When Our Pet Dies

the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) - concept explained with white chalk drawing and color sticky notes on blackboard

When Our Pet Dies

Our pets are part of our family and it is only natural when illness or death strikes our faithful companions that we will grieve. We will go through the same grieving process for our dogs as we do for our parents, spouse or any other family member. Most professionals agree that there are five stages to the grieving process. Not everyone will go through all five but generally most go through two or three. If you have ever had a terminally ill or elderly pet you may recognize some of these stages.


1. Denial
Realizing our pet is ailing either from old age or some type of illness we don’t always want to face the truth. We think he looks like his old self so there must be some mistake. An illness that is internal where we can’t really see the severity of it makes us think there can’t be anything wrong. And it is hard to think our dog is getting too old and won’t be around much longer. So we want to deny the truth of the situation and go along as if nothing is wrong. This initial reaction is normal.

2. Anger
Once the initial shock has subsided we tend to get angry. Some people just have a general feeling of anger at what life is throwing their way. Others direct their anger at someone in an attempt to blame. They may get angry at the veterinarian who has done all he can or at a family member or even themselves.

3. Bargaining
In this stage some people try to make deals with God. God if you’ll let my dog live I’ll do this or that. Or we’ll search the stores or internet for miracle cures or testimonies of others who have gone through this and then try to copy what they did hoping our pet will be the one to make it through. Bargaining is an attempt to change the situation to make it go away.

4. Depression
This stage can start even before the pet actually passes on. It’s hard to watch him get old and suffer dementia or the crippling affects of old age or terminal illness. And after he’s gone the house feels so quiet and empty. This is the stage where we might need help from friends or other family members. Talking about our hurt helps us to get through this difficult time.

5. Acceptance
Accepting what is happening to our pet does not mean we are giving up on him. Nor does it mean we will forget him if he has passed on. When we are finally at the point where we can think back on all the happy times as cherished memories and have peace then we have reached acceptance.

Not only can we go through grieving but so can other pets in the household. We’ve all heard of the dog
that stays by their master’s grave day in and day out. They not only miss their masters when they pass on but also other pets in the family. If one dog is now
gone the other one might spend days looking for him around the house. He may not eat or he may become anxious and even seem depressed. He may follow you
around the house keeping you in his sight. Try to keep your day to day normal routine so he will feel secure and eventually your pet should become his normal
self again. After a few months you might even get him a new friend if you feel he’d be willing to accept one.

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