Cop­ing with the death of a pet

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

For pet own­ers whose pet dies, the loss and grief ex­pe­ri­enced can be as much as that for the death of a rel­a­tive or friend.

Peo­ple who do not have a strong hu­man-pet bond of­ten don’t un­der­stand the pain that comes with the death of a muchloved pet.

Many pets pro­vide ma­jor com­pan­ion­ship, com­fort, fun, joy and un­con­di­tional love to their own­ers over many years, and the loss of that can be dev­as­tat­ing.

The first thing I say to petown­ers is that it is nor­mal and nat­u­ral to grieve over the death of their pet.

Peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence their grief in dif­fer­ent ways, depend­ing on the in­di­vid­ual and the way the pet dies.

There will be sad­ness, but also pos­si­bly de­nial, anger or guilt.

Sor­row, if ex­treme, can even lead to de­pres­sion.

It is im­por­tant to be able to speak with friends and fam­ily, es­pe­cially pet-own­ing ones.

Speak with your vet­eri­nar­ian if you lack such sup­port.

Be­cause eu­thana­sia is an op­tion to end pets’ lives when they are in con­stant pain and suf­fer­ing, or have a very poor qual­ity of life, an­other di­men­sion can be added to the grief.

Own­ers of­ten have great dif­fi­culty with the de­ci­sion, even when helped by their pet’s vet­eri­nar­ian.

That is not un­rea­son­able.

It is not al­ways a clearcut de­ci­sion, and that can lead to self- doubt and sel­f­re­crim­i­na­tion.

How­ever, the vet­eri­nar­ian is there to help you, as well as your pet at such a dif­fi­cult time.

Many pet-own­ers stay dur­ing the eu­thana­sia. It is a per­sonal choice, but I find that the own­ers who stay get some com­fort in see­ing how pain-free and gen­tle it is.

They also can see that their pet is truly gone, help­ing with the ac­cep­tance of their pet’s death.

We are able to of­fer petown­ers sev­eral op­tions with the han­dling of the re­mains af­ter a pet’s death.

Cre­ma­tion is very popular be­cause peo­ple of­ten don’t want to dig a plot and bury their pet them­selves.

It is also good for peo­ple who rent, or plan to move house, or who want to scat­ter or bury their pet’s ashes in a pot­ted plant or in their gar­den.

Peo­ple of­ten have trou­ble ex­plain­ing death to chil­dren.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence chil­dren un­der 5 are gen­er­ally more in­ter­ested in what they will get to re­place the pet that has just died.

With chil­dren, try not to use the term ‘‘ gone to sleep’’, be­cause it may con­fuse them with nor­mal sleep.

Be hon­est and ex­plain death. It may ac­tu­ally be help­ful if and when a rel­a­tive or friend dies.

Pet own­ers also won­der if it will af­fect their other pets.

Some­times it does and some­times it doesn’t.

Pets can cer­tainly ex­pe­ri­ence a sense of loss and may take some time to ad­just, as will you.

Don’t rush to get an­other pet ei­ther, be­cause grief takes time and time is the best medicine.

Dr Ian Schraa is an ex­pe­ri­enced vet­eri­nar­ian and the owner of Rap­paw Ve­teri­nary Care.

Photo: FAIR­FAX

Close bond: Own­ers and their pets can be­come very close and when the pet dies, a pe­riod of griev­ing can fol­low.

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