If there’s one thing that all pet owners dread, it would be saying goodbye to our pets. With their relatively short lives, it’s inevitable that we would have to face the death of a pet one day.
For those of us who are lucky to be loved by a furry one, we don’t need research to tell us that losing a pet can hurt as much as losing a human loved one. But we do need ways to cope with it.
10 tips to cope with a dying pet or the death of a pet
1. Don’t be ashamed of making decisions you think are best for your pet
Treating a sick pet is the first thing we all try to do but sometimes treatments can be even more traumatic than the disease itself. They can very quickly drive pets that are still happy and active into a sickly and exhausted state without actually prolonging life.
As a pet owner, what we truly want for our pets is for them to live a happy, comfortable life for as long as possible, not a longer but miserable one.
Hence, it’s important to find a vet that you can trust and have a healthy discussion with. A vet should offer their advice and expertise but they should never pressure you to take a certain course of action or even judge you for your decisions.
Get as much information as you can and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. Remember that you should never be guilt-tripped into something you are not comfortable with.
2. Take more photos and videos
One thing I regretted not doing when I got Latte as a puppy is taking more photos and videos. I was so busy learning to be a pet parent that I missed out on that. The same applies to a pet that may soon leave us. We may be so busy worrying and caring for them that we lose the opportunity to document important memories.
Some pet parents may also be reluctant to document the aging and sickly side of their pets but it’s worth considering that the journey might be something you’d want to look back on in the future.
3. Adjust activities for your pet
As our pet’s health deteriorates, they slow down – they may not be able to run and jump like they used to. That’s not to say that they surely can’t have fun with us anymore. Making some adjustments may help.
If your dog still loves to play fetch, roll the ball to her instead of throwing it in the air. If she’s unable to go on walks, put her in a cart and pull her around the neighbourhood. Ask your pet’s favourite people to come over. For pets with failing eyesight, make sure the house is safe for them to move around in. You can also find suitable and beneficial activities, such as hydrotherapy and interactive treat games, for your pet.
4. There’s no right or wrong time for euthanasia
When is the right time to euthanise a pet? That’s a tricky question because there’s no answer for it. Some pet parents would wait for cues from their pet. Some may do it to end their pet’s suffering. Some may depend on their vets for the decision. Others may not do it at all.
Trust yourself to make that decision and there’s no shame in it.
5. Be there during the final moments
The fear of losing a pet, the anxiety of not knowing what to do, the sadness and pain of watching your pet age and suffer. Those feelings can get in the way of you spending quality time with your pet.
Instead of spending all the time at the vet, perhaps bring your pet to enjoy the breeze at the beach. Instead of being on the phone with the clinic or rushing to drive there during your pet’s final moments, stay by her side and tell her how good a pet she’s been.
With that said, don’t feel too bad if your pet passes away while you stepped away for a second. Sometimes pets prefer to leave us while we are gone. That’s up to them.
6. Prepare for final arrangements early
Sometimes pets leave us in the middle of the night so it’s best to know what to do before the time comes. For those of us in Singapore, here are five things you need to know about our local pet cremation services. We wouldn’t want to have to figure things out when we have just suffered a loss.
7. It’s normal to grief
While different people may react differently to the loss of a loved one, we all go through stages of grief. It’s crucial to allow ourselves to go through those stages in our own time. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends. Talk to people who can understand what you are going through. Most importantly, live life as you did and keep yourself occupied.
8. Do not blame yourself
After a pet passes away, you may blame yourself for making certain decisions, for not being attentive enough, or for not being present. If you have done your best, that’s the most you could do. If you think you have not, forgive yourself and learn from your experience.
9. Monitor your kids and other pets
Chances are if your pet was family, you wouldn’t be the only one grieving her. Have a talk with your children and gently tell them the truth. Monitor your other pets and keep up with the routine.
10. Do not rush to get another pet
After the death of a pet, you may be yearning for the love of another pet. However, getting a pet too soon may be problematic. Your new pet may possess a very different personality from your last one or have behaviour problems that are new to you. When she doesn’t meet your expectations, it may cause unnecessary frustrations and disappointment. If you want to spend time with animals, consider volunteering at the shelter instead.