Experiencing Pet Loss

Pet loss can be extremely difficult – so many people are aware of the special bond between people and their pets. They somehow always seem to know when we’ve had a rough day, and take the opportunity to curl up in our laps or quietly sit beside us. Pets are non-judgemental and love us for who we are. Over the course of their lives, they accompany us on the winding path that is the story of our lives: moving to a new home or city, relationships, roommates, other pets, and sometimes children. They typically embrace these changes with a wagging tail and their comforting presence of familiarity. Establishing a routine for our pets many times forces us to establish a routine for ourselves.

Dog outside on a sunny daySo what happens when our beloved friends inevitably pass away? Unfortunately, they do not live as long as people, and as a pet owner we are sometimes faced with making the difficult decision of when the time is right for them to leave us. As a veterinary team we can diagnose medical conditions and help treat the illnesses. Hospitalized pets will typically perk up at the presence of their owner or a favorite meal from home. That’s why we always encourage owners to visit their sick pets in the hospital. Many times a very sick pet will symptomatically improve for a short period before passing away, as their body uses its final reserves to give it one last fight. Depending upon the case, the veterinarian may be able to tell you if the treatment will cure the pet or if it is prolonging the condition. However, at the end of the day it is typically up to the owner to consider their pet’s quality of life and make the final decision. Euthanasia is a humane procedure that ends the pet’s life and is usually done to end their suffering. Pets who pass away or are euthanized at the hospital are often sent to be cremated through Heaven’s Pets. They also offer services for memorializing your pet, like urns you can take home and a place in their garden to hang a plaque with their name on it.

What do we do when we lose our beloved pets? With a bond this strong, that we miss them when we go on vacation or rely on their comfort, grieving is an inevitable part of this loss. Pet loss can be a very personal topic to deal with and can be expressed through a number of emotions, including denial, anger, and depression. Heaven’s Pets offers complimentary grief resources to pet owners. There are also a number of books written on pet loss, including The Rainbow Bridge by Niki Behrikis Shanahan and Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet by Karen Adele Litzinger. This also brings up the topic of the “Rainbow Bridge,” which you may have heard of. The idea of the Rainbow Bridge is one where an animal that is loved by someone goes to this place where their health is restored and they are in the company of other animals. They wait at the Rainbow Bridge until their person passes and is ready to travel to Heaven. The special pet and their beloved person cross the Rainbow Bridge together, and live together for eternity. To heal from pet loss, some people will light a candle or attend a memorial service to honor their pet’s life. Others find healing in adding a new pet to their family after a little time. Since each pet is an individual, we can never replace that pet; however, forming a bond with a new animal can be a very healing process. There are many ways to remember your pet and the special bond you share. Know that the relationship that you have with Metairie Small Animal Hospital’s staff does not end when your pet travels to the Rainbow Bridge.

If you need to speak with someone about pet loss, please contact our staff.