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The Emotional Difficulty of Losing a Beloved​​ Pet

Compassion is at the heart of everything we do at 360 Pet Cab. Without compassion, our company’s mission would be incomplete. Often times we’re there for pets and their owners when they are most vulnerable and need extra care and compassion. This became ever more apparent for us last week when we had the opportunity to help Maggie and her critically ill German Shepherd, Max.

Maggie reached out to us for help transporting Max to a veterinary appointment for a suspected kidney infection. Unbeknownst to us, Maggie had already received a grim prognosis from a couple other vets, and was seeking hope in a third opinion. Being told that there’s no more hope for your beloved pet is the last thing a pet owner wants to hear. This was certainly the case for Maggie. Like many pet owners we’ve met, she was hanging on and not able to let go.

Deciding when the time is right

Deciding when it’s time to let go can be one of the most difficult decisions a pet owner will ever have to make. However, it is also one of the most important decision you’ll ever make for your pet when their quality of life is no longer good.

To arrive at this conclusion, Jeanne explains, “Communication is key in saving your pet from pain and discomfort. Having good communication with your vet, and understanding your pet’s expected quality of life can help make this decision easier on you. We advise our clients to work with their veterinarians as a team because they are there to help you and your pet.”

One good indicator of when the time is right is when regular bodily functions are compromised.

To put this into perspective, sometimes we remind our clients that animals age 3.5 years every six months. As humans we often don’t realize this. But imagine how you would feel if you aged at this rate? Can you think of things you enjoyed or were able to do 14 years ago that you can’t do as well now? This is something your pet can experience in the lapse of just two years.  

If your pet is no longer able to eat normal food on their own, or if they are immobile, or have trouble urinating or suffer from chronic constipation, chances are their quality of life is poor. When your pet is in constant pain and regular bodily functions are no longer working, it’s time to prepare yourself to let go.

Saying goodbye to your pet

For our clients, about 80% of the time the recommendation to euthanize their pet comes as a surprise. It’s often a shocking thing to hear and many simply aren't ready to let their pet go. While finding the right time to do so isn't always as easy as one would hope, saying goodbye is often a decision of compassion.

When caring for very ill pets, we often see the same situation: the pet owner has a hard time coming out of their house. They are filled with anxiety and often in tears. In situations like these our priority is to transport the pet to get them the medical help they need and to offer the pet owner the encouragement they need. During this stressful time, clients are often overcome with emotions and unable to think objectively, so we often step in and walk them through the process of saying goodbye and become their voice and advocate.

In Maggie’s case we were able to guide and walk her through the process of saying goodbye. At the end of the experience she understood she had done the right thing for her pet.

Coping with the loss of a pet

Coping with the loss of a pet can be emotionally devastating. Unfortunately, as a society we often don't validate the emotional pain someone goes through when they lose a pet. It’s important to give grieving pet owners the consideration, reassurance and validation they need in order to recover emotionally. As well, as a grieving pet owner you should be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to grieve. Don’t feel ashamed or allow others to tell you how you should feel.

As a company, we acknowledge this time of grief and offer our condolences to our clients for their loss. During the grieving process, reaching out and following up with sympathy card can mean a lot to someone who has experienced the loss of a pet.

Clients shouldn’t hesitate to talk to us about their loss; sometimes you just need a caring person to offer their support and a listening ear. We also recommend grieving pet owners to seek a pet bereavement group.

Support for pet owners

Whether you lean on the sympathetic ear of a loved one or seek guidance from a bereavement group, finding support is important when coping with the loss of a pet and recovering emotionally. Luckily, there are some great in-person and online bereavement groups for pet owners. Some of our favorites are Pet Caregiver Support Group by Sage and Pet Grief Support by Restful Paws. Pet Caregiver Support Group meets one Wednesday of the month at their Redwood City and Campbell location. Restful Paws also offers a pet grief support group and they do a great job of following to ensure the family receives grief support.

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