Losing a loved one is never easy and the fact that it’s a pet doesn’t make it any different. A medical situation can change gradually, or develop suddenly almost overnight. Knowing that the end is near is a dog owner’s worst nightmare, but in some ways, it can be bittersweet too, because it gives you time to say goodbye and ease the transition for yourself, your dog, and everyone in the family.
Scientists today say that grieving after losing a pet can be just as painful as after a loss of a human life, and in certain cases it’s devastating for a pet owner’s mental health. Preparing for the inevitable can give you a way of dealing with the coming loss of your dog. You can’t control how long he’s going to live or solve all of his inherent health problems, but making choices where you can will give you a certain sense of control during this difficult period.
Give yourself permission to feel exactly how you’re feeling and time to process what’s going to be a big change in your life. The sadness associated with a loss of a dog we feel is because of how much we love ours pets, and when we think about it that way, it’s a beautiful thing.
Although it’s a very hard time, being able to take your dog home for his last few days of life can actually be a blessing in disguise. It gives you time to calm your pet and help him to feel loved and appreciated before he passes. It gives him the opportunity to spend his last days with the family that he loves.
15 Ways to Spend Last Days With Your Dying Dog
1. Measure the Cost of Medical Interventions and Tests
Love can’t be measured, but when a dog is obviously suffering because of illness or age, certain costs have to be taken into consideration before making medical decisions. It’s possible there might be a treatment or test available, but it might not be worth it.
I’m not talking about money, but about the emotional and physical costs to you and your dog. You might be able to get more time, or more knowledge, but if it doesn’t add to the quality of your lives together, you might regret it.
2. Do the Quality of Life Check-List
Think about ways to improve these issues for your dog, and ask your vet for advice:
- How much pain is your dog in?
- Can he breathe normally?
- Can he see and hear normally?
- Are hygiene and grooming needs being met?
- Is he able to perform his favorite activities?
- How much control does he have over his bodies and mobility?
- Is he able to eat and drink normally?
- Does he seem comfortable and content?
- Are you both able to sleep? Is the dog sleeping all the time?
- Is he able to socialize normally, or is he isolating himself, visibly anxious, or depressed?
- Is he able to think, communicate and behave normally, or does he seem disoriented, confused or stressed?
3. Deal With Your Shock, Denial and Grief
You will probably go through a number of emotions as you say goodbye to your beloved dog and all of them are understandable and natural.
The process of grief begins as soon as you hear your pup’s diagnosis, not just after your dog dies. It might not even seem real. Guilt, anger and depression are common, as well as bargaining and looking for ways to control what’s going on.
4. Explain Things Carefully to Younger Children
The upcoming death of a dog can be even more devastating for a young child, but it’s better to be honest, and let them say goodbye in their own way. Just explain the situation in an age appropriate way. Young children often don’t have a full understanding of death, so they’ll have a lot of questions that you’ll probably have to answer repeatedly.
There are children’s books that might help them understand too, and you can read them together with your dog. Some books you may want to look for include:
Tell your child it’s no one’s fault and a natural part of life. Be careful how you describe what’s going to happen because children tend to take things literally.
If you tell them that their dog will have to be put to sleep, it could make them afraid to go to sleep themselves, or if you say their pet has to go away, they might think…