Saying goodbye to your family pet

death of a family pet- comforting words from Fox Valley Animal Hospital

Photo by Razvan Nitoi

The death of a family pet is never easy to deal with. One of the hardest parts of being a pet owner is when the time comes to say goodbye to your beloved family pet. As animal lovers and pet owners, every member of Fox Valley Animal Hospital team knows just how heartbreaking it can be.

Here are some of the things you can consider when the time comes to say goodbye to your much loved fur, finned or feathered family member.

Making medical decisions

One of the hardest parts of pet ownership is that heartbreaking moment where you need to make the decision about quality of life. Weighing up illness or injury and the level of comfort your pet is in is difficult for anyone.

Dr Alex takes this moment very seriously indeed. He believes in you being fully informed of your pet’s options and the impact of treatments that may be available to extend the life prior to the inevitable outcome. This is often as difficult for Dr Alex as it is for his patients, especially when Alex has tended to many of the family pets he has seen since they were very young. But he believes that proper information, assessment and outlining the best choices available to your family pet are the only way to not only choose the right course of action for your pet, but also help you through this difficult time.

At Fox Valley Animal Hospital, we always work towards giving your pet the best chance at health. So too in the death of a family pet, we focus on making your animal as comfortable as possible. Minimising your pet’s anxiety and pain are paramount. And making sure that your last moments with your family pet are dignified and as easy as such a difficult time can be is our aim.


There’s no shame in grieving the death of a family pet

While you may have some friends or acquaintances who don’t get why the death of a family pet is difficult, that doesn’t mean your feelings are wrong. Yes, we’ve probably all heard that person who says “can’t you just go get a new one?” but this doesn’t mean you should be shamed into not grieving, or feel anger towards the person for their ignorance.

Our family pets are a source of unconditional love. They give us comfort and joy. And they provide their share of laughs, too. We nurture our pets as they grow from young to old, we teach them as we would a child, and we attend to their basic needs as well as their emotional. The reward for such bond and connection is an animal friend who loves you for who you are and trusts you to do the right thing by them.

This is by no means a small feat. Nor is it something that diminishes in impact when the time comes to say goodbye.

Allow yourself, your family and the friends who feel connected to your family pet time to grieve as its part of the healing process and honouring that family pet’s place in your family history.


Celebrate the life of your family pet

For anyone who is connected to your pet but especially children, having a send off of some description helps ease the transition of life to death for the family pet and the space their departure leaves.

Some of the ways you can celebrate the life of your family pet are:

  • Hold a funeral or say a few words when scattering ashes
  • Have an urn, headstone or token of remembrance made
  • Take and gather photos and make a framed collage of the memories you’ve shared
  • Have a painting or portrait done
  • Create a book of story based on memories with photos with your pet
  • Donate funds to an animal shelter in their name
  • Share their toys and belongings with other pets in need

Whatever way you choose to celebrate the life of your family pet, make sure it is as positive as it is solemn. After all, all pets love a good laugh and a gathering.


Love again. But only when you are ready

Many people will try to help ease the pain by suggesting you get a new family pet soon after the departure of the last. However, this is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you are considering a new family pet, make sure you look at:

  • Your family’s emotional readiness- for example, some children may welcome a new pet, others may resent a new one because they haven’t quite let go of the old. It’s essential to make sure the grieving process has been completed.
  • Whether your family is setup for having a young animal again- after all, there’s a big difference between and elderly cat, dog or bird and a kitten, puppy or chick.
  • Your current calendar- we often get family pets for our kids or when we are kids ourselves. Circumstances change so it’s important to think about the now as well as 15 years in the future when taking on a new family pet.

Remember too, not everyone will want to jump into owning another pet. Some may not wish to have another animal again at all. The death of a family pet affects different people in different ways. There is no right or wrong.

Some family pets snuffle right in with their noses and paws deep into our heart, never to be replaced. And that’s OK, too. Animals are as individual as we are and if you for any reason cannot go through the process of loving another pet and letting them go, be honest with yourself and your family.

Discussion and consultation is key to ensuring that your family and any new family pet meet at the right time. Again, this is something Dr Alex can help you work through with advice and ideas.


Family pets are love

It’s amazing that our family pets are so giving, caring and special to us. They truly know when we’ve had a hard time and often love us, even when it feels like everyone else is less impressed. It’s hard not to feel sad when such a bond comes to an end. Indeed, the death of a family pet can be a time to remember what made that pet so special.

But one of the most beautiful stories of a family dog passing is the response of a 6 year old boy in the USA where he succinctly summed up the life of his pet. After 10 years, his beloved Irish wolfhound passed and his parents sat him down for the conversation about life and death. The child explained the early departure of his dog as this:

“People are born so they can learn how to live a good life- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? We’ll, dogs already know how to do that. So they don’t stay long.”

Never a truer statement has been spoken.


If you need to talk to someone who cares about your family pet, by all means give us a call on (02) 9489 4805.

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.