to the love you have for your little fur balls. Grief is just as real and as painful when we lose one of our four-legged little ones. I have lost many good pets and time does not erase their memories. Thank you for stopping and commenting.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 6 years ago

      I have 7 wonderful cats! I had eight at one time. His name was "mickey". He was the runt of the litter. When he passed away in my arms, I cried for days and weeks. I am so glad I found this. I love everyone of my seven, and I spoil them happily! :-) Thank you for sharing this great information. (R.I.P. Mickey)

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      2besure, thank you for reading and commenting. I can understand the love you have for your little ones. I am still grieving for my sweet Poppy. He went to doggie heaven 1/20/2011. I find it helps me to journal and write about it. I still can't believe he is gone. Just writing about this sends me into tears. It will be a while before I can say anything about him without tears. It's hard when you lose a beloved pet. Thanks for the vote.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Just reading your hub, tears are coming to my eyes. I have two darling cats that are so precious. They are my children. I can not imagine saying good-bye to them. I know I will give them a proper burial, rather then letting the vet dispose of them. Voted up, very useful!

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Thanks for the comment crystolite.

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 7 years ago from Houston TX

      Excellent work,thanks and good for you.

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 7 years ago from Sunny Florida


      Thank you for your comment. Healing is a process that is different for everyone. It doesn't matter if you lose a small pet like your hamsters or a horse. The pain from the loss is just as great. I am sorry for your loss. I understand how you felt.

      I shared my life for fifteen years with my Poppy and this is something you can't get over in a short time. I miss him terribly and so does my other little dog and I grieve for him everyday. The pain may lessen as time passes but the love in our hearts lives on. I pray that God has him in a better place now.

    • FriendofTruth profile image

      FriendofTruth 7 years ago from Michigan

      Very helpful article Faithful Daughter, I hope you continue to heal from your loss. I remember as a young adult, I had two fluffy hamsters and when they died I cried and cried - even while at work. But my boss didn't think I was silly for crying over hamsters, he tried to comfort me by telling me about the loss of his dog. I think your article will be very helpful for those who have to face this.

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      revmjm, Lifegate, and Dogs 101, thank you for stopping by to read and comment.

    • DOGS 101 profile image

      DOGS 101 7 years ago from Planet Earth

      You have given some good advice on how to cope with the death of a pet to pet owners. Excellent!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 7 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for sharing and advising from your own personal experience. We have two dogs and four cats and they're all part of the family. Sorry for your loss, but I commend you on your brave decision.

    • revmjm profile image

      Margaret Minnicks 7 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Good job. This article should help a lot of people who has lost a pet.