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Pet Bereavement and support

Sometimes my job can be hard and emotional

Sometimes my job can be hard and emotional. I recently, sadly, had to put to rest a lovely, sweet, elderly patient, a wee dog whom I have looked after for over the past fourteen years. It was the right decision, it was made at the right time, and it was the gentle, peaceful release which was required for her now. It was still a sad and emotional event though. I knew that she was so much loved, and she would be so sadly missed by her owner and other family members, who had nursed her with so much loving care through many illnesses throughout her fourteen years. She had been an amazing, characterful, and loyal companion. 

Deciding to say a final goodbye and choosing euthanasia for your beloved pet can be one of the hardest and most difficult decisions you must face as a pet owner. It can also be seen as a positive act, a final gift that you can give your faithful companion at the end of their life to relieve them of an on -going end stage illness, pain, or suffering. It is a way to humanely, and with some dignity, give our pets a release from this at the end of their lives in a carefully controlled and peaceful manner.

Losing a much-loved pet can be an extremely sad and stressful time and given the average life span of a pet of ten to fourteen years, we all sadly may potentially experience such losses in our own lifetime . People all respond differently to the loss of their pet , and you may be shocked and surprised at the extent and depth of your grief after your pet passes . These feelings may be unexpectedly powerful and overwhelming and may occur just in advance of their loss , as well as for some time afterwards. Your grief may trigger similar feelings from past experiences, or your grief or may be unique to that pet and to that stage in your life. 

The emotion and pain of grief can feel overwhelming, and this grief can lead to conflicting and confusing emotions, from shock, denial, and disbelief to feelings of guilt and sometimes, even feelings of anger. These emotions all come from grief, and they are all quite normal and do confirm the special unique bond between people and their beloved pets.  

It is very important to give yourself as much time as you need to grieve for your pet. You've lost a very special companion, so missing them, and grieving for them is all quite natural. Unfortunately, not everyone understands this grief for a pet, so sadly it can on occasion feel like a very lonely, depressing experience. Take time to talk things over with supportive friends and family and speak with your own Vet and practice support network too. Your emotions here are quite natural, so don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed of them. Tears are part of the healing process for a lot of people, although it’s perfectly normal to express your emotions in other ways too. It is important to remember that grief does ease, and its pain and intensity does fade with time.  

For many people, a passing period of depression is one of the necessary steps along the healing process of grieving. Some people will feel an immense overwhelming sadness and will cry often. Their sleep can be disrupted, and their appetite can change. They can withdraw from normal activities and stop speaking to their friends or family. If you do feel that you are struggling, do speak to your GP, and contact your Vet practice to talk things through, they will be able to put you in touch with bereavement support networks. These support networks offer confidential support and someone to listen to you and advise on techniques which can help you come more to terms with your recent loss.  It is important to seek professional counselling or medical support if these feelings don’t pass or if they feel unbearable. 

Everyone deals with grief differently, and there is no right or wrong way to try to cope. Gradually, things will get easier, and these intense feelings will pass, but it may help to know that there is help and support available and someone to listen to you during this sad time. 

Acceptance is the final stage of grieving and of the understanding of your loss. You will still feel the sadness, but you will now be able to look back on your pet’s life now and smile and remember all the good times that you both shared. Once you’ve given yourself adequate time to grieve, you will start feeling like you want now to focus on the many happier memories of your times together. There are lots of ways you can remember your special companion. A painting or sketch of your pet, photographs, and other keepsakes, like your pets’ own lead and collar can be comforting and can make you feel like your pet is still close. Some people do take comfort from keeping or scattering their pets' ashes.  Or, you may like to have a pet memorial, or plant something, as a new and living memory in their favourite garden spot. 

Pet bereavement support is available from the Pet Bereavement Support Service, a confidential Support line is open from 8.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.   

Tel: 08000966606 

Or if you prefer, their e-mail support line is:  pbssmail@bluecross.org.uk 

The Ralph Site also offers support to pet owners on the loss of a beloved companion :  www.theralphsite.com

 I hope that this is of some help to those who have also experienced the loss of a much-loved pet.


Alison Laurie Chalmers, 

Senior Consultant,

Crown Vets 

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