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Pet Loss & Grief

If you are reading this it is likely that you have suffered a loss or maybe you are preparing for one. My heart goes out to you in this difficult time. Although you may not realize it, you are not alone. Most pet owners describe grieving for pets in the same way you would grieve a human loss.

Unfortunately, I have had to deal with the loss of my own pets over the years. I have also had to deal with many owners who are grieving. I have learned that we all deal differently with this type of situation and there is no right or wrong way to deal with it. My personal experience is that the way we grieve can also change with time.

Below, I provide some general information on pet loss and grieving. There are also some resources and support groups listed at the bottom of the page. I hope this information is useful to you.  

A lot of literature recognizes stages of grief as follows:

  • Denial
    • this isn’t happening to me
    • often we see this stage starting before an animal passes when an owner finds it hard to accept that there is nothing more we can do for the pet or they don’t feel it is really as sick as it is
  • Anger
    • why is this happening to me
    • holding other parties responsible such as your veterinarian, a family member, God for taking the pet, yourself if you feel guilt in any way
  • Bargaining
    • I promise I'll be a better person if
  • Depression
    • I don't care anymore
    • people can experience lack of interest in food, normal activities, isolate themselves from friends and family
    • crying excessively when you think about the pet or when you are reminded of the pet
    • inability to remember and make decisions
    • sleep disturbances
  • Acceptance
    • I'm ready for whatever comes
    • at this point the person may be able to recount wonderful memories of the pet without crying and may have come to think of how lucky they were to have the pet instead of how sad they are to have lost the pet

So if you have lost a pet or know someone who has lost a pet, your feelings and emotions will likely fall into one of the categories above. The progression doesn’t necessarily go from top to bottom. For some, acceptance takes months to happen.

Some tips to help you through your grief:

  • Contact your veterinary clinic and ask if there are any local support groups or hotlines. If you feel unable to call yourself, have a friend of family member call for you.
  • If you read consider buying books on pet loss. There are a number available.
  • Surround yourself with others who understand your grief. Distance yourself as much as possible from people who aren’t pet lovers and don’t understand your grief.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve.
  • If able take time off work to grieve.  
  • Consider making a scrapbook of memories and pictures about your pet. This will be an emotional journey but it will help you focus on the wonderful things your pet brought to your life. Give yourself what you think is a reasonable time to grieve and then put the book away in a special spot.
  • Consider having a memorial service if you feel this would help you with closure. It doesn’t have to be formal. For example, you could just gather everyone who knew and loved the pet and have them say a bit about a special memory or a special characteristic of the pet that they liked best.  
  • If your pet was a family pet consider going to a family counselor so that you get some guidance on how to help children and other family members through this crisis.
  • If you are religious, turn to God and know that your pet is safe with him and watching over you. If you are not religious, know that your pet is not suffering.
  • At some point, you may have to talk yourself back into a normal life.  

If you, or others around you, feel that your grief is excessive or you know that you are depressed or suicidal please seek help! Life will get better..

Other resources:

The Winnipeg Humane Society has a support line and support group. Call 204 988-8804 for support hotline and details on the group sessions

The Brandon Humane society has a site where you can post a memorial for your pet:  

Pet Loss and Grief website:

Help Line (please note, some may charge a fee and there may be long distance charges as well):

  • The Ohio State University Animal Companion Listening Line 614/292-1823 Weekdays, 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. EST, Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. EST

I hope you find this information useful. If you find that any of these websites are no longer active or if you find sites that you think other would benefit from please email me at mobilevet@outlook.com .

Sending you my best wishes at this difficult time!

Dr. Liana