How to Cope When Your Dog is Dying: 12 Tips

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Losing your beloved dog can be one of the most heart-wrenching and traumatic experiences for anyone. Coping with your dog dying is hard, especially when they’re suffering due to a long battle with illness or disease.

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There are ways to prepare yourself and your family for your dog’s death before it happens to help lessen the pain. But regardless of how much preparation goes into it, you can expect that when the day comes, you may still suffer immensely. You may even go into shock and denial and forget all the things you did to prepare you for this day.

How to Mentally Prepare Yourself for Your Dog’s Death

Mentally preparing yourself for your dog’s death can mean anything from going over in your head what to expect when that day finally comes to learning ways of coping while waiting for it to happen. 

Despite all the mental and emotional preparedness you may go through, you still may not know what to do when your dog dies. Here are some ways you can deal with a dying dog and how you can prepare yourself, your family, and your pet ahead of time. 

1. Give extra love

Unless you arrange for your dog’s euthanasia in advance, you won’t know precisely how long they have to live. Giving them extra love leading up to their death will make you and your pet feel better in the coming days. Make time for some special one-on-one moments with your dog.

Cook them their favorite homemade meal and give them the extra cuddle time that they deserve. Let your dog know how much you love them and how you’ll miss them once they’re gone. Be sure to tell your dog how much joy they brought into your life and how it won’t be the same without them.

2. Make their space comfortable

A dog who is experiencing an end-of-life illness will need to be made as comfortable as possible when preparing for a natural death at home.

Consider adding extra pillows and blankets in their dog bed or allowing them to sleep in the bed next to you if that’s something that you allow. Keep in mind that their illness may be causing them pain and discomfort, and it may be best to let them sleep in the comfort of their bed. 

3. Spend quality time

Spending extra time with your pet will make both of you feel special and loved. Think of this as your final goodbyes. Try to set aside spare time to spend with your dog so that you won’t later regret not having done so.

Recognize that your dog might no longer have the same energy and may not feel like doing anything other than cuddling with you on the couch. Quality time together doesn’t need to be spent doing anything other than being physically present in the same room.

4. Make their last days memorable

Visit their favorite places one last time before your dog dies, if their health allows it. If they’re no longer able to walk, consider using a stroller or pull-wagon to get them around. Show love and patience toward your dog.

They may not feel their greatest during your outings, so consider making a series of short trips instead to make them more bearable for your sick pet. One of the goals is to make your dog comfortable as you revisit their favorite places.

5. Envision your life without them

In the days leading up to your dog’s death, it’s okay to start thinking of how your life will change. If you’re used to daily or weekly visits to the dog park, think about what it’ll be like for you not to go.

Did you make dog park friends whose company you’ll miss? Is this as much a part of your daily or weekly routine as it is for your dog? If so, prepare yourself for these coming changes. You may want to keep up your routine after your dog dies. This way, you’re not shocked by all the sudden changes in your life all at once. 

6. Consider euthanasia where appropriate

As much as it hurts to think about putting your beloved pet to sleep, sometimes it’s the most loving and humane thing to do to save them from their pain and suffering. It is worth reviewing all available options with the help of your pet’s veterinarian and your family’s input. Making this decision is almost always a difficult and painful one to have to make. 

When considering this as a choice, ensure that you read some information so that you’re better prepared for it and know what to expect. Contact your vet and ask them these important questions:

  • How do I know when it’s the right time to consider this option?
  • How will my dog be euthanized?
  • Who should be present?
  • What can we expect to see?
  • How will you dispose of my dog’s body?

How to Help Your Children or Family Prepare for Your Dog’s Death

The loss of a pet can also be difficult for other members of your household. The death of your dog has the potential to impact the lives of others in your home. As soon as you know your dog’s dying, gather your family to explain what’s happening. 

Not everyone’s emotions will be as invested in your dog’s life and death as yours are, so prepare yourself to confront some indifference. If this is the case, don’t force them to acknowledge what’s happening. Focus on giving them the information and allowing them to process it and ask questions if they so choose to. 

7. Explain your pet’s loss in a way they’ll understand

Young children in the family, especially, may not know what it means when you tell them that your dog is sick and dying. You may need to sit with them and explain what’s happening using language that they’ll understand based on their age, experience, and maturity level.

If this is the first time they’re experiencing any type of death or loss, you may want to use simple examples of other types of death, such as when an insect dies.  

8. Allow you and your family to grieve

Grief comes in many forms and expressions. Your family will each grieve their loss in their unique way. Children tend to follow the lead of the adults in the family when learning what it means to suffer after the death of a pet.

Consider reading together the loss of pet poems and pet loss quotes to ease their pain and suffering. Allow them the opportunity to point out their favorites and consider a DIY picture and word collage project to help them remember their pet. 

9. Make room for expressing their emotions

Children of any age will likely not know how to handle their emotions following the death of their dog. Expect that some children will show an immediate reaction to their loss, while others become isolated and withdrawn. Give each family member time to process the death and give them the space they need to come to terms with their loss.

Children who are having trouble accepting their dog’s death or who become withdrawn should have their grief progress monitored. You may want to talk to a professional grief counselor or therapist for advice on what to do when a child is not adjusting well with their grief. 

10. Create a memorial service for your pet

Hold a small memorial service for your pet during their last days. Encourage children to participate in honoring your pet’s life by sharing their best memories of them and your pet. Ask them to write a short living eulogy that they can read aloud. Prepare for lots of tears and sadness while explaining to the children what to expect to feel as they go through their grief. 

The memorial service may be a good time for everyone to make an individual DIY pet keepsake to carry with them after your pet’s death. 

11. Take lots of pictures

The final days of your dog’s life are an excellent time to take plenty of final end-of-life pictures as you prepare to say goodbye to them. You and your family will be able to look at these last few days spent together and cherish those moments with your pet. Try and capture spontaneous moments showing your children and pet going about their day as well as those they pose for.

Consider playing dress-up with younger children asking them to put on their fanciest clothes so that they can sit for a final formal family portrait with their pet. Perhaps they can borrow a bow tie or hair bow to put on the dog to dress them up a bit as well.

12. Think through major decisions

As your dog’s death is approaching, put off making any major decisions such as getting another pet soon after or before your dog dies. You will want to ensure that everyone is emotionally prepared and ready to bring a new dog into the family. Getting another pet before or shortly after the one you have dies might interfere with their grieving process.

Another thing to consider is that you may not be emotionally ready to offer your love and attention to another dog, especially a puppy. What starts as love may soon turn into resentment. 

Coping With a Dying Dog 

Facing your dog’s death is never easy. You will not know what to expect from this type of news until you’re confronted with it. Treat each day as if it could be the last you spend together. Give your dog all the love and attention they deserve.

When the time comes, you’ll know that you gave them the best love and care that you could during their lifetime. 

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