Why is it so painful?

The loss of a pet can be a very difficult and painful time for anyone. When a special love in our lives is taken from us, we will experience a rollercoaster of emotions, and for some of us it can be be to much for us and may need professional help.

We will experience feelings of shock, anger, rejection, and guilt. These emotions are a normal part of the grief.  

There are stages of grief and it is important to recognise and understand these stages to be able to rationalize how we are feeling.


Stages of grief 


Normally the first emotion we feel is feelings of disbelief and shock. Difficulty to comprehend what has happened, commonly explained by a feeling of numbness, with a sense of rejection or denial. We may even try to pretend or carry on as though nothing has happend.


For most of us following a scare or shock that unsettles us, the emotion of anger soon follows. It is human nature to want to blame someone for the hurt we feel, it is easier that way, regardless if it is the fault of that person or not. Our anger can be projected toward a close family member, the Vet that looked after your pet, and even us. Sometimes it is justified but when pursued; it removes your focus from resolving your grief. you will often hear the words “I cannot believe this has just happened to me” or “Why has this happened to me, why me!”


We start to ask ourselves what did I do or didn’t do. We look at the time leading up to that moment, we may blame ourselves for not doing something or something we should have done. “If I did this then this would not have happened” or “If I had only done something sooner”. These sorts of criticism and remarks cause emotions of guilt and regrets. Not only is it in most cases untrue but makes it even more difficult to resolve our grief.    



This is a natural consequence of grief for some, leaving you powerless to cope with your emotions. Extreme depression takes away your motivation and energy which will cause you to consistently dwell in your sadness and sorrow. Some of us will have to seek professional help to remove ourselves from this cycle, it can be very difficult to get out of.


Acceptance is the last step in the healing process although it is argued that it is the start to the healing process. Some of us have the misconception or idea that at the acceptance stage means that we should suddenly be back to being okay.

In fact this is when we start to come to terms with the reality of the situation, and realise that we need to learn to adjust and move on with our lives. You may then begin to recall fond moments when they made you laugh, and have a much more positive frame of mind. You begin to cherish the memories and allow yourself to smile or even laugh as you think about them and what they meant to you. Times of sadness and tears may still continue, and that is okay.  Over time this will happen less and less.


Support during the grief process

For some of us it can be beneficial to have someone you can confide in and feel safe and comfortable talking to about how you are feeling. Talking things over with someone you trust and share similar values with, without judgment or shame will help significantly. If you don’t have someone you can get support from, there are may be forums and support groups with people going through a similar difficult situation.  You will be able to draw strength and comfort from them and may even help others at the same time.

Don’t let anybody tell you it’s just a dog or it’s just a cat, belittling your grief or tell you that you grief is not warranted. This is simply not true. Neither should you try to justify your grief to anyone. Your pet was an integral part of your life and family. Grief is defined as “Deep mental anguish, as that arising from bereavement” The unconditional love, loyalty and companionship we receive from our pets and the bond we share with them is very special and unique which we hold very dear to us, and becomes difficult to let go. The loss you feel is very real, therefore the grief is real.    


Pet Loss and children

Children unfortunately experience the loss of a pet just as we do, but for parents we have to watch our children go through emotionally tough time, which make harder to deal as parents. Children see things a little differently than we do. Their lack of knowledge and understanding on the issue can cause it to confusing and very traumatic.

We should not try to disguise or water down the concept of death when the opportunity arises surrounding the death of a family pet to our children. It is an important part of having pets and life in general. The manner in which the parents handle the issue will greatly impact the children and their experience over the loss of their pet in a negative or positive way. Which can affect the child’s view on life and death - not only specific to the loss of a pet.

Children learn easier through tangible things, the returning of pet’s ashes to the family home is very tangible, and can assist in the reinforcement of what’s being explained to them.



You are ultimately the person to make the final decision whether to go ahead with euthanasia or not. Your vet can advise you on the overall health of your pet and what to expect over the last stages of your pets life. They will provide you with as much relevant information you need in order to make an informed decision on what is right for you and your pet. Quite often we will not want to take this option because we don’t want to make the decision to end their life, or facing up to the thought of waking up the next morning and not have them there with us.

Things to consider before go ahead with euthanasia

  • Is your pet in any pain and suffering that can’t be managed?

  • Little or no activity?

  • Has your pet any quality of life, can he or she still get around.

  • Can he or she take themselves to the toilet?

  • How does the pet respond to affection and human contact?

  • Are you having difficulty to get them eat or drink anything?

We must evaluate the situation objectively and unselfishly. Prolonging a pet’s life whilst they are suffering is never a kind thing to do. To truly love your pet means that you will make the best decision for them regardless of the anguish it may cause you.

Take the time to consider as much as you can before going ahead with euthanasia. Make sure all the family has had a chance to say goodbye properly. Speak to the vet about the process of euthanasia, you may want to be present during the event to try and make it as comfortable or stress free as possible for your pet. But be sure you know what to expect this can have a lasting effect on pet owners when present and not warned in advanced of what to expect.  


Should I get another pet?

Generally the answer given is no, you should allow yourself time to get over the loss of your pet. Although this may be the case for others it is not necessarily true for you. The answer to this question is entirely dependent on you and your reason for wanting a new companion.
There have been cases where a new pet has been introduced into the family shortly after the loss of a pet which had a positive impact on the individual and their grief. This does not mean that they miss their dog any less, or they loved their dog any less, it just changed their focus and this allowed them to deal with the loss of their pet in a different and more positive way. 
If your intent is to try and replace the lost pet, and hoping that your new pet will share the same characteristics or traits that you got to love and know in your previous pet and hoping they behave in the same manner and live up to your expectation. This is unfair and potentially devastating for you and your new pet. If you are unsure whether you are ready to own another pet you can always consider fostering a pet for predetermined time, through different associations and welfare groups and see where things go. 




contacts for Counselling

Life Line 131 114

Dr David Foote, BVsc BMus -  website Dr David Foote