Coping with Loss

The loss of a pet can be a devastating event. Many of us feel that a pet is a member of the family, and indeed the relationships between people and their pets may be very similar to the bond between a parent and a child – unconditional and unbreakable.

Our entire staff is there for you; we unfortunately have a great deal of experience dealing with end of life scenarios. We believe that end of life care is one of the most important aspects of veterinary oncologic care, a time when dignity and compassion are of utmost importance.)  The loss of a pet is a very serious matter. Always feel free to ask any of our staff about how better to cope with the loss of a pet.

Helping Children Cope

It is a very scary and difficult time for children when any member of their family is ill.  The mention of cancer can cause children to fear the worst and often they feel they cannot voice their fears and emotions to their parents. This is especially true when parents are upset about the condition of their family pet and unsure of what options to pursue.

Following is a list of books that the Humane Society recommends that may be helpful in assisting your children with the difficult time ahead:

Dog Heaven (an illustrated book for children) by Cynthia Rylant

Cat Heaven (an illustrated book for children) by Cynthia Rylant

Forever Friends: Resolving Grief after the Loss of a Beloved Animal by Joan Coleman

Geadon's Gift: Surviving the Loss of Your Pet: Coloring Book by Cheryl A. Underhill M. Ed., Kathy Ferdon

Saying Goodbye

There is almost no more difficult time than during the last days of your pet’s life. Throughout their life, you have been watchful, concerned and caring.  Now it is about quality and dignity of life.

Quality and dignity are achieved by working as a team with your veterinarian and their staff. Their objective is to honor your concerns and wishes and provide you with accurate information to make all necessary. Your Veterinary Cancer (VCC) team and your family veterinarian are integral in providing assistance during this time, through the information they provide, as well as a sympathetic and understanding ear. There are many options available, including hospice care to minimize pain and suffering.

Grief and Support Resources

Grief is a normal part of loss, regardless if the loved one is a person or a pet. There are many ways to work through the grief process. The loss of an animal, like the loss of a family member or friend, may cause physical and emotional changes that can last for weeks or months. Don’t be afraid to contact pet loss support groups, pet loss hotlines or local specialists who are knowledgeable about loss and receptive to helping people who have lost a beloved pet.  

Following are a list of resources which may be helpful to you:

The Argus Institute
Association for Pet Loss & Bereavement
Cancer Care 
Pet Loss Support
In Memory of Pets
Lightening Strike Pet Loss Support

UCDavis Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Hotline

You may also want to check with your local library or bookstore for the following titles:

  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, Judith Viorst, 1975
  • Pet Love, Betty White, William Morrow and Company, 1983
  • When Your Pet Dies: How to Cope with Your Feelings, Quackenbush and Graveline, Simon and Schuster, 1985
  • Angel by My Side: The True Story of a Dog Who Saved a Man…and a Man Who Saved a Dog, Mike Lingenfelter and David Frei
  • Geadon’s Gift: Surviving the Loss of Your Pet: Coloring Book, Cheryl A. Underhill and Kathy Ferdon
  • Pet Loss and Human Emotion: Guiding Clients Through Grief, Falconguide Ser., Cheri B. Ross and Jane B. Sorensen
  • Grieving the Death of a Pet, Betty J. Carmack, RN, EdD
  • Saying Good-Bye to the Pet You Love, A Complete Resource to Help You, Dr. Lori Green and Jacqueline Landis