When we let an animal into our home, they become part of the family. We love them, care for them, they share the happy times as well as the bad with us. They really do become huge parts of our lives as we see them every day, perhaps more than we see some of our family members. The hardest part of opening your heart up to an animal is when the time comes and they have to leave. It’s never easy and it’s something I have had to deal with a lot as I tend to adopt elderly and terminal animals. Whilst everyone copes with grief differently, I hope this post will help you should you be going through this.

Deciding on the right time

It is a heartbreaking decision, but very rarely will your dog or cat pass away in their sleep. All of my dogs and cats have had to make their final journey to the vet to be helped along their way. It does feel unfair that we, as owners have to make this horrible decision, but it’s part of owning a pet. Only you will know when the time is right as you know them better than anyone else. It’s a hard decision, but you don’t have to make it on your own. Talk to other family members who have a close relationship with your pet as they may have noticed something you haven’t and they can support you during this time. Your vet is an important person to talk with as they can explain what could happen, and if your pet is feeling any pain. Some things to consider are;

Is your pet still enjoying life? Are they able to eat, drink and go to the toilet? Are they in pain? Have they been diagnosed with an illness? Are there any treatment options? Does your pet have a good quality of life?

Generally, if your pet is having more bad days than good, it doesn’t have a good quality of life.

Although you will want your pet to be with you for a long time, it’s really important that you do what is right for them, and not you. A lot of people experience guilt and regret – some people feel they let their pet go too soon, and others feel they let them go too late. My advice is you are not God. You cannot know exactly when the right time is, so please don’t live with regret.

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It’s rarely something you can plan for

Letting your pet go can come as a shock, or you may know your beloved friend is reaching his or her twilight years. You may know the time is drawing closer, but knowing the exact time will be difficult. In my experience with the older animals, if I notice changes in them I will always take them to the vet should I see something. Sometimes you can tell the time will be soon, so make their last few days meaningful and spent quality time with them.

If you haven’t had a pet euthanised before, it’s worth talking to your vet so you know what to expect. If you prefer a certain vet at your surgery, you can request to see them. I always prefer to see a vet I know well as I want my animals to be in the kindest hands possible. Some vets can do house calls if you would prefer to say goodbye to your pet at home, but this does depend on the surgery. Euthanasia is usually quick and will feel like an injection. Your pet won’t know what is going to happen.

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Stay with them

Having been on both sides of this situation, I always advise staying with your pet whilst they go, if you can. I worked at a veterinary surgery for a number of years, and it’s true – as soon as you leave the room, your pet will look for you. Stay with them if you can. Most vets will give you a bit of time before they put them down to allow you to talk with the vet to ensure you are making the right decision for your pet, and to say your goodbyes. Talk to your pet, let them know that you are there and you love them. They can still hear you, and what better way to leave this earth than to know you are loved. I think that’s what we can all hope for. Once your pet has gone, your vet should give you a bit of time to say goodbye to them.

It’s OK to cry

Your vet will understand the bond between you and your pet. If you need to cry, don’t hold it in. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed of your emotions. On the other hand, if you don’t want to cry – that’s ok too. No one wants to be alone at a time like this, so if you can, have a friend or family member go with you for support and stay with you afterwards. You may need a good shoulder to cry on. No one expects anything from you, and you need to handle this in the best way for you. Lots of surgeries will allow you to stay with your pet for as long as you need to, so don’t feel rushed.

What to do with your pet

It’s important to think about this before your pet is euthanised as your emotions can take over when the time comes. There is no harm talking to your vet beforehand to see what options you have. Many practises offer the same options;

Scatter box – Your pet will be individually cremated and returned to you in a scatter box so you can spread their ashes.

Casket – Your pet will be cremated individually and returned to you in a casket, with their name on.

Mass cremation – Your pet will be cremated with other animals and scattered at a crematorium.

Take their body home – There is also the option to take their body home and bury it yourself.

Other pets in the home

If your pet had a strong bond with other animals in the home, it is likely it will affect your other pets too. Sometimes your pet will look for the departed animal, become restless or anxious and many will pick up on your emotions too. There may be a change of hierarchy with your remaining pets which can cause a change in behaviour. Just like you, the grief will lessen over time. Try to take your pets mind off things with new toys and treats and keep their routines as normal as possible.

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They will always be with you

Everyone deals with grief differently. I always find it helps to write my pet a tribute on social media with my favourite photo of them. There is nothing more heartwarming than family, friends and even strangers relating to your loss and sending their condolences so you know you aren’t alone and others know how you may feel. Emotional support is really important for you during this time, so try not to keep things bottled up. Putting up photos around your home, and keeping something that belonged to your pet, such as their blanket or tag can help with the grieving process.

Some people will mourn for a long time and won’t want another pet, whilst others find a new pet helps bring comfort. There is no right or wrong answer. Remember, nothing will ever replace your pet, so if you do decide to get another don’t compare it to your passed pet and don’t rush into anything. All animals are different and that’s what makes them so special. What better way to remember your animal than to open your heart and home to an unwanted pet at a rescue when your are ready? Contact your local rescue when you are ready to see if they can help you.

The sad fact is you will probably outlive your pets as their time is so short, but he pain of grief is worth it for the joy and happiness they bring into our lives.

You probably need a bit of cheering up after reading this, so come and meet Nacho!