A beloved pet can offer some of life’s greatest joys. However, that means that when a pet dies, that pet's loss can be a source of pain for some time.
Kids may take the loss of a pet particularly hard. It’s not uncommon for kids to forge strong bonds with their pets. For many kids, a pet's death is their first experience with death.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Books for Toddlers that Deal with the Death of a Pet
- Books About the Death of a Pet for School-Aged Children
- Books About the Death of a Pet for Teens or Preteens
Helping kids cope with their feelings when they grieve a pet’s death can seem challenging. Luckily, you can find ways to make this task easier.
Consider reading pet loss books for kids. These books may help as a child mourns a pet.
Books for Toddlers that Deal with the Death of a Pet
A children’s book about the death of a pet that’s specifically for toddlers needs to strike a delicate balance. It needs to honestly address difficult emotions and truths in a way a toddler can grasp.
1. The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise by Adrian Raeside
The concept of The Rainbow Bridge in today’s culture started with a poem describing animals crossing over a mystical bridge to reach a happy afterlife when they die. Since the poem’s release, many have found comfort with this idea.
Many have also used it as inspiration for their own poems, stories, and more. Like many of the best books for toddlers about death, this book approaches the topic with sensitivity. However, it doesn’t entirely shy away from the realities of losing a loved one.
2. The Invisible Leash by Patrice Karst
This book, ideal for a child coping with the loss of a dog, describes how a dog may not stay here on Earth forever. However, the love pets forge with their owners creates an invisible leash that ensures they always remain connected in some way.
3. When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers
If anyone could explain to a child how their feelings after losing a pet are natural and healthy, it’s Mr. Rogers! Episodes of his show also deal with these topics at times and you can find some available online. Along with reading this book, you may want to watch them with your kids after the loss of a beloved pet.
4. The Heaven of Animals by Nancy Tillman
Like books about the Rainbow Bridge, this one offers hope to young readers by explaining how a world beyond ours exists. When pets die, they go there to spend eternity in bliss and peace.
You may consider this as an alternative to books like The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise. While the book doesn’t emphasize religious ideas too heavily, in general, the heaven that author Nancy Tillman describes (and depicts through her own illustrations) looks similar to popular depictions of heaven in Christianity and other religions.
Books About the Death of a Pet for School-Aged Children
Older kids may choose to read books about the death of a pet on their own. Take a look at these wonderful titles:
5. Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
Dog Heaven, a beloved classic, beautifully and simply describes a happy afterlife where dogs go when they die. Are you struggling to determine how to tell a child you’re putting your dog down?
Consider using this book to introduce the idea that this is the best choice you can make for your pet. Your pet may be in pain now, but by putting him down, you give your dog the freedom to travel to a place where he can once again run free.
6. Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
Don’t worry, author Cynthia Rylant didn’t overlook the cat lovers among her readership! As you can probably guess, this title became the “cat version” of Dog Heaven.
7. My Pet Memory Book by S. Wallace
The unique My Pet Memory book doesn’t tell a story. Instead, kids can complete an activity book.
Features include spaces where kids can add pictures of a lost pet, areas where they can write down stories about happy memories with a pet, and more. These activities allow kids to confront their feelings in a healthy way by focusing on the positive.
8. My Dog Skip by Willie Morris
Some of the language in My Dog Skip, a children’s book about the death of a pet, may seem complex for children just starting school. Preteens may enjoy it.
The book chronicles the author’s adventures with his dog growing up in the 1940s. Because it takes place in a small town during a period in American history most young kids probably know little about, this book can also give them a glimpse into a lifestyle and time they’re unfamiliar with.
Books About the Death of a Pet for Teens or Preteens
Preteens and teens can still feel the pain that comes with losing a pet just as strongly as toddlers or younger children. These books can help them cope.
9. Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski
This book doesn’t tell just one story. Instead, it’s a collection of true stories, poems, and photos, all of which offer comfort and practical advice to those struggling with grief after the loss of a pet.
It’s not technically a children’s book about the death of a pet because adults can also appreciate the wisdom it offers. Preteens and teens can enjoy it, too.
10. Will I See My Dog in Heaven? by Jack Wintz
This entry offers religious undertones (especially a Catholic connection) for your young teen wondering whether lost pets will show up in the afterlife. Because many religions don't outline this, religious children may have questions.
The book's author was a Franciscan friar. He cites actual theological study and Biblical references to address this question. In case you’re worried your child won’t be happy with the answer the book offers, spoiler warning: The author admits that it’s not fully possible for a human to know God’s plan for pets with any certainty, but the evidence from scripture indicates we do indeed reunite with our pets in heaven.
11. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Love That Dog by author Sharon Creech writes from the perspective of a young boy who, despite initial reluctance, slowly discovers that he has a knack for poetry. Discovering this skill gives him a tool he can use to accept the loss of his dog.
The protagonist doesn't have great writing skills at the beginning of the book. By the end, he becomes an accomplished young poet.
School-aged children and older kids will appreciate this book. Young kids can easily comprehend the earlier sections when the character’s writing starts out fairly simple. They may then return to the book a second time when they’re older, once they have a deeper appreciation for the later sections, when the protagonist’s poetry truly shines.
The book also teaches an important lesson many kids benefit from: Finding an outlet for your feelings can help you manage them.
12. Denali: A Man, a Dog, and the Friendship of a Lifetime
This book may be a little too heavy for some preteens. Teenagers, though, might love it.
In this memoir, author Ben Moon describes how he forged a deep bond with a shelter dog he adopted on a whim. They traveled the country together, enjoying numerous adventures.
However, Moon truly felt the love he and his dog shared when his dog remained by his side during Moon’s battle with cancer. Unfortunately, although Moon recovered, his beloved dog then developed cancer as well.
This isn’t merely a book about coping with a pet’s illness and death. It also explores how humans must face difficult situations that force us to consider the possibility of our own deaths. Difficult themes and ideas emerge, but older kids often benefit from reading these types of books.
Pet Death Books for Kids: Helping a Young Person Cope
Like books about how to cope with an unexpected loss, children’s books about the death of a pet may not necessarily erase the grief they feel immediately. They can, however, offer valuable guidance to help them move on with a sense of peace.