What You Need to Know About Grief and Losing a Pet

Grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a cat or dog. It's hard to know how to cope with losing a four-legged member of your family, but knowing what to expect when the time comes can help you get through this painful and heartbreaking period.

Read on to find out how to help children handle their grief, what decisions you should make before your pet passes away, and how vets deal with animal death.

Coping With the Loss of a Pet

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When the Diagnosis Is Terminal

When your pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness, your first instinct might be to turn to your friends for comfort. While your friends might offer their support, you don't want to overburden or upset them.

There are alternative ways to navigate through this difficult time, such as creating a support website to share with loved ones. It’s also important to remember that other people love your pet, too, and might feel uncomfortable or awkward when they see you without your pet.

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Knowing When to Say Goodbye to Your Dog or Cat

Choosing to end a pet's life is the hardest decision we make when it comes to our furry friends. While your vet, family and friends can offer you support, no one can make that choice for you. Before you make the ultimate decision, however, you should ask yourself: Am I doing right by my pet, or am I just holding on because I can't bear to say goodbye?

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How to Help Kids Cope With a Pet's Death

When you have human children and pet children, you may face a difficult choice: Is it appropriate for a young child to be present when a pet is being put down?

While witnessing a pet’s euthanasia is not right for every child, Dr. Marty Becker says that if your child is older and expresses an interest in saying goodbye, then he or she might be prepared for the experience. A pet’s death is also an opportunity to teach kids that death is a part of life and that it is OK to grieve.

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Decisions to Make Before Your Pet Passes Away

When your cat or dog is young and healthy, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll ever pass away, but as difficult as it sounds, you need to make end-of-life decisions about your pet before it’s too late.

Many pet owners grapple with what to do with their pet’s remains. One option is cremation, a thermal process that reduces an animal's remains to bone fragments. While cremation isn’t right for everyone, knowing more about it can help you decide if it’s the best end-of-life option for your pet.

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When Grief Is Too Much to Handle

Soap opera star Nick Santino took his life after he felt forced to euthanize his Pit Bull because his New York condo board banned residents from owning the breed. His tragic death puts a spotlight on breed bans, specifically Pit Bulls, and highlights how deeply affected one can become from the loss of an animal.

If you recognize that a friend or family member is bereaved, offer your support by listening to what he or she has to say about the experience.

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A Vet’s Perspective on Death

Ever wonder how a veterinarian feels when a pet dies under her care or when she has to administer euthanasia? Dr. Patty Khuly deals with death daily; what she finds most grim are not the euthanasia procedures but the “weeks-long discussions that often precede them.” For our expert, the anticipation of death is the most grueling part.

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