When The End Is Near

When your pet’s life is near the end, you’ve got some tough choices ahead of you. Here, briefly, are some of the options to discuss with your vet.

Home Care

If your pet isn’t in pain or doesn’t need special medical care, you may want to ask your veterinarian for advice on keeping him comfortable at home. The animal may welcome the presence of people it loves, but should be protected from too much noise or disturbance.

Hospital Care

When your animal is so ill that you’re considering hospitalizing it, ask your vet for a realistic opinion of its chances of recovery. Special care often pulls an animal through a serious crisis. However, some conditions allow for little or no hope of recovery and efforts to prolong a pet’s life may involve extensive care and drawn-out suffering for the animal.


It’s considered humane, but it’s unwise to make a hasty decision for euthanasia in a moment of anguish. Wait until you clearly and rationally understand the pet’s chances of survival and can weigh the alternatives. Otherwise, you may be burned with doubts and regrets later.

From PREVENTION’S GUIDE “Cats & Dogs Magazine”

Euthanasia: The Difficult Choice

For a pet-lover, no decision is more difficult than authorizing euthanasia. Yet, too often, this is the right choice for your pet. Certainly, the humane procedures offered at modern veterinary clinics have a clear advantage over an illness that prolongs the suffering of both pet and pet owner.

Discuss euthanasia frankly with your veterinarian.

Many pet owners choose to spend the final moments with their pets. If so, the veterinarian might prefer to prepare the pet briefly in another room. The intravenous drug does not cause any pain. You might wish to stroke the animal’s head and speak gently as the drug is administered. The pet simply goes quietly to sleep as body functions stop.

Other pet owners choose not to witness the procedure. You might consider the last “good-bye” after the procedure, however, to complete your physical separation.

“Like all vets I hated doing this, painless though it was, but to me there has always been a comfort in the knowledge that the last thing these helpless animals knew was the sound of a friendly voice and touch of a gentle hand.” – James Herriot

Published by the ALPO Pet Center

Saying Good-Bye

Companion animals add so much to our lives, and their loss can cause intense and profound grief. For some of us, the loss of a companion animal is much like the death of a human family member. While there are numerous support groups and organizations to help a person deal with the loss of a human friend or family member, similar support networks are not readily available for the loss of a companion animal. A grieving owner may feel embarrassed when a friend responds, “it was just a pet-you can get another.”

Understanding the Stages of Grief

There are four stages to grief that accompany the death of a loved one. While not everyone experiences these feelings in this order, a fairly typical pattern begins with denial, perhaps in the form of hope for a cure. The second response may be anger at yourself for not having done something differently. Or, the anger may be directed outward, at the veterinarian for being unable to save or cure your companion. The third stage is bereavement. This is often characterized by depression and indulging in painful memories. The final stage is acceptance and resolution. In time, hopefully, a healing will occur.

Finding Support

It is important during this time to express your feelings. If you suppress the pain now, it may simply resurface years later. Ask your friends to hear you out, after all, you are expressing your feelings and they should be considerate of your pain. Another option is to write about how you feel. Some people send out simple notices with inscriptions or poems, to those who knew their companion animals and would wish to be advised of their passing. Greeting card companies even have a small line of sympathy cards for the loss of an animal. Whether or not you decide to adopt another companion animal is an individual choice. Many people wait to allow a time of mourning. For others, a new animal eases the pain for the one who is gone.

While losing a companion animal is one of life’s great sorrows, never having one at all is to miss out on years of loving companionship. The memory of that experience can be transformed into loving once again.

From an article by Laura Wilensky published in ALDF’s “Animal Advocate”

Helping a Child to Cope

When you need to help a child cope with the loss, it’s important to understand your own feelings first. You must be honest and open. Don’t try to console the child with explanations that can be taken too literally, such as “he went away.” And honor the child’s request for things that will help her cope. For instance, if she wants to see the pet’s body, understand that it’s a natural curiosity and should be allowed, provided you can handle the sight yourself.

Talk with the child and make sure he doesn’t misunderstand the situation. Don’t let him blame himself or you for the death. If you had the animal put to sleep because it was clear that a painful death was inevitable, make sure he understands.

A pet’s death often is a child’s first experience with grief. How you handle your pet’s passing teaches your child important life lessons-lessons he’ll carry with him until, someday, his child, too, has to say good-bye to a much-loved pet.

Excerpted from Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn