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Mourning a Pet’s Death & Celebrating Their Life

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While Iíve “done” a lot of euthanasia procedures, JP was my very first pet that I had to euthanize on my own. I fully admit that I was a mess Ö and I know that itíll take time to heal. But what I personally learned a lot from it was this:

  • If you have the opportunity to, euthanize your pet at home. Itís comforting to your four-legged friend to not have to undergo a stressful car-ride or be subjected to a strange environment. While this isnít always feasible or possible, if you can make it happen, do so.
  • Take the time to mourn. I took the whole weekend to spend every waking moment with JP before I euthanized him, spoiling him rotten in the process. I was fortunate enough to take time away from work afterwards too Ė I needed the mental health time to mourn my best friend.
  • Ask your veterinarian for a high-fiber canned dog food for the last few weeks of your petís life. I was feeding JP so much filet mignon and table food, he ended up with severe diarrhea, which made him (and his butt) miserable for a few days. By mixing in the high-fiber canned food (or probiotic) for the last few weeks, JP was able to eat to his heartís (and buttís) content while dining on delicious snacks.
  • Never question what you want. Hours later, I frantically called the hospital where I dropped off JPís body for cremation, asking them to save me some fur. In my grief, I had forgotten to ask for it earlier. Someone then asked me if I really wanted his fur, and would it mean that much to me after heís gone (after all, itís still all around the house!). When mourning, any step helpsÖ and yes, I did want his fur and all those clay paws!

Next Page: even more advice on losing a pet

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Read more: Behavior & Communication, Dogs, Pet Health, Pets, , , , ,

By Dr. Justine Lee, PetMD

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Nicolas, selected from petMD

petMD is a leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world's largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians. petMD was founded to inspire pet owners to provide an ever-increasing quality of life for their pets and to connect pet owners with pet experts and other animal lovers. For more information, visit petMD.com.

447 comments

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5:35AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

I totally agree with you! I wish more people would be able to do this in their own home. W.O.L.F Sanctuary does this with all their rescues. Not only that, they allow the pact mates to say their own goodbyes. Afterwards, they have a beautiful ceremony celebrating their life. A memorial is then placed in a special spot.

1:49PM PST on Nov 18, 2013

"With dignity"....sorry, but I'm still a mess!

1:45PM PST on Nov 18, 2013

I know this response to this post is not timely but I had to put down my wise and beautiful 16 year old dog Rebecca today... .she was one of my best friends..my other best friend is Max her buddy....it was one of the hardest things to do....Max cried...and actually jumped into her grave before burial. Of course, I was a complete mess! But it is not about me. It was the best thing for Becca.....The tears are still flowing and will for awhile.....she is now in peace without pain and dignity...she had incurable cancer. Becca will always be with me....in my heart.....my soul.....and I know I will see her again. Thank you for posting and listening.

6:49PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

jamas desaparece el recuerdo pasan los dias, los meses, años.. y ellos siguen en nuestros recuerdos todos los dias :`D , muy bueno el articulo, me hace recordar momentos dificiles ..

3:08PM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

I lost my female leopard gecko to old age on Monday this past week. While I realize that many people think that non-furry critters aren't as easy to bond with, I must disagree. You can hold a gecko in your hand and pet it. It's not like a fish that lives in a tank and you have to keep it in water all the time. I sympathize with everyone else who has lost a beloved pet.

12:19PM PDT on May 31, 2013

Our 10 yr old Papillon passed away in her sleep on 5/23/13. We had her for 9 years. She was the first pet we had and lost.

A house is not a home without a pet. We will adopt again, but each family member is unique and a new one doesn't replace a lost.

My heart goes out to any family who loses a pet.

2:43AM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

4:35AM PDT on Apr 16, 2013

Kathy;I am so totally sorry about what happened to your baby! What an awfull thing for you both; I hope you will find peace knowing it was not your fault

7:15PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

Not too long ago, I found out one of my cats, a beautiful white female age 13, had terminal skin cancer. I had been unaware that white cats frequently get skin cancer because their skin lacks melanin, which blocks out some of the sun. When I first took her to the vet for a wound on her head, the vet said she might have cancer, but recommended treatment with antibiotics and a multipurpose cream. Nothing helped. I took her back and the vet pointed out that she had a mass in her neck. Within two weeks, the mass had grown to four to five times what it had been. She stopped eating, though she seemed okay, though quiet. Finally, I decided to have her put down because I could bear to see her decline and suffer.
On the last ride to the vet, I held her and she purred the whole way. I couldn't bear to put her in the carrier, which she hated. When we got to the vet, I began to cry and cry. The vet prepared her and left the room. When she came back, she proceeded, not realizing the I.V. had slipped out of the vein, so the "medicine" did not enter her vein, but her tissue. In horror, I watched as my baby began to struggle and complain. It was horrible. I am furious with the vet for having allowed something to distract her instead of attending to my cat. Needless to say, I will never go back to that vet again. All I wanted for my little girl was a peaceful, painless passing - and that's exactly what she didn't have.
I like the stress in this story of celebrating a beloved pet's life. I

3:28AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

thanks

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