CASTLE: Dealing with the death of a pet — aftercare and grief

The loss of a pet is never easy. As I have written many times, pets are no longer just pets; they are part of the family.

Naturally, since pets live inside and sleep in our beds, it is easy to see how pet owners have become more attached to their pets than ever before.

The more attached you are to your pet, the more difficult it is when they die. Many pet owners are surprised by the intensity of their grief when their pet passes away.

Losing a member of the family, including pets, brings a great sense of loss. However, the pain associated with grief is necessary and is a healthy part of the grieving process.

Remember, you are not alone. Most pet owners who have developed a unique bond to their pet experience the same degree of grief when their pet dies.

It is typical for you to grieve deeply after the death of your pet.

Fortunately, if you are struggling or having difficulty coping with the loss of your pet, there are pet loss support groups, pet loss hotlines and therapists who specialize in the loss of a pet.

Veterinarians typically are not professional grief counselors, but they can be sensitive to your pain and have a lot of experience consoling grieving pet owners.

Your veterinarian can certainly answer your questions, offer support and give you guidance. Definitely, your veterinarian can give you the information to help you find the support you need.

Pet owners have several options for the “aftercare” of their beloved pets. This is sometimes referred to as the final act of caring.

First of all, pet owners may choose simply to bury their pet either in their own back yard or in a pet cemetery. Many families may honor their pet with a memorial service. Just like the death of a human family member, it is important to have closure.

Another very popular method of after care in recent years is having your pet cremated. Actually, there are several different options to choose from with regards to pet cremation. First, you may choose to have your pet cremated but not have their remains returned to you.

Even if you choose to not have the remains returned to you, you can still choose to treasure the memories of your pet. You can purchase a clay paw imprint of your pet, a paw print necklace with your pet’s name engraved on the back and receive a certificate of passing.

If you choose to have your pet’s remains returned, you can select from a large variety of urns. Urns come in very different shapes and sizes. Some urns are made of cherry wood and others are porcelain. You may also choose to have a brass name plate attached to the urn.

There are many different ways pet owners can memorialize their cherished pet with respect and dignity. Companies or individuals that specialize in pet cremations offer compassionate care and support for you and your family. They offer an extensive selection of unique remembrance items which you can keep and treasure forever.

Personally, I find it very comforting to know there is someone who understands the needs of pet owners during their time of grief.

Also, memorializing your companion may be extremely helpful and important to allow you to have closure, move forward and eases the grief process.

Most importantly, don’t forget; you are not alone.

Whether you are anticipating the loss of your pet or presently experiencing grief, contact your veterinarian for assistance. Your veterinarian will understand what you are going through and can provide information and guidance during this difficult time.

Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.