We all love our pets and want them to be with us forever. We sometimes forget that we will live much longer than most of our pets. It’s important that we know what to do and how to handle the death of a pet. This article will divide the subject into two parts, mental/emotional preparation and practical preparation.

Mental and emotional preparation

Mental and emotional preparation involves helping everyone in the family understand that death is a part of life.That everyone dies and that it’s okay to be confused, scared and sad or to feel any other emotion about the death of a loved one such as a pet.

When preparing yourself and your family mentally and emotionally for the death of a pet consider:

  • If your pet is already sick, speak in-depth with your veterinarian about the pet’s condition, how long you can expect the pet to live, the quality of life it can expect to enjoy and what signs to look for that shows the pet might be near the end.
  • Involve the entire family in the decision process concerning the pet and in caring for it through the illness. Make sure any children in the house have time and space to spend with the pet and to express their feelings about what is happening. Think about the dying animal as well. Pets are very sensitive to the moods, sounds and facial expressions of humans. When they are sick or dying they are even more sensitive, remember to be very gentle and kind to the poor, sick pet.

Practical preparation

Practical preparation may seem insignificant compared to the emotions of a child over the death of a family pet, but it is important because, if done properly it can spare the entire family additional grief when the death of the family pet comes. This is especially true for elderly, infirm or ill pets but everyone could benefit from thinking about these things before they occur.

  • Make a plan of what to do when the time comes to take the pet to the veterinarian for the last time (who will go with the pet to the vet, who will stay with the children and other pets at home.) Talk about this plan with everyone in the family, make sure each person has something important to do and that they know what it is.
  • Depending on the size of the pet and degree of illness, some vets will make “end of life” house calls. Check with your vet ahead of time.

If possible, consult with your vet regarding disposal of remains prior to the day. Most states have laws (environmental, health and safety) regarding burying a pet on your property. Your vet can provide you with options including cremation and burial (pet cemetery), as well as discuss costs. This step need not take place until the actual event.

For additional resources on preparing for the loss of a pet, visit the Argus Institute at Colorado State University (http://www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu/) or the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (http://aplb.org/index.html).