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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

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Dealing with the loss of a pet is, without a doubt, one of the hardest things a pet owner will ever have to do. No matter how many times you experience losing a pet, it never gets any easier. And unfortunately, it’s inevitable.

 

Eventually you will need to say goodbye to your pet. Very seldom do our pets outlive us. When they do, that opens up a whole different host of issues.

 

How do you deal with the loss? Recognize that it is normal to grieve. For most of us, our pets are our family members. How can you not grieve over the loss of a beloved family member?

 

Everybody experiences grief in a different way and everyone heals at a different rate also. Give yourself time to move through the different stages of grief. Take some time away from work if you need to. Talk to people who understand. Though it may be difficult to articulate your feelings, talking can sometimes be a big help. If necessary, locate a counselor or pet loss group in your community. Your veterinarian should be able to help you find these resources if you need help.

 

Don’t downplay your grief. It’s not unusual to hear comments like, "It was only a cat," from non-pet people. These people probably mean well but they often don’t understand the bond that develops between a cat and cat owner. Don’t take it personally. Try not to be offended. But don’t buy into the perception that the feeling of grief should somehow be lessened because your lost one is a pet instead of a person. Many of us are just as close to our pets as we are to our human family members.

 

If at any time during the grieving process you start thinking about harming yourself, seek professional assistance. Your physician or even your veterinarian can help you locate a trained professional that can help you move through your grief. Hurting yourself is never an answer and will not bring your pet back.

 

Should you get another pet? And, if so, when should you adopt that pet? That’s a purely personal decision and will depend on many factors. For some people, a new pet may actually help speed the grieving process and help them move on more quickly. These people may be ready for a new pet almost immediately. Others may need time to grieve before being able to welcome a new pet into their home and into their lives. A few may never reach the point of being able to accept another pet. There’s no right or wrong answer. Do what feels right for you.

 

If you do decide to adopt another pet, it will never replace your lost pet, nor should it. However, your new pet will make its own place in your heart.

 

Dr. Lorie Huston

 

Image: Grave by Dwayne / via Flickr

Comments  5

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  • Changes
    06/11/2012 07:00am

    The hardest thing for me is the change in routine. I do nose counts to be sure no one is sick and in hiding. Sometimes it's hard to member there is one less nose to count.

    After losing a kitty that has had serious health issues and was very labor intensive, it's really hard to realize that Fluffy isn't there for meds and fluids.

    There's no magic formula for getting through a loss. Everyone deals with it in their own way.

  • I can relate...
    06/11/2012 11:41am

    I lost one of my dogs in December and the change in routine was very difficult. I would frequently forget and fill 5 bowls of food or count out 5 treats and then remember that there are only 4...

    This dog had both medical and behavioral issues so we also had changes in routines when we left the house or when someone came to visit, etc. One of our adult sons still calls before he comes over because it became a habit for him to call us so that we could follow the behavior management plan with our dogs before he arrived.

    It has taken a few months and the routine changes are becoming easier... When someone asks how many dogs I have I am much less likely to hesitate...although I am still working my way through the grieving process.

  • Pain lessens over time
    06/11/2012 03:17pm

    It has been almost half a century since I lost a cat with whom I had an uncommon bond. I still miss him. I hope to see him again one day. However, since I am still on this plane of existence, I have three cats to love, one of whom reminds me a lot of my lost cat. I almost named him after that cat but decided he was a unique individual who deserved his own identity.

    The pain lessens (though never goes away) but the memories are undying.

  • Lesson Learn
    06/11/2012 04:12pm

    We have lost our precious pom last January and it seem like it was only yesterday. He went out from our backyard. I just left him for 5 minutes to do their thing and I didn't realize that he could go under the fence. We look everywhere that night but could not find him. He has been with us for over 10 yrs. He was not sick or anything was bothering him. He loves to play with my other dog who is blind as he is a diabetic. After 3 days I found him but he is gone. I cannot forget him because there are so many questions in my mind how he died. We found him just four houses from our house. I really don't know how he died and I blame myself for not watching them that night when he went out.It was winter and I didn't even bother to put his jacket on. I missed him so much and I hope someday I will find the answer to how he died. His memories will always be in our lives. We will never forget him. I have learned a lesson never take things for granted even for a second.

  • Pepe Francois' death
    06/13/2012 12:16am

    Yes my pets are more than animals. They are my children. I think I gave birth to them. Anyhow, when my youngest Pepe Francois died suddenly at age 5, I was devastated.He showed symptoms (not eating, sleeping under bed and didn't greet me at door), major red flags. I rushed to vet and within hours he died. No one knows the cause.

    I had lost my grandmother but I knew she was elderly and ill and not seen her in years. I had lost other relatives that I had not seen in many years and I remember crying. But nothing prepared me for this devastation. I cried for days. I even had to take off of work. My boss didn't understand (until he had to put his Golden Retriever to sleep this year)but my coworkers did.

    My outlet was crying. My relief was writing. I started a blog to memorialize him and for once I smiled. It helped to remember the good times through writing. Feeding the other cat and dog was difficult. And Jean Pierre and Mon Cherie looked for their little brother daily in the closet, under the bed...it was too painful to watch it --the daily routine was too much. Actually I had my mom take care of them for a few days. This was a good idea and helped.
    http://pepefrancois.blogspot.com/

    But I knew I wanted to adopt another kitty but the grief was too raw. I waited over a year. So when I moved to a new condo, I went to animal service and there were hundreds of kittens. I felt overwhelmed and couldn't decide. Which one to adopt, to save? But as I started walking in my neighborhood I discovered stray cats and then kittens. The first kitten I discovered would become my new kitty! Strangely, I never dreamt about Pepe until recently. He was giving me a message-- To start a nonprofit and educate the public about the plight of homeless cats (Pepe was a stray) and kittens and what people can do to reverse the rate. Funny how things work out. I couldn't be happier. But his photo sits on my dresser as well as urn and ashes. He keeps me going. Pepe Francois is my guardian angel.

    http://pepefrancois.blogspot.com/

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