Our pets have made their way into our homes, our beds, and especially our hearts. So, when a pet parent has to make the difficult decision to put their cherished pet to sleep – it is one of the hardest decisions to make. Even when the decision is clear, medically necessary and the pet is suffering, it doesn’t make it any easier to decide to euthanize a pet. It is very common to continue second guessing your decision and running through all the “could’ve” and “should’ve” scenarios in your mind, over and over again.
For those of you that have recently suffered the loss of a pet, or for those of you trying to help a loved one through the grieving process – we outline some of the common feelings associated with choosing to euthanize a pet.
- If I’d done something different, they would still be here – Many pet parents run through the scenarios of finding illnesses sooner or opting for a different treatment route, and how the outcome could have been different. The reasons why you made the decision to put your pet to sleep instead of opting for other options seems unclear since the grief and anguish you were going through in the final moments made you foggy. Making the choice, especially if the veterinary staff walk you through the options and state “We don’t know what kind of quality that life will be,” to euthanize your pet is the right decision, and other treatment options would lead you to the same decision again.
- I waited too long, or I didn’t wait long enough – You can start to feel you made a decision only based on medical or veterinary care facts, and not what would be the best for your dog or cat.
- Guilt – Instead of blaming the accident or illness that lead to this decision, you blame yourself. You had no control over the condition your pet suffered and shouldn’t carry any of the blame, but your loving nature and longing to hold your pet just one more time causes you to put the burden all on your shoulders. You also may feel guilty about not spending quality time with your pet before their passing, or not going for a long walk or to the dog park. Even the most doting pet parents focus on their failures or lack of worthiness.
- I wish I would have/have not stayed as they passed – Those who chose to stay during the euthanasia process may torture themselves by replaying those last few moments. Those that couldn’t bear to witness their pet going to sleep regret not being there for their pet.
According to www.petlosshelp.org, here are some common emotional and behavioral responses to the loss of a pet.
- Inability to accept the loss
- Intense crying
- Loss of appetite
- Reflecting on lost moments endlessly
- Feeling you’ll never be the same
- Feeling like you are going crazy
- Sleeping with pet’s toys or blankets
- Avoiding sleeping in the bed you shared with your pet
- Unable to remove pet’s possessions
- Removing all pet’s possessions immediately
- Continue routine as if pet is still alive
- Compulsion to memorialize your pet
- Withdrawal from those who don’t understand or support your grief
Forthose of you grieving over the loss of a pet, the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine offers a CARE (Companion Animal Related Emotions) pet loss helpline. If you or a loved one need to speak to someone for support, please call 877-394-CARE (2273) on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday, 7-9pm CT.