Pet Loss


The loss of a much loved pet is the loss of a member of your family. 


It's always a time for many decisions:

  • there is sometimes the question of euthanasia - when is the right time?

  • how to take care of your pet's remains

  • how to memorialize your friend

  • how to talk to children. 

The anticipation of a death and the burden of grief afterwards can be numbing, but these decisions must be addressed.  We'll try here to help with some basic information.



Death usually comes with great difficulty... after a lengthy illness, often with pain and debilitation.  Your pet may experience a wide array of signs - weight loss, breathing difficulty, nausea, pain, mobility problems, bleeding, and many others.  Each illness is different as it progresses.   A "natural death" is often cruel and painful.

Once the reality of the impending death can be accepted, we believe the decision to euthanize relieves your pet of the final suffering that accompanies many diseases.  Your pet has no way to understand their illness.  They just feel its effects.  The decision to euthanize can be your final gift of peace to your pet.



Euthanasia is the deliberate decision to end a life in order to relieve suffering.  In our veterinary setting, we usually give an initial sedative injection to allow our patient to slowly relax and to relieve any anxiety.  In a few minutes, the final injection is given.  This is an intravenous injection of a rapidly acting drug that quickly and painless stops the heart. 



In the Nashville area, you have several choices regarding the disposition of your pet's remains.

  • Burial at home - if your pet is small, you may bury your pet at home.  Careful attention should be given to preparing the gravesite.

  • Communal cremation - after cremation, the ashes are scattered for you.  This service is done both by Cedar Hills Pet Cemetery and by Littlest Angels Pet Crematory.

  • Individual burials - done at pet cemeteries.  Gravesites are marked and you can visit the site.  We recommend Cedar Hills Pet Cemetery

  • Cremation with return of ashes - after cremation, the ashes are returned to you in an appropriate container.  We recommend Littlest Angels Pet Crematory. 



Grief can be overwhelming and numbing.  We all travel the same path when we have lost anything very precious.  It may help to know the common emotions that most of us experience with that kind of loss:

  • Shock and denial - disbelief that the loss is real

  • Anger - directed at yourself, your friend, your family, or at the world in general. 

  • Bargaining - what can I do that will bring him back?

  • Depression - sadness, loss of appetite, many tears

  • Acceptance - moving forward with the happy memories of your pet

It is normal to feel grief and it's important to allow yourself a period of mourning.  Memorializing your pet can help - create a page on your web site, make a photo album, frame an especially favorite picture to hang on your wall. 

If the sadness seems too difficult, consider talking to The Pet Loss Support Hotline.  Call (916) 752-4200.  This caring service is funded by donations.  They do not charge a fee to call them.  The long distance call will, however, be billed to your own phone.

There are many very good books to help you understand your feelings of loss.  Here are a few of them:

  • Coping with the Loss of a Pet  by  Christina M. Limieux and Wallace Clark

  • When Your Pet Dies: How to Cope with Your Feelings  by  J. Quackenbush and D. Graveline

  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney  by  Judith Viorst (for children)

  • Oh, Where Has My Pet Gone?  by  Sally Sibbitt (for children)


This page last updated 10/02/2011


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