Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is my pet suffering?
Pets cannot talk, but they can whine or show signs of pain. Your pet may have a special way of communicating with you, and may even be capable of indicating discomfort and showing you what’s “hurting.” A trained veterinarian or experienced pet caregiver can provide insight into the kind of pain that is typical when a pet has a certain condition or illness and may be even able to tell you if you pet is experiencing it.
Q. Is my pet hiding pain?
Many pets still have primal instincts that were a part of their survival in the wild that may prevent them from showing pain. In the wild, the weak, ill, injured, and elderly in a group were targets for prey, and thus the need to hide was a survival mechanism. An elderly or ill pet may be very likely to shy away from human contact, preferring to be sheltered in a quiet or darkened area for protection and warmth. Or such a pet may remain stoic and try to maintain the daily routine as best as possible and when it is too much seek solitude so as not to show any weakness. These are normal behaviors, ingrained in DNA over thousands of years.
Q. Does my pet have a poor quality of life?
Your pet’s quality of life depends on a lot of things, especially the care you and your pet caregiving team provide. Without certain attention and types of care specific to your pet’s condition, quality of life may diminish. The natural aging process and certain illnesses invariably affect a pet’s quality of life to some extent or another, and your veterinarian can advise you as to the extent. Nevertheless, it is possible for many pets to go through the aging process and many illnesses with the aid of proper caregiving, medications, and therapies that can actually improve their quality of life as well as lengthen lifespan.
Q. What are my options for saying goodbye?
If you know a pet’s near the end of life, you will have time to say goodbye in your own special way. While saying goodbye forever is a hard concept for many people, end of life for some pets may come suddenly, without notice, and you may not have the chance to bid your beloved pet the kind of farewell that you might have felt would give you and your pet the most comfort. It’s best not to overwhelm yourself with thoughts of saying goodbye while giving care to an elderly or very ill pet, but rather, live in the moment and enjoy what time you have left together and make that time as special as possible. Then, when the time comes to say goodbye, do what comes instinctively.
Q. What’s entailed in the euthanasia process?
The euthanasia process is designed to be humane as possible and to prevent a pet from experiencing further pain and suffering. Euthanasia is performed by a certified veterinary professional who is educated and experienced with the procedure. The specifics of the procedure may vary slightly depending on where and when it is performed. Discuss this with your veterinary professional. Ask questions and discuss your option so you can make an informed decision about the process in a way that is right for you, your pet and your family.
Q. Should children be present during euthanasia?
Some children are more mature than others and may handle a situation where a pet must be euthanized better than others. You are the best judge as to your child’s emotional maturity and behaviors. Much of the decision depends also on your ability to explain and guide the child through the process so that he or she can understand and cope with the situation as best as possible. Books written specifically for children may help you.
Q. When is the right time to euthanize?
The time to euthanize is not always clear-cut, and it has a lot to do with a pet’s quality of life. It is usually decided upon when a pet caregiver and a veterinarian professional are in agreement that euthanasia is the best option for a terminally ill or elderly pet when is at the end of life. When you feel your pet’s life has been fulfilled to its best potential, when you feel your pet has received all the care and help you can give and there is no longer any pleasure in the days, hours or minutes … these may be examples of times when a pet caregiver may feel the time is right.
Q. How do I cope with the loss of my pet?
Everyone copes differently with the loss of a pet. It’s best to talk about your feelings – be it to loved ones, friends or in a support group – or to write down what you are experiencing so you can better understand what you are going through, as well as connect with others who are in or have been in your shoes. From there, you can find ways to fill the void your pet has left in your life, as well as ways to memorialize your pet, and work through your grief.
Q. Why doesn’t anyone understand my grief?
It is natural to seek the support, comfort, and nurturing of others when we are in times of emotional need, and the loss of a beloved pet can be personally devastating. Being able to express what you are going through can often help others understand more fully your grief. But even when they provide their condolences or sympathy, it will not be enough to heal your heart unless you have someone to speak to who has walked this same road and truly has empathy for what you are experiencing. In the end, only you know what you are feeling, and it is up to you to find the strength to grieve in your own personal way and find peace.
Q. How do I help my children through grief?
It’s important for you and your children to acknowledge feelings of grief and give one another emotional comfort and support during this difficult time to mourn. While friends and those outside of your immediate family may try to understand what you are all going through and help, you and your children can relate to the loss of your pet in a way that others cannot. Encouraging your children to share their feelings and make them feel safe and in doing so will allow your child(ren) to mourn their grief. If they have trouble saying how they feel, you can work with them to draw pictures or write down their thoughts.
Q. Is it normal to feel devastated?
Absolutely. After a period of caregiving to a pet, the intensity of your feelings of loss may be overwhelming and exhausting. You may feel unable to function and do things that need to be done to keep up with the everyday pace of life. It’s important to give yourself the time and space you need to mourn the grief, to sit with your feelings, and find out what you need in order to be able to pick up the pieces and go on with life. You may need emotional support from a group of people who are also going or have gone through similar situations with the loss of a pet. You may need to simply allow yourself a period for grieving; for instance, set aside time in the morning before the day begins or in the evening when your work is done to soothe your soul and mourn.
Q. Will I ever “get over” my grief?
Everyone is different in how they deal with grief; for most, it is a gradual process where the grief never truly goes away and only lessens over time through the ability to move emotions along through mourning your loss. If you find your grief is overwhelming, seek assistance from your Day By Day team or a licensed counselor.
Q. How long will my grief last?
Grief comes in waves and can be something that goes on for what may seem like a long time or for just a brief period. It could take weeks, months or even a year or more. Again, everyone is different in how they process their feelings. At first the grieving process is strong and seems to take up most of your emotional space, but over time the grief will occupy less of your thoughts, hopefully while memories of your pet always stay near and dear to you. Allowing yourself to mourn (an outward expression of grief)will help the healing journey along.