Mourning the Loss of Your Pet During the Holiday Season

Surveys show that many people regard their pets as members of the family. Consequently, the loss of a pet may leave pet owners feeling alone and without anyone who can relate to their feelings.

The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association understands that the holiday season may trigger feelings of loss and grief for pets that were part of the family for many years. The loss of a pet that once met us at the door, consoled us when we were feeling sad or anxious, and established a routine into our sometimes hectic lives can be devastating for some individuals. With the advances in medical care, many pets are able to live longer, good quality lives, even with conditions such as diabetes and cancer. Participating in an ongoing treatment process with our pets often strengthens an already intense bond and enduring the loss of a pet after such extended illnesses can make the loss even more profound.

Your veterinarian understands the emotional bond you have with your pet and reminds pet owners that mourning the loss of a pet is normal and should not be cause for embarrassment. Pet owners experience the same stages of loss that everyone undergoes after the loss of a beloved family member or friend, including denial, bargaining, anger, grief, and resolution.

Your veterinarian is your pet’s best friend for life – the person who is capable of helping you choose the best pet for your family’s lifestyle and tending to all of your pet’s healthcare and behavioral needs as he grows. Your veterinarian remains available as you deal with your own grief when your pet dies, and can offer support if and when you decide to open your heart to another animal in need of a home.

The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association is a supporter of PetFriends, trained counselors who provide compassionate telephone support for grieving pet owners. They can be reached at 1-800-404-PETS.

If you are currently caring for an elderly or terminally ill pet, your veterinarian can assist you in deciding what is in the best interest of your pet. If you are facing the prospect of euthanasia, discuss your options with your veterinarian. Veterinarians often note that when pet owners are present during their pet’s euthanasia, holding the pet and having the opportunity to say good-bye may be helpful in the grieving process.

If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page for a list of NJVMA veterinarians in your area.