How to Cope With the Loss of a Pet

3 min Jan 25, 2022

The loss of a pet will always be a difficult time for you and your family. Cats and dogs come into our lives for us to love, they share our lives and homes, and they become part of the family. When they're gone, there's an emptiness and sadness left in their place.

Grieving a pet can also come with many confusing emotions and difficult decisions. While this will likely never be an easy time, there are some steps and things to keep in mind that may help you get through it.

You are Allowed to Feel What You Feel

Many people feel guilty or silly for heavily grieving the loss of a pet. It's important to keep in mind that a pet parent has every right to feel sad, to experience grief, and to mourn the loss of a beloved pet in whatever way is needed. Grief and mourning are natural any time we lose someone we love, regardless of species.

What You Feel May Be Different From What You Expect to Feel

It's likely a pet owner feels sad and heartbroken when a pet dies. But there are several emotions that one may experience that they didn't expect. If a pet parent is in a situation in which euthanasia may be the best option for a pet, one may experience guilt, confusion, conflicted rationalizations, or even fear or anger. If one feels that they should have been able to prevent your pet's death, they may feel guilt and anxiety. If they lived alone with their pet, they may feel lonely, and possibly even guilty if they consider bringing home another pet.  Again, remind yourself that it is not wrong, silly, or irrational to feel these things.

Knowing When it's Time to Euthanize

This may be one of the hardest choices a pet parent makes, but if their pet is terminally ill or his quality of life has deteriorated to a debilitating degree, euthanasia may be the best option. It's difficult to take emotions out of this situation, but consider a pet's health, comfort, safety, and quality of life. Work with a vet to determine a set of parameters to help establish the point at which euthanasia is appropriate. If a pet has a terminal disease, these parameters may include certain blood count levels or organ function. If a pet is getting older, but is healthy, ask what quality of life factors should be met before considering euthanasia. Can a senior cat make it to her litter box in time to eliminate? Can a dog jump, play, and run as he used to? Ask a vet to help you determine these factors and document them in a pet's file.

How to Approach Euthanasia

Euthanasia especially comes with its own set of heart-wrenching questions and decisions. A pet parent may wish to have a pet euthanized at home where he's comfortable, and some vets and animal hospitals will accommodate these requests. Some will even administer the injection in a car if a pet is anxious or upset about visiting the vet's office.

While many veterinarians and technicians will admit that a pet is probably most comfortable if an owner stays with them during the injection, it's important to remember that behavior and emotions still affect a pet. If a pet parent is experiencing uncontrollable crying or anxiety, these emotions will upset a pet, as well. If an owner chooses to stay with their pet, they should their best to contain their emotions until the procedure is complete.

After the procedure, a vet will present options for your pet's remains. An owner may elect to have a pet cremated and disposed of by the veterinary practice, or to take a pet home for a private burial. Whatever the choice, a good vet will honor requests with dignity and reverence. Some vets even donate the cost of the euthanization to veterinary research hospitals or non-profit organizations.

What Happens Next

Like any death in the family, after all the decisions are made and a pet is gone, owners and their families attempt to return to normaleveryday life. You may be caught off guard when you come home and your dog doesn't greet you excitedly at the door. Any other pets in the house may grieve the loss of their "pack," as well.

You may find the presence of your pet's toys, beds, and other supplies in your home disconcerting. In my personal experience, donating these items to a local pet shelter or rescue service who can put them to good use helped to alleviate a few of the pangs of emotion I'd feel when I'd stumble across them. On the other hand, you may find comfort in keeping your beloved pet's favorite toy or collar as a keepsake.

You may struggle with the desire to have a new pet and guilt for feeling like you're "replacing" the one you lost. Again, allow yourself your own emotions. If you're lonely without a pet at home, there's absolutely no reason to feel guilty for giving a new pet a loving home. If your other pets or your kids are experiencing grief after your loss, a new pet will give them somewhere to channel all the love they still have to give. If you do decide to get a new pet, avoid getting a pet that bears a strong resemblance to your late pet, as this may simply increase the sadness, guilt, or other emotions you and your family feel.

Consider Investing in Pet Insurance 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.