Saying goodbye to your pet

Author picture Katy

We all don't want to give it much thought, but the moment of goodbye will arrive for every pet owner. In many cases, the life of our pet will end naturally, but in some cases, you may have to face the difficult decision of putting your pet to sleep. Either way, the death of a pet causes a lot of grief, and this is a very normal and natural process for you to go through. Many people find it difficult discussing this topic or knowing what they should do when the time comes. It is totally up to you how you cope with your loss, as this is a completely individual process. So let's be open and talk about it openly together - what do you need to know about saying goodbye to your beloved pet?

When is the right time?

Fortunately, our pets are living to a ripe old age thanks to better knowledge and science about health and care. But this also means that more pet owners are confronted with the difficult question of euthanasia. How do you decide when's the right time to let your pet go?  Fortunately, your vet can give you good advice. He or she probably knows the medical history of your pet and can advise you about prognoses and quality of life.  Be honest and ask if your pet is still enjoying simple day-to-day experiences like eating, cuddling, walking or playing. Keep in mind that animals do not "complain" when they are in pain, even when it is constant. They like to hide their discomfort for us. Euthanasia can - no matter how difficult it might be to choose - stop the unnecessary suffering. 

Rituals around grief and goodbyes

Taking the time to say goodbye to your pet is important for your grief process. If you have children, it's important to involve them in this process and let them talk, play, cry or create something in response to their emotions. You could draw a picture together or put together a photo book with beautiful pictures of your pet.

After your pet dies, you may have to contact your council to inform them. You can then choose to bury or cremate your pet at a special pet cemetery. After cremation, you may also choose to scatter your pet's ashes in a special place in nature (if you're unsure if you are allowed to do this in your chosen area, just contact your local council) or to keep them in an urn or part of the ashes in a special piece of jewelry. Many pet owners find it a comforting idea to bury their pet in their own garden, perhaps in their pet's favourite spot. Contact your council to clarify their guidelines, but in many cases you can have small pets buried on your own property: a maximum of 1 meter deep and only wrapped in natural, biodegradable material (so no plastic).

You can also arrange to have your pet collected by your vet for a small fee. They will make arrangements to have your pet's remains cremated, but you won't be able to collect the ashes after this.

Another nice way to honour your pet and all animals is to donate their body to science. You might be able to arrange this with universities that have animal studies or veterinary science departments, for example, Liverpool University.

Mourning for all animals

A pet can really be an important companion in life. Mourning doesn't distinguish between species: one might mourn the loss of their dog, others might grieve for their guinea pig or rabbit. Experience your loss in your own way and do what feels good or helpful to you.

Health insurance for pets

Towards the end of your pet's life, you can be confronted with extra costs. If you decide not to provide euthanasia yet but use palliative care instead (care aimed at a comfortable end of life), you have to take into account considerable additional health costs. That's why it might be wise to start putting money aside or apply for pet health insurance.

A new pet?

If your pet has passed away, the house can feel pretty empty and quiet. That's why many people decide to get a new pet. Some pet owners might wait a while because they feel the previous pet cannot be replaced and the pain is a little too raw. Others choose to welcome a new pet to their home sooner. There are absolutely no rules for grief, so do what feels right for YOU. It is possible that if you have more than one pet, the other will miss their deceased friend too. In that case it may even be recommended to get a new pet. Certain animals like rabbits and guinea pigs can't live alone and need a friend to stay happy and healthy.

Pet sitting

There are also many Pawshake pet sitters who decide to start pet sitting after their precious pet has passed away. There are many ways to pet sit: you can make your house available for home dog boarding, for example. Home dog boarding and other services can be a great solution if you're not quite ready yet for a new pet, but want to enjoy the companionship of animals and help your neighbours out at the same time. Sign up to Pawshake here.