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10 Common Questions Asked after the Loss of a Pet

The loss of a cherished animal companion can cause extreme sadness, intense guilt and a whirlwind of other emotions. Often, you will seek answers to questions that may not be black and white. Below, you will find some of the most common questions pet owners ask of themselves while grieving the death of a pet.

1. When is the right time to euthanize a pet?

Your veterinarian will make a recommendation based on your pet's physical condition and long-term outlook. You, however, have the unique insight into your pet's daily quality of life. By evaluating your pet's health honestly, you will be able to work with your veterinarian to come to the most humane decision for your individual pet. The decision to euthanize will never be easy, but is often the final act of love you can provide a pet who is suffering.

2. Should I stay with my pet during euthanasia?

This is a completely personal decision that you will need to make. Many pet owners want to be there for their pets and witness it so they can see it happened peacefully and without pain. This can be traumatic, but not witnessing the death may make it harder to accept that the pet is really gone. Also, you want to gauge your own emotional strength- if you have an uncontrolled outpouring of emotions before your pet passes, it may be upsetting for him or her to witness. Euthanasia can sometimes be performed at home. Discuss your options with your veterinarian beforehand.

3. I've heard of the stages of grief, but what are they?

The grieving process is often illustrated by five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Typically, you will move through them progressively, but everyone grieves in different ways. You'll know you're beginning to heal when you're thinking more rationally and more often of the good times you shared with your pet rather than of the "what-ifs" and the guilt.

4. How can I cope with my feelings?

Having someone to share your feelings with will help you not have to keep them locked up inside. Don't deny how you feel or simply put on a brave face. You must acknowledge your feelings to work through them. Some of your thoughts may be misguided and as time passes you will be able to realize this. Do whatever works best for you as a means of emotional expression – go somewhere secluded and scream, cry, talk, write, paint, create a memorial, or find a new activity to fill the time you previously would've spent with your pet.

5. Should I just get over it?

It is common to hear the phrase "it was just a pet" when others find your emotions to be too extreme or too long-lasting. These people aren't aware that the death of a pet creates the same emotional response as the loss of a human friend or family member. Grieving is natural and thousands of pet owners can attest to that.

6. Who can I talk to?

Share your feelings with family or friends who have pets. Reminisce about your pet. Or, speak with your veterinarian or local humane association to identify pet loss counselors or support groups. Hospitals and churches also often have resources for grief support.

7. Should I do burial, cremation, or disposal?

This is another decision which should be based on your personal wishes. It can be easiest to have a clinic dispose of your pet's remains (often for a fee), but many prefer something more formal. Based on your living situation, a burial at home may be a good choice. However, both burial and cremation depend on your personal or religious values, finances and future plans. Your veterinarian or an online search will provide options available in your area.

8. What should I tell my children?

Be honest with your children and provide as much information as they seek in a way that matches their age and maturity level. Saying their pet was "put to sleep" is not advised, as they may begin to fear bedtime. Allow your children to grieve in their own ways and be open about your own emotions around them rather than teaching them to keep it all inside.

9. Will my other pets get depressed?

Your other pets may notice a change in the household. Based on their relationship, some may search for their companion, eat less and seem to be grieving. Giving your surviving pets extra love and attention during this time will be beneficial not only to them, but to you as well.

10. Should I get a new pet right away?

Generally, it is best to allow yourself time to work through your grief and loss before introducing a new pet into your home and life. A new pet is a unique individual, not a replacement. Try to avoid getting one that looks the same or naming it the same as your deceased pet, and don't expect it to behave exactly the same either. Getting a new pet too soon may lead to resentment or feelings of disloyalty because you still want your old pet back.

What Your Pet Taught You in Death

A Lesson in Finality

The loss of a pet is often the first loss a person experiences during his or her lifetime and it never gets easier. That loss serves as a testament to the finality of life. It teaches you that no matter how well you feed your pet, how many walks you take together, or how often you visit your veterinarian, an end will come and you have no control over it.

This knowledge can come with many emotions – anger that is has to be this way, uncertainty about what comes next, or just plain emptiness and sorrow when contemplating life's fragility. Through this initial darkness, you may learn to better cherish the here and now. As a pet owner, you'll learn to love even when loss waits on the horizon.

Living Life to its Fullest

In an AARP article titled “What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging,” author David Dudley recommended the following: "Eat the best food you can afford. Go for a walk, even if it's raining. Take a lot of naps. Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch. And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy."

For him, like most pet parents, old age snuck up quickly on his pet – a mixed breed dog named Foghat. Eighteen when he died, the dog had accompanied Dudley through "emerging adulthood," the beginning of a marriage and the birth of his first and only child. To him, it seemed as if the dog's age appeared overnight and his health began diminishing significantly from that point forward. By watching his beloved dog age, he learned how "some fears and eccentricities will lift with the years; others will only deepen" and that "one by one, the things you love to do become too difficult and slip out of your life." Despite this, he said, "you will still be you, and people will still cherish your wobbly presence" however inconvenient it may be.

Although the body ages and the mind dims in both animals and humans, what remains deep inside doesn’t change. There, the personality, the memories, the love still resides. Death teaches that even after the heart stops beating, the essence of the deceased doesn’t disappear. Your pet will always live on through your memories, photos, and stories. And, you’ll continue to carry the valuable life lessons your pet taught you – those about patience, compassion, trust, loyalty, respect, and responsibility.

Your Next Pet: Have You Considered Rescuing an Animal in Need?

After the death of a beloved companion, the house may no longer feel the same. You may have another pet who seems lonely or you may just want the companionship of another pet in your life again. Once you have given yourself ample time to grieve, you may start thinking about getting a new pet. Consider this: Each year approximately 7.6 million companion animals end up in shelters nationwide. Of the 2.7 million who are euthanized, roughly 1.2 million are dogs and 1.4 million are cats. When considering your next pet, why not consider rescuing one of the many pets who are in need of a forever home? If you've never rescued/adopted before, you may be reluctant for a variety of reasons. Below, you'll find several of the common misconceptions about animals in shelters.

"They’re Less Healthy & You Can't Get a Purebred"

On the contrary, pets adopted from shelters or rescues are actually five percent less likely to require an unplanned visit to the veterinary office than those bought at a pet store. This was determined when the Vice President of Veterinary Services at Petplan Pet Insurance analyzed claims made to the company. Additionally, most major animal shelters will vaccinate and microchip pets upon intake and many of the animals will be or have already been spayed or neutered. That makes your out-of-pocket expenses much less than if purchasing from a costly pet store and then having to schedule additional visits with your veterinarian.

There is much debate about whether purebreds or mixed breeds are healthier. Either way, a quarter of all dogs in shelters are actually purebreds. If you fancy a particular breed, there are rescue organizations for just about all of them – tracking down a healthy pet of your liking is almost always possible.

"They Aren't Trained & Can't Be"

While it makes sense that some dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters or abandoned because of behavioral problems, that isn't always the case. Many animals in shelters lived with their human families for years and are very well trained. Those who are particularly unruly often receive training and socialization before being considered for adoption to lessen the likelihood of them ending up back at the shelter. Many shelters include descriptions of their available pets online - which will often provide information on the commands they know, their personalities, and so on. Many shelters or rescues will also allow (or encourage) a meet-and-greet, so you can get a better idea of the animal's temperament.

"But, I Want a Puppy/Kitten"

Although senior pets are more in need of loving homes, shelters have pets of all ages – including puppies and kittens. Although puppies and kittens may not be surrendered as often, pregnant animals or litters removed from bad homes/environments are quite common.

Shelter pets come in all shapes, sizes, ages, breeds, and conditions. By adopting, you may well be saving that animal's life, but you'll also be gaining a very grateful friend.

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month: Here’s What You Can Do

The entire month of October is dedicated to the shelter dogs and they deserve all the love and exposure they can get! These cute and lovable animals are in need of a home and it is important to stress adoption of shelter dogs instead of visiting a breeder if you are in search of a pet. Learn more about Adopt a Shelter Dog Month and find out what you can do to help these sweet pooches.

What is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month?

The month of October is a time when local shelters are preparing to help you adopt a new pet. Both the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Humane Association are working hard to get these amazing dogs into loving homes.

For those who’ve already rescued shelter dogs, you know that this process is extremely fulfilling. Instead of shopping for a pet at the store, taking the time to rescue a needy animal can bring a more rewarding experience for you and the dog.

Here’s How to Get Involved

If you are ready to use the month of October to make a difference, here are some steps you can take:

  • Contact your local shelter and see if they are offering discounts for adoption this month.
  • If you already have a pet, encourage your loved ones to adopt if they are searching for a pet.
  • Educate neighbors and community members about the importance of adopting instead of “buying” a dog.
  • Donate food to your local animal shelter to help feed the dogs they have up for adoption.
  • Promote the local spay and neuter programs to help reduce the populations in the shelter.
  • Volunteer at the local shelter to walk dogs or clean cages. They will be very grateful for another set of hands.

Even if you already have adopted a dog from the local shelter, maybe it could be time to potentially add a second dog to your household! If your home is a good fit for another pet, consider adopting to give yet another dog the life they deserve. Take this month to remind everyone you meet what the month of October means for these homeless dogs.

Helping to find these animals some loving homes will lift your spirits. These shelter dogs need attention and care; be the one who gives them a home full of love. Help adopt, educate or donate today!

Dogs and Cats Can Donate Blood

You may have donated blood, but did you know that dogs and cats can donate blood too? During surgeries, illness or injury, veterinarians need the blood of other pets to potentially save a cat or dog who is in the hospital. According to a recent Huffington Post article, there are a few requirements for a cat or dog to be able to donate blood.

Your dog or cat may be eligible to donate blood if they meet the following requirements:

  • Be between the ages of one and nine
  • Dogs must be 50 lbs. or more
  • Cats must be 10 lbs. or more
  • Cats must be solely indoor pets
  • Never had a transfusion
  • Not used for breeding
  • Not on any long-term medication

Some of these requirements may vary depending on the state and blood bank, so it is important to check every hospital or donation center in your area individually. During every donation, a dog will donate approximately two cups, or one pint at each donation. A cat will donate approximately two ounces. When a dog donates blood just one time, it can help save the lives of up to four dogs! Pets get rewarded for their good deed with food, treats, toys and of course, belly rubs. Learn more with the video and article below.

Huffington Post (Dogs Can Donate Blood, Too)

Keeping Pets Safe During a Natural Disaster

You’ve prepared for the next natural disaster by prepping an emergency bag for family members, planning an evacuation route and stocking the house with adequate supplies. Are you forgetting anything? How about the plan for your pets? During a natural disaster, you aren’t going to have time to get everything your pet needs. You need to think about the steps to take now; before disaster strikes.

Natural disasters are just as scary for pets as they are for the owners. Preparing in advance for this time can help to ease the discomfort and uncertainty that they will be feeling. Aside from preparing to evacuate to a pet-friendly location and packing extra supplies, there are more things to prepare for. Do you know the necessary things you’ll need to make your pet comfortable? Prepare yourself for these uncertain events by reading the comprehensive guide put together by PetMD.