Unfortunately, pets don’t live as long as humans so if you have animals in the house, it’s likely you’re going to experience bereavement at some point.
Dealing with it is never easy, and if you have children, it can often be their first experience of losing something they love dearly, so it’s always important to deal with it compassionately.
Sometimes, however hard it might seem, the decision has to be made to put the animal to sleep, so how do you approach it?
Talk To Your Vet
The first thing to do is to discuss any problems you feel your dog is experiencing with your vet.
If your dog is very old, or in pain, then they will be able to advise on the best course of action as some signs of old age can be relieved with drugs or other therapies.
Even if you believe your dog is coming to the end of its life, a visit to the vet might give you hope and you could have many more months or years of happiness.
What’s important is to look at the long-term changes in behavior and relay this to your vet so they can make a thorough and accurate assessment.
Making The Difficult Decision
Your vet will ultimately be able to give you the best advice, but they will be looking for signs that your dog has come to the end, which could include their inability to eat, drink or sleep, or maybe a loss of their excitement when meeting you.
A good indicator of a problem is when they have no desire to feed, but you need to weigh this up with how your dog has behaved in the past.
If, for example, your dog has always been extremely excited at feeding time, and then over time has lost interest as they’ve got older, that could be a sign that it’s getting time to consider euthanasia.
Other signs are distress, discomfort, difficulty breathing and other signs of pain, and if your dog is experiencing these symptoms, then you should consider your options.
It can be tempting to want to hold off making the difficult decision for as long as possible, but this can be very distressing for everyone if the dog is in pain and suffering.
Euthanasia can, in many cases, be the kindest option.
You may be a little reticent to want to take your pet to surgery and instead prefer to say goodbye to your dog at home.
This is perfectly possible and many home vets are able to carry out both palliative care and the euthanasia itself in the comfort of your and your pet’s home.
Whatever you decide, it’s still going to be traumatic for all the family, so consider taking time off from work, especially if you have children, and be there to comfort them.
Your vet will be able to arrange for the whole process to be carried out compassionately and calmly and will provide support and advice for you before, during and after the procedure.
As it may be a child’s first experience of death, so be prepared for them to need an especially caring shoulder to cry on.
Celebrate Your Dog
It’s important to remember that your dog was part of the family, so spend some time reminiscing over the good times, sharing experiences and photos and remembering that your pet brought joy and happiness.
How Children Deal With Bereavement
Children of any age can have a strong emotional reaction to the death of a pet, and as it’s likely to be their first experience of loss, it’s essential to deal with it compassionately.
However, it’s important to focus on facts and to be honest with them at all times. It’s possible to answer a child’s questions without going into the details which might upset them and it’s better to do this in the long run than makeup stories to comfort them short-term.
There’s bound to be a period of time when the child is shocked, upset and likely a little depressed. If your child already suffers from anxiety, then this could make it worse.
In these cases, it’s important to remain level-headed and open with them. The worst thing to do is to suggest that they will “get over it” or that it’s “only a dog”, although expect others to suggest the same.
And, of course, if it is their first experience of loss, they might then begin to suffer fear, so it’s important to reassure them and provide comfort so they can come through it on their own.
Allow them to express their grief in any way they need to while remaining safe and secure. It’s likely they’ll go through many different emotions, lose sleep and have a loss of appetite. These are normal emotions and should eventually pass.
How Long Will A Child Grieve For?
Children will tend to grieve in bursts, so you may think they’re OK one day but then they’ll be down the next. This is normal.
How your child deals with it is very individual to them and the environment they’re in so it’s best not to have any fixed expectations.
Also, even a long time after their loss, they might suddenly react to something that reminds them of death and find themselves.
However, if you feel your child is grieving for far too long and it’s affecting their sleep, health or school, you should always seek the advice of your GP.
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