Loss of a Pet FAQ

Losing a pet can be a complicated and traumatic experience. Your grief may be complicated by the fact that those you come in contact do not understand the intensity of the pain you are feeling. You should never feel bad because you miss your pet! Our Coping with the Loss of a Pet page has essential information for anyone who has recently lost a pet. We encourage you to review this information as well as the information on our other pet loss pages. If you have a specific question, take a look at the following. We have included many of the questions that people commonly have when they have lost a pet.

Where can I get help if I feel overwhelmed by the loss of my pet?

Anyone who has lost a treasured pet can tell you that it is not easy. Fortunately, there are many places you can turn for help if you are not comfortable with the way you are handling your grief. Pet loss hotlines, support groups, and online sites are available throughout the country. To find specific information such as telephone numbers and website addresses visit our Pet Loss Resources page.

What do I do if my pet dies at home?

Having your pet die at home can be difficult and in some cases very traumatic. Do not hesitate to call for help if you need it. You can contact your veterinarian, a pet cemetery, or a pet cremation provider and they should be able to help you. If you need to handle the body be sure to wear gloves. You can wrap the pet in a blanket, towel, or other fabric that is large enough to cover the entire animal. Place it in a plastic bag and secure the bag. If you want to bury the animal at home be sure to check local regulations to make sure this is permitted in your area.

How can I help my child understand that our pet died?

Losing a family pet can be very difficult for a child. How you handle it will depend on the age and maturity of the child. For information on helping a child understand death visit our Children and Pet Loss page.

Can I have a funeral for my dog or cat?

Yes! Having a funeral or memorial service for your pet is a wonderful way to honor your pet and set a course on a path to healing. We have lots of ideas about how to organize your pet funeral, suggestions for readings, quotes, and music and other helpful tips on our Pet Funerals page.

Can I bury my pet at home?

Maybe. Whether or not you can bury your pet at home depends on the regulation in your area. A good place to start is with your local city hall or county administrator. Your veterinarian or a nearby funeral home might also be able to help.

What is the best way to memorialize my pet?

There are many different ways you can memorialize your pet. From laying a permanent marker to a having a piece of jewelry made using your pet’s remains, you are certain to find the perfect way to honor your pet. We have more information on creating a permanent memorial to a beloved pet on our Memorializing Your Pet page.

Since my pet died I am feeling so sad. What can I do?

We are so sorry that you lost your pet! We know how hard it can be. Everyone handles their grief differently. Don’t add pressure to yourself by thinking you have to stick with a certain timeline. If you think what you are feeling may be too much to bear, please seek help. There are many places to turn. For general information on handling your grief, take a look at our Coping with Pet Loss page. Our Pet Loss Resources page has listings for many well-respected pet loss hotlines. Please do not hesitate to take advantage of these!

How long does grief over a pet usually last?

Everyone handles grief differently. There is no specific timeline. Some people find it useful to understand the popular 5 Stages of Grief theory since it can give you perspective on some of the things you may be feeling. It is important that you give yourself time to heal. Try to avoid comparing how you feel with what others experience. The things you are feeling are unique to you. If you think your grief may be more intense than it should be or is lasting too long, talk to a professional or contact one of the many hotlines we have listed in our Pet Loss Resources page. Remember, you need to take care of yourself!

How can I decide if I should euthanize my pet?

Making the decision to euthanize can be one of the most difficult decisions we ever have to make. Whether or not it is time to consider this final alternative depends on a lot of factors, most importantly, your pet’s comfort. Our Pet Euthanasia page can help you understand all the things you need to consider. Your veterinarian can also be a great resource for helping come to the right decision.

Should my children be present when we euthanize our pet?

Whether or not a child should be present during the euthanasia of a pet will depend on the maturity of the child. Many experts think about 8 years old is old enough. For most people, the best strategy is to educate the child about what will happen and give them the choice of whether or not to attend. Of course, you know your child better than anyone so you will be able to tell if the child understands what will happen and is ready to handle it. If you have ever been through euthanasia you know that it really isn’t scary. In fact, it can be quite peaceful. It is important, however, that the adults who will be there will be calm. Consider, having a conversation with your veterinarian about whether or not to include your child. He or she can give you a lot of information on what the experience will be like and help you understand what you should consider in making your decision.

When should I get another pet?

Determining the right time to get another pet after you have lost a family companion can be a difficult decision. A lot will depend on your family circumstances, whether or not you have an existing pet, and how well you are handling the grief over the loss of your previous pet. Most experts believe you should give yourself time to grieve before entering into the commitment of a new pet. If you have an existing pet, remember that it may be grieving also. If you are unsure, consider becoming a foster parent to an animal awaiting adoption or volunteer at a shelter so that you can get in some good cuddle time with another animal.

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