Knowing when it’s time

Having to say goodbye due to quality of life issues
If you are on this site then you will probably consider your dog as part of the family. This will mean that the grief of losing your dog will be close to the grief of losing a close family member which emphasises how emotionally difficult it can be for that owner.

The fear of making the decision
This is likely the hardest decision ever made by pet owners. The responsibility of deciding that their companion’s quality of life is consistently not adequate is not easy or comfortable. However, when making the decision you have to think outside your own emotions and think only what is best for your pet.

Arthritis and its associated clinical signs naturally will improve and deteriorate which complicates decision making further. CAMs advice is the decision has to be prioritised “when the good outweighs the bad”. We have made a simple tool in the resources section that may help with looking for consistent deterioration and poor quality of life. We also encourage you to Vetmetrica’s online tool, or refer to a quality of life questionnaire such as Vets 2 Homes

Each case is individual as was your relationship, but talking to someone less emotionally involved but who knows your dogs is very useful. This may be your vet, a veterinary nurse, an animal therapist or a friend.

Preparing for “the time” comes with having to make the decision. Your veterinary practice will be well trained in how to advise you of what situation would be best for your dog and yourself, this may mean you have a home visit or you go the practice for the last consult of the day to give you more time.

You will also need to think about where your pet’s resting place will be, and if they’ll be buried or cremated after they’ve passed on.

Dealing with Grief
Grief is recognised as having emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioural aspects. We understand it is not transient sadness and the huge effect it can have on owners who have lost their companion.
“People react in different ways to loss. Anxiety and helplessness often come first. Anger is also common…. Sadness often comes later. “ NHS Choices
Feelings like these are a natural part of the grieving process. Knowing that they are common may help them seem more normal and that they will pass.
Some people may not understand the intense feelings of sadness you may feel after losing a pet, but please remember there are people out there who understand.
Some people take a lot longer than others to recover. Some need help from a counsellor or therapist or their GP.
But you will eventually come to terms with your loss, and the intense feelings will subside.

Please rest assured, there’s pet bereavement support out there to help, from knowing the right time, to grieving after the death of your pet.

How to cope with grief and loss (NHS choices)
There’s no instant fix. You might feel affected every day for about a year to 18 months after a major loss. But after this time the grief is less likely to be at the forefront of your mind.

There are practical things you can do to get through a time of bereavement or loss:

  • Express yourself. Talking is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor can begin the healing process.
  • Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process.
  • Keep your routine up.
  • Sleep. Emotional strain can make you very tired. If you’re having trouble sleeping, see your GP.
  • Eat healthily. A healthy, well-balanced diet will help you cope.
  • Avoid things that “numb” the pain, such as alcohol. It will make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
  • Go to counselling if it feels right for you – but perhaps not straight away. Counselling may be more useful after a couple of weeks or months. Only you will know when you’re ready.

When to get help
Get help if any of the following apply to you:

  • You don’t feel able to cope with overwhelming emotions or daily life.
  • The intense emotions aren’t subsiding.
  • You’re not sleeping.
  • You have symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Your relationships are suffering.
  • You’re becoming accident-prone.
  • You’re caring for someone who isn’t coping well.