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When a Pet Dies: What Nobody Tells You About Losing Your Pet

when-a-pet-diesMost of the advice that you will see online about pets include proper care and feeding, behavior problems, dental care for pets, as well as other tips and information that you can share with your South Coast veterinarian. However, it is very rare to see information about what we go through as “pet parents” when a pet dies. Proper veterinary care at your animal hospital in Dartmouth, nutritional feeding, year-round shelter and lots of love can help your dog, cat or exotic pet to live a healthy and happy life. But the fact remains that pets live a much shorter lifespan than humans, so chances are that when you adopt a pet, one day you will have to say good-bye.

The Human-Pet Bond is Strong

The first thing we need to acknowledge is the relationship that we have with our pets. Regardless of the breed or species, pets have a special place in our hearts. Social medial posts by pet owners are often filled with terms of endearment, stories of the happiness that pets bring to our lives and descriptions that show just how much they mean to us. “Fur babies”, “furry kids”, “fuzzy children” – these are just some of the ways that people express how strong the bond is between humans and their pets. As a result, the loss of a loved pet can have a huge impact on us that can equal, or in some cases even surpass, the feelings we have when we lose a human loved one.

Just like with other types of loss, a memory of a time you spent with your pet and the sight of another animal that looks similar to or behaves like your pet did, are just two of the ways that pet owners can become overwhelmed with a feeling of loss when a pet dies. Regardless of how well you cared for your dog, cat or exotic pet, coping with loss can be difficult. Veterinary care at an animal hospital in Dartmouth for aged, sick or diseased pets can make their last days more comfortable and happy. Proper treatment, dental care for pets, regular vaccinations and check-ups at your South Coast veterinarian will help to prevent many illnesses and issues, but nothing can keep your pet alive forever.

Grief is Natural

Many people go through the loss of a pet alone, as other non-pet owners simply do not understand the heartache that they are experiencing. It is very natural and totally normal to experience a lot of grief when a pet dies. Just like with a human death, the amount of time that it takes to deal with and “get over” the loss of a pet can vary from person to person. While most grief is extremely personal, it is important to understand that love, support and, in some cases, professional counseling may be helpful. The stages that a person goes through when they experience this type of loss is similar to other types of loss.

The stages of grief include, while not always in this order:

  • DENIAL – not wanting to accept that the pet has truly died or that the pet is in a situation where death is unavoidable, due to the seriousness of injuries or illness
  • ANGER – this can be directed at family members, friends, your South Coast veterinarian or even yourself; it is important to understand that when a pet dies, the person closest to the pet may blame everyone or say things they don’t really mean
  • GUILT – not recognizing the signs of an illness earlier, not bringing a pet to the local animal hospital in Dartmouth sooner, or somehow being involved in the circumstances surrounding an accident or injury can all lead a person to feel guilt
  • DEPRESSION – a very common emotion when a pet dies, most people exhibit depression by crying, feeling sick to their stomach, becoming overwhelmed or having feelings of loneliness; extreme depression may require medical treatment, such as not wanting to go on with daily routines or not taking care of one’s self after the loss of a beloved pet
  • ACCEPTANCE – at some point the understanding of loss will come over the person and they will accept it for what it is, no longer blaming or feeling guilty for what happened
  • RESOLUTION – the final stage of grief is when the person can finally reflect back on memories of time spent with a pet without becoming overwhelmed by sadness, anger and loss; coming to terms when a pet dies can take days, weeks or months, but it is important to reach this stage and deal with your emotions

Honoring Your Pet

There are many different ways to honor your dog, cat or exotic animal when a pet dies. Speak with your South Coast veterinarian for assistance with choosing services that are right for you, your situation and your finances. Some people choose to keep their pet’s ashes, have a burial ceremony at a grave site or simply create a symbol of remembrance, such as a plaque, a cast of the pet’s paw print, a painting or other type of artwork. The important thing is to give yourself the time you need to grieve properly and heal from the loss of your pet.

For more information on pet care and treatments, including vaccinations, surgery and pain management, routine care, dental care for pets and much more, contact Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth by calling 508-996-3731. Our team of veterinarians and support staff can help you provide your pet with proper care and treatment throughout every stage of his or her life.