Coping with the Loss of a Beloved Pet

HoHum III's Mom chose to have the vet staff come to her home to help him cross over the Rainbow Bridge.
HoHum III’s Mom chose to have the vet staff come to her home to help him cross over the Rainbow Bridge.

You may remember the line from Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, “Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die and so do we.”  There comes a time when it is the end-of-life for our beloved pet. Like all loss, it is a very difficult time.  Listed below are a few thoughts and resources that may assist you.  Also, please contact me, if you need additional assistance or have questions.

TIPS

  • Crying is normal and totally ok.  In fact, it helps you cope with all you are experiencing.
  • If at all possible, begin to prepare for end-of-life while your pet is still healthy.  Print out and sign the Pledge From the Heart which appears later on this page.
  • Celebrate your time with this beloved companion.
  • Reach out for help.  Talk to friends and also there are groups you can join to help you work through this difficult time.

WHEN THE TIME COMES

  • This is always a difficult choice.  You may want to use the Quality of Life Scale which appears later on this page to help you come to a decision.  Consult with your vet and staff for their insights concerning your pet’s condition as well as the illness.
  • Ask questions of the vet or vet tech so you understand what is going to happen.
  • You may have the option to have your pet cross the Rainbow Bridge at home.  Ask your vet if they offer such a service or can make a referral.
  • You may want to ask a family member, pet sitter, or friend to be with you.
  • Leave the collar on til after your pet passes.  You may want to keep it and create a memory box.
  • Try to be there, but you may need to have your pet sitter act on your behalf if you are away.
  • If your pet is ill or frail when you are leaving for a trip, take time to discuss care with your pet sitter as well as convey your wishes concerning end-of-life.
  • You may want to say a prayer or blessing before, during or after and your vet staff are more than willing to accommodate this wish.
  • If you have any questions, your vet or staff are very willing to sit down to help.
Your beloved pet may have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, but they will always be near in spirit.

ORGANIZING A PET MEMORIAL

  • This can be a wonderful way to celebrate your beloved pet and acknowledge your time together.
  • Select the type of memorial you would like – a graveside service, a ceremony, or a celebration of life.
  • You may want to consult with friends, family, your pet sitter, civil officiant, or even someone from the clergy when planning the memorial or ask them to be involved.
  • When creating the ceremony, you may want to think about how you will begin the ceremony, how you will tell your pet’s story, select a poem, reading or song, identify an appropriate ritual, and prepare a closing.
  • Check out our Pinterest Page Remembering and Celebrating Your Pet for additional ideas.

PLEDGE FROM THE HEART

Dear ______________ (your pet’s name)

Because you are my dearest friend and companion, and I have taken an oath to always provide you with a pain free and joyous life, should you be confronted with infirmity due to either old age or an incurable illness I promise you the following:

♥   I will not allow the treatment to become harder on you than the disease or age itself.

♥   I will STAY IN THE MOMENT with you and enjoy what time we have together.

♥   I will put your needs before my fear of losing you.

♥   I will remember to keep track of the quality of your life on a daily basis and be mindful of the signals you are sending me.

♥   I will be strong enough to stay by your side at the end to send your spirit off with love.

♥   I promise to honor your memory by taking the gifts you have so freely given me and living a fulfilling life.

Signature  ________________________________

Created by Pet Loss Partners

www.petlosspartners.com       info@petlosspartners.com

Quality of Life Scale

Keeping a journal can help you to assess the quality of life for your pet.
Keeping a journal can help you to assess the quality of life for your pet.

When a pet parent is concerned their pet may be nearing end-of-life, they can use this scale to help guide them through decisions.  You also may want to keep a little daily journal using “g”and “b” to assess the quality of good and bad days.  The Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement recommends completing this scale three days in a row to get more accurate guidance.  Also, please involve your pet’s vet staff for additional guidance.

You will assign each area a score between 0 and 10 with 10 being ideal.

HURT – Adequate pain control & breathing ability is of top concern. Trouble breathing outweighs all concerns. Is the pet’s pain well managed? Can the pet breathe properly? Is oxygen supplementation necessary?

HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the pet need a feeding tube?

HYDRATION – Is the pet dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough water, subcutaneous fluids can be used daily or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.

HYGIENE – The pet should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after eliminations. Avoid pressure sores with soft bedding and keep all wounds clean

HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to family, toys, etc.? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be moved to be close to family activities?

MOBILITY – Can the pet get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, but an animal with limited mobility yet still alert, happy and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping their pet.)

MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be too compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware that the end is near. The decision for euthanasia needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly at home, that is okay.

Adapted from the Quality of Life Scale created by Dr. Alice Villaobos – www.pawspice.com A total over 35 points represents acceptable life

Publications

The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies by Wallace Sife who is a Brooklyn psychotherapist and founder of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. His book offers compassion and practical information.

Support Groups

In memory of your beloved pet.
In memory of your beloved pet.

ON-LINE SUPPORT GROUPS

Monday Candlelight Vigil begins each Monday at 8 p.m. in your time zone until the last candle flickers.  An online vigil and memorial found on Facebook.

Anticipatory Bereavement organized by the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement

1st and 3rd Thursdays – 8 p.m.–10 p.m. ET

Pet Loss Group organized by the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday – 8 p.m.–10 p.m. ET

Sunday – 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. ET

Thursday – 10 p.m. to midnight ET