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Losing a Beloved Pet

on June 3, 2009
Posted in Cats

It is the moment that every pet owner dreads: when their beloved, lifelong pet companion dies. This is never an easy process and pet owners will go through the same stages of grief for the pet as they would for a human loved one.

Five Stage of Grief

1. Shock and Denial

The pet’s owner has not yet accepted their pet’s death and feels as if everything is moving in a surreal state of being.

2. Anger

Bereaved pet owners will often become angry at themselves, their family members and friends, and sometimes even their Veterinarian.

3. Bargaining

Pet owners often find themselves trying to make a bargain with God or their Veterinarian just to have their pet come back to them.

4. Depression

Bereaving pet owners will become depressed, lonely and feel helpless over their pet’s death. They feel as if there is nothing that they can do to change things and that it is their fault that their pet died.

5. Acceptance

The final stage of the grieving process is when the pet owner finally acknowledges and accepts the loss of their pet.

Many factors affect the grieving process such as the person’s age, their relationship to the pet and how the pet died. Surprisingly, children usually recover quickly after losing a family pet than an older grandparent would.

Other pets in the household can also grieve the loss of their animal friend. Animals that live in multiple pet households will form very tight bonds with each other and so will mourn the death of one of them just as their human counterparts would. Even if your pets do not seem to ever get along, they may become stressed out, restless, and depressed. Grieving pets will also develop different sleep and eating patterns than what they had before the loss. In some situations, grieving pets will even try to search for the dead companion and will demand more attention from their human owners.

Try to help your surviving pet deal with the loss by keeping their routines as normal as possible. If your pet becomes a finicky eater, do not try to change their food around too much. As all this will do is to encourage your pet to continue being finicky. Be sure to give your pet extra TLC but just don’t overdo it as it could lead to separation anxiety later.

If you have more than one surviving pet, expect to see the occasional fight break out amongst them whilst they try to determine the new pecking order.

When deciding what to do with your beloved pet’s body is something that you should seek help with. You should always include children and other family members in all such decisions.

You could choose to have your pet’s body cremated and placed in an attractive urn for you. Most of these organizations will pick up your pet directly from your Veterinarian’s office or your home so that you do not have to worry about that aspect. They will also cremate your pet’s body individually and return their ashes to you. Cremation charges vary from $125 for a 15 pound pet to $275 for a 150 pound pet.

There are a wide variety of urns that you can choose from and it is best to try to choose one that best suits your pet’s personality. Remember that you will need one cubic inch of urn space per pound of your pet. There are urns that are replicas of various breeds of dogs, cats, birds and even horses. You can purchase an urn of your choice online and bring it with you to your pet’s cremation service.

Some pet owners will prefer to have their pet buried. There are many pet cemeteries in most major cities these days. Burying your pet in your own backyard should not be done without careful planning first, as this can pose a health hazard, especially if a wild animal or other family pet should dig up your pet’s decomposing body. Other reasons not to bury your pet in your back yard are that some city ordinances prohibit backyard burials and there is also the possibility that you might one day have to move away.

You could also choose to have a memorial service for your pet. Most religious leaders will perform a service specifically tailored to your pet.

Another alternative is aerial ash scattering, such as done by Angel’s Wing Funeral Flights, run by Jackie Tatelbaum.

Tatelbaum will gently release your pet’s ashes over the location of your choice, such as a favorite place where the both of you spent a lot time. Tatelbaum will also arrange a limousine, flowers, and catering. A certificate is presented with the date, time, latitude and longitude of where the ashes were scattered.

Photo Credit: loufi

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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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