Understanding pet loss

1st September 2017


The big taboo

The thought of losing your pet causes intense anxiety for most of us and we usually try to avoid talking about it. Unfortunately we all have to face this at some time and the inevitable painful experience of grief.

We have the added problem of trying to relate this feeling with others who don’t feel the same. These thoughts, feelings and emotions are not necessarily recognised, accepted or understood by others, particularly non-pet owners. You will also find that most employers wont allow you time off to grieve the death of a pet, despite the fact that most of us feel this grief as deeply as you would losing a member of the family.

Whilst we can’t change how others react to our loss, it is important to understand and accept our feelings as being a normal part of the grieving process.


What is grief?

Grief is a very personal thing and is your own reaction to a significant loss. It includes our feelings, thoughts, emotions and behaviours.


What are the stages of grief?

Its been recognised for a long time now that when we lose a loved one, we go through several recognised stages of grief. The pain felt can be real and intense and for many will cause a great deal of anguish.


6 stages of grief

  1. Shock, denial, disbelief and isolation – the first stage where the sudden loss of a loved one can result in denial. It’s felt that this stage helps to reduce the pain.
  2. Guilt and pain – anyone who has suffered the loss of a dearly loved pet will know the unbelievable and unbearable pain that is felt. The feeling is deep and relentless. It’s not good to hide these feelings and a good cry will often help.
  3. Anger – a very common stage of grief where we try to blame someone or something for the death and loss.
  4. Depression and loneliness – after a loss we feel lonely and depressed. This is quite normal and shouldn’t be hidden or suppressed. Talk and share these feelings.
  5. Acceptance – the beginning of the healing process after all the lows starts with acceptance of what has happened.
  6. Rebuilding – the next stage, where we may even consider getting a new pet.


What is mourning?

Mourning is the outward expression of your grief and may involve personal ceremonies and rituals of remembrance. With animals, this can be complicated as there are no traditional accepted ways of mourning the death of a pet. Thankfully pet funerals and cremations are becoming normal and these are an important part of the healing process. We will always be able to help you with the arrangements of this, so never feel awkward to ask us. We have local pet crematoriums who can take care of your pet if you wish when the time comes.



Putting a pet “to sleep” is a unique part of pet bereavement. One of the most significant differences between human and pet bereavement is the option of euthanasia in veterinary practice. Whilst we all hope our pets will die naturally and in old age, in reality this is rarely the case and euthanasia has to be considered.

A common issue we feel with euthanasia is related to the fact that we make an active choice to end a pet’s life and with this comes the reality that we have to accept personal responsibility for this decision. This can feel very uncomfortable. It’s very important to understand these feelings are completely normal though – you will feel bad even though you have made a kind decision to help.


Talk to us first

Assessing the quality of life of your pet can be difficult. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we are always here to help, and you can be assured you can talk to us in confidence. All you need to do is arrange a discussion with one of our vets to talk about your pet’s quality of life and prognosis.

Euthanasia decisions are never easy, but remember that it’s a shared decision. We have a professional responsibility to help and advise you from a medical perspective and you have the personal responsibilities as the pet’s owner.


Talk to us first >