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How to Cope with Losing a Pet

Two Methods:Before Your Pet's DeathAfter Your Pet's Death

Since we live a lot longer than our pets, it stands to reason that we will, at some time or another, come face to face with losing one. Whether you know it's coming or it's unexpected, it is a sad and emotional time. Fortunately, there are many ways to cope with the loss.

Method 1
Before Your Pet's Death

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    Accept your pet's fate. At some point, we all need to come to terms with the mortality of our beloved pets. There are very few animals that, as pets, have the expected lifespan of humans. If your pet is ill or is a "senior" pet, it's a good time to talk with your veterinarian about your pet's continued quality of life.
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    Talk with your vet. When talking with your vet, ask if and how much pain your pet is experiencing. Knowing this will help you make the right decision for your pet, and knowing that you make the best choices for your pet helps you better cope with the loss of a pet. Consider the animal's quality of life. Is s/he in pain? Can the pain or illness be treated medically, and still offer your pet a good quality life? Does s/he have a good appetite? Is your pet happy? Finally, give thought to whether medical treatment is financially viable for you. For most of us, finances do need to be a consideration, albeit a very unpleasant one. Based on the vet's assessment and your own judgment, make the decision, with your pet's happiness in mind. If you're not sure, consider getting a second opinion from another vet.
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    Take pictures of your pet. You will want something to remember it by. Even if s/he looks sick and miserable, it is very important to take photos and video, as bittersweet as it may feel. In the future, you may wish to boast about what a wonderful pet you had, and you may want to show people what he or she looked like. Collect anything else you want to remember her or him by. This includes a favorite toy, a blanket, or a decorative element from a tank or cage. Consider taking a clipping of your pets hair.
    • You can also dip your pets paw in a small bit of paint and place it on a piece of paper that you can later display after the pet has died.
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    Continue to spend time with your pet. Let your pet know how much you love him or her, and cherish every moment. Pet your special one in all its favorite places, and above all else make sure s/he is comfortable. Talk and maybe even sing. Do things that your pet has always enjoyed, when still able, like letting curling up on your lap for hours at a time, giving plenty of time to roam in the yard, and eating yummy little treats. If there was ever a time to spoil your pet, this is it. Discuss your pet's diet with your vet. If your pet is at an advanced age, a change in diet may make your pet happier on many levels - offering a diversity of foods and/or foods that are easier to eat or digest (and help prevent weight loss). At the same time, respect your pet's wishes; if s/he wants to be left alone, don't violate your pet's comfort. Let your pet have his or her way.
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    Consider staying with your pet during euthanasia. It is usually a painless and peaceful process for your pet, but most important, you will be with your beloved pet in its last moments, helping to ease its way along. Remind the Vet to give an anesthetizing agent so that your pet goes to sleep BEFORE the actual injection occurs that ends his/her life. Holding and petting your animal can give you as much comfort as it gives your pet, and though it's a sad experience, it's one that will help you to feel you did all you could for your pet in this world.
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    Make arrangements as to what you will do with his earthly remains. When preparing for the loss of a pet, you also need to prepare for all the practicalities that follow. They are an absolute nightmare if you're unprepared - and may add to your grief and stress at the time. You want to ensure you've taken care of all arrangements before hand. You may wish to bury it in your yard with or without a grave marker. You can also have it buried in a cemetery or cremated.
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    Give family and friends a chance to say goodbye. Before your beloved pet leaves your home forever, let the people who've enjoyed his/her presence know that it's not going to be around for much longer. You've been given a chance to say goodbye, and so should they. Assuming your pet feels comfortable with people, getting attention from various sources will make you and your pet feel more loved.

Method 2
After Your Pet's Death

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    Allow yourself to cry. Bottling up your emotions is not good for you, and you will feel sad forever. Forget all that mumbo jumbo that you're not supposed to mourn an animal as much as you would a person. There was a bond that you cherished, and no matter the nature of the bond, it is missed.
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    Tell your friends about the loss. You might send out a mass e-mail, but not to everyone in your address book. Send it to those who know you well, and care about you. You will receive many responses that let you know others loved and appreciated your pet and will validate your feelings.
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    Remember your pet. Don't pretend you never had one. Even though it makes you sad, it is best to remember and cherish the memories, not ignore them. It may hurt at first, but it's the only path to closure, and it's the only way you'll ever be able to remember fondly your time with your pet. This is a good time to make a scrapbook or post photos on your blog or homepage. Include pictures, stories, and notes about your pet. Read "The Rainbow Bridge" poem online. It will make you feel better about your loss.
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    Go on with life. Although losing a pet is very sad, it is no reason to shut yourself up in your house or go into depression. Your pet has always felt comfort in your comfort, and the sooner you get back on track, the sooner you'll be yourself again.
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    Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter. While emotionally, you may not be prepared to welcome another pet into your home right away, the act of helping to care for a homeless pet, a pet in desperate need of a caring human, may help with your grieving and sadness.
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    Do something in memory of your pet. Plant a tree, donate to a shelter or college of veterinary medicine.


  • Think about the special, happy memories you made with your pet. Perhaps you could make a scrapbook about them.
  • If you know that your pet is dying, make sure you spend time with him/her and make him/her comfortable.
  • When preparing for the loss of a pet, involve your family & friends, but be prepared for some very different reactions - each one of us suffers in a different way.
  • Consider a different look or personality in your next pet. It's tempting to try to find a pet just like your last one, and far too easy to be disappointed when it isn't. It is easier to say "My last pet was a real cuddle-bug, but this guy keeps me and my family laughing." The contrast allows you to enjoy both pets for what they are.
  • Keep in mind that pets are very sensitive to human emotions. If you are miserable, your pets will react to it. Unlike a human being, who might actually benefit from knowing they are going to be missed and that their impending departure causes you a great deal of sorrow, your pet will not understand why you are so sad - they will just feel sad with you, or may even feel they have done something to upset you. So do try to contain your grief when around your pet. Be happy for your pet's life.
  • If you have more than one pet, make sure they get attention. Pets form bonds with other pets and they will take notice when the other dies. Although true, sadly pets can die from grief.


  • There will be people who think you're odd for caring so much about the death of your pet. Talk with someone who understands.
  • Be prepared for good days and very, very bad days. The good days will gradually increase and you will be left with the good memories of your pet.
  • Don't get a new pet in the hope of finding one like your old pet. Nothing will take its place and it's not fair to compare a new pet to an old one. Every pet is different.
  • Don't be afraid to get a new pet right away. There is nothing like a new dog or cat to make you laugh and smile...even when it's the last thing you feel like doing. Consider adopting from an animal shelter or rescue group ( is a great way to find pets, shelters, and rescue groups).

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