The loss of a pet is a truly tragic, heartbreaking and unparalleled experience. We look to our pets for support, comfort, camaraderie, affection, and love that knows no bounds. So what do you do when it is time to let your best furry friend go? The number one thing you must understand is that you are not alone in your grief. Even if those around you do not understand why you are so upset because its “just a dog,” don’t forget that there are people like you all over the world who love their pets with all their hearts and grieve their loss just like the loss of any other loved one.
First, with an aging or critically ill dog, you must decide when it is time to euthanize. After the passing of your beloved pet, you must understand how to handle your grief, how to help your family through this difficult time, and what you can do to make it all a little easier.
How Do I Know When Its Time?
Euthanasia is the act of ending your dog’s life with a quick and painless injection given by your vet. This is, of course, not an easy decision. It is not to be taken lightly and it is best you discuss your choice at length with your vet before making a final decision.
The best way to gauge if it is time to say goodbye to your dog is if his quality of life has declined to the point where the bad days outnumber the good. At this point, keeping your dog alive is only forcing him to live in pain.
If your dog still enjoys the company of his companions, if he still gets excited about his favorite toys and tasty snacks, if he can move about without pain, and still readily participates in play, euthanasia is probably not the right choice. However, if your dog has to endure difficult and stressful treatments on a regular basis, has trouble moving about, is generally uninterested in life, is unaware of his surroundings, does not want to be petted or played with, or if he soils himself regularly, it might be time to make the choice of euthanasia. It is important that you be honest and unselfish with yourself and your family when making this choice. Deciding to let your suffering pet linger may feel like the easier option because you do not yet have to say goodbye, but really it is just a means continuing the agony of your pet and your family.
Whether you’ve chosen to euthanize your dog or you’ve lost your dog to a sudden accident or illness, you must be prepared to go through several of the completely normal stages of grief.
A common, early stage of grief is denial. You might not want to admit your dog is gone. You might wake up in the morning expecting Rover to be wagging his tail at the foot of your bed. Allowing yourself to grieve is the best way to get through this stage. Don’t try to just shove your feelings away; this will hurt far more than it will help in the long run.
You might also experience anger. This might be directed at your pet for getting sick, at the vet for not being able to make him better, at your loved ones for not doing more to help. Your anger can also be directed towards yourself in the form of guilt. You might be upset with yourself for not having done more, not spending as much time with your dog as you think you could have, or not taking him for that long daily walk he would have liked so much. The best thing you can do is let go of these feelings. Whenever you feel angry, try to think of something your pet did that made you smile or something you two liked to do together, and how it made you feel. Remember that although your dog is gone, no one can ever take those happy memories away from you. Instead of holding on to anger, hold on to those good feelings.
Often following denial and anger, you might find yourself in a period of depression. You might lose interest in day to day activities, have trouble sleeping, and feel generally lethargic; you might even experience headaches, shortness of breath, and other symptoms of extreme stress. This is ok, but you must not let it snowball out of control. If your depression gets to the point where it interferes with work or caring for your family, you should seek professional help. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help in this situation; strong, intelligent people do so every day. Sometimes the strongest choice is asking for help.
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I have always been a dog lover. But I think it is important that dog owners make use of dog poop bags when they take them out for a walk.
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