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What Should You Do When Your Pet Dies?

A pet is more than a friend. They are devoted companions who become part of your family. Just as it is with the death of anyone close to you, losing a beloved pet can be a heart wrenching and difficult experience.

Why does losing a pet hurt so much?

Pets become a central part of your life. Playing fetch with your dog or snuggling up with your cat on the couch is as much part of your daily routine as eating meals or showering. It can feel traumatic and leave a profound emptiness in your heart once they are no longer there.

The death of a pet can hurt as much as losing a spouse, parent, child, or sibling. Animals show unconditional love. Their companionship can offer emotional support on bad days. Some pet parents will do everything from celebrate their pets’ birthdays to carry pictures of their furry companions in their wallets.

Forming such a strong bond makes it feel painful when they’re no longer there. It’s perfectly natural and normal to mourn the loss of a beloved pet.
Old Dog

Going through the grieving process with a pet

People who have never had a pet may not understand the bond shared between a pet parent and their pets. They may suggest it is only a cat or dog and to just go buy a new one. Remember that it is normal and healthy to grieve the lost of a beloved pet.

Pet parents go through the five stages of grief:

  1. denial
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance

Grieving is different for everyone and has no set time limit or boundary. Talking about your pet and sharing stories is one way to help you cope while going through the stages of grief and eventually heal. Encourage children, teens and seniors alike to record their memories in a journal or through a poem or story or song. Let them know it’s okay to remember and work through the grief.

End of life care

When your pet nears the end of their life, it is important to make them feel comfortable. This can include things like surrounding them with a warm blanket or giving them a special toy.

Hospice care for pets is one option. Your veterinarian will offer guidance on how to care for an individual pet — that is tailored to their needs — as they near the end.

Euthanasia is sometimes necessary when a pet’s pain becomes too great. It minimizes suffering and allows them to die in peace if they are beyond the point of recovery.

What do you do if a pet dies at home

If your pet dies at home, you may want to bury them or cremate them and hold a funeral. This means you may have to hang onto the body for a few hours until arrangements can be made.

In these situations, it is important to keep the body cool for as long as possible. Store it in a cool place that will draw heat away from the body and preserve it for a short time, until you’re ready to bury or cremate.

Getting a new pet

Take time before looking for a new pet to replace the one you lost. Wait until you have had sufficient time to grieve. Pay attention to your feelings and only adopt a new pet once you’re emotionally ready.

Pet adoption resources

Once you decide to bring a new pet into your home, we can help. We are always on the lookout for loving homes for pets. Sometimes they are pets in our care at Paradise Pet Resorts, and sometimes we work with local pet adoption agencies like the Sonoma Humane Society.

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