Grieving the Loss of a Dog 18 Common Pet Bereavement Questions Answered

Whether you know it is coming, or your dog passes away unexpectedly the feeling of devastation when you lose your faithful friend is natural. Unless you are a dog owner it is impossible to understand the sense of loss experienced by a dog bereavement.

The grief is very real with many asking “Is the way I am coping with the loss of a dog normal?” Everyone is different when it comes to dealing with grief and it can be something we find very difficult to come to terms with.

Find some losing a dog quotes here:

DogsBarn examines:

  • How to prepare for the loss of a dog
  • Whether you should stay during euthanasia
  • The feelings and grief you will feel afterwards

1. Preparing yourself

When your dog has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or they are coming towards the end of their life, have a discussion with your vet. Many pet owners suffer from guilt at making the heart-breaking decision to have their family dog “put to sleep” so talk to your vet, ask him why it is necessary; His reasons will help you with the grieving process later re-affirming your decision. All pet owners have unconditional love for there animal companion so there is no easy process.

Is Fido in pain? Have they lost their appetite? Can treatment offer a good quality of life? knowing you have made the right choice for your pet can help you cope better.

Make your remaining time with them special, take photos, spoil them, a good idea is to place their paw in paint or plaster of Paris it may seem bittersweet but you will have something to remember them by that will bring you comfort.

2. What is Euthansia?

Although it can be upsetting euthanasia causes no pain and very little distress to the animal. The process can be carried out at the surgery or some vets will come to your home. (this might be something to discuss beforehand) It usually involves an overdose of anaesthetic given by injection which literally puts your pet to sleep.

If the pet is nervous or picks up on the owner’s distress a sedative may be offered. The pet loses consciousness almost immediately and death follows shortly after. The dog may make involuntary movements, gasp and or urinate. These reactions don’t mean he is still alive, they are just reflexes and perfectly normal after death.

Euthanasia is quick and simple it and can prevent weeks or months of suffering and a painful death. It may not make us feel any better but it is the correct choice if your pet is suffering.

3. Should I stay while my dog is put to sleep?

There is no right or wrong answer here 2 equally loving dog owners may decide differently with one being present during their pet’s final moments and the other choosing to wait outside. Here are some reasons why staying with your pet during their final moments can help you cope with the grief.

  • Being with your pet as he passes can offer some level of comfort to most owners.
  • Being the last face your pet sees as he leaves the world is enough of a reason for many people to stay during euthanasia.
  • Regretting not being present during this time can hinder your pet grief recovery and increase guilt.
  • Being with your pet while it is put to sleep will assure you that it is a calm and peaceful process involving no suffering.
  • Many people decide not to be there because they think their grief will upset the pet in their final minutes or don’t want this to be their last memory of their four-legged friend and this is perfectly fine too.

Whether you decide to stay or go is entirely up to you. Your dog’s love for you won’t change so think about it seriously and do what is best for you and your pet.

4. I didn’t get to say goodbye

If your pet dies quickly or as a result of some kind of trauma, for example, a car accident it can be difficult to come to terms with the fact you weren’t with them at the end.

The pain can be unbearable and all the loss of a pet sympathy words in the world don’t seem to make it any better. In these cases, it is a good idea to perform a ritual or have your own memorial service where you get to say goodbye.

Although it might not seem like it at the time sometimes if your pup has suffered injuries it can be a good thing that you do not remember them in pain or suffering.

5. What do I do with the remains?

There are so many options nowadays that you need to give yourself time to think. The simple initial choice is; do you want your canine companion buried and if so where? If you have a large garden you may wish for your faithful friend to be buried under his favourite tree or alternatively, you can check if there is a local pet cemetery nearby.

The more favoured option is cremation and most vets will provide you with information or offer to deal with it for you so you can then pick up the ashes. You may wish to keep them at home or spread them at your dog’s favourite beach or park.

Here are 10 more unusual things you can do with your dog’s ashes:

6. Guilt

Many dog owners feel guilty after their four-legged friend dies focusing on self-recrimination instead of the love and care they lavished on their four-legged friend.

We remember the times we were too busy to play, the time we shouted at them for chewing the remote control, the holidays we had without them and not being able to save their lives and these thoughts dominate the 3 nights you sat-up all night when your dog was ill, the extra 30 minutes on cold winter’s mornings just to reach their favourite park.

This is especially so if they have had to make the heart-rending decision to have them put to sleep. “Should I have done it sooner?” “Could I have noticed something was wrong earlier?” and perhaps the worst one of all “Did I make the right decision?” It is important to realise that this is a natural feeling in the grief process after losing a dog.

7. Allow yourself to cry

It is important not to bottle up your emotions as this will only make things worse. Don’t listen to people who say it is “just a dog” “You’ll get over it”. A dog is part of the family and it is perfectly normal to grieve as you would if a human passed away.

Allowing yourself to cry is cathartic and will help with the healing progress.

8. Tell Friends and family

Let your family and friends know what has happened not only will it stop them asking about the dog and you burst into tears the next time you meet but you will find the comfort and sympathy they provide helps with the grieving process.

You may find it necessary to move outside your normal circle of friends to get the support you need as not all people can find the words for loss of a pet you need to hear. These days there are sympathy cards for the loss of a dog.

Here are some comforting words for loss of pet:

Never be ashamed of the way you feel, talking about losing your beloved dog and expressing your emotions is the best way to move forward.​

9. How to help children cope with the loss of a dog

The loss of a pet is probably one of the first experiences of death, family members and a child will have and many people fail to understand how confusing and upsetting it is for them. The way they react often depends on their age.

It is important to let their teacher know as they may become upset at school. Although you are in the best position to judge how much to tell your child, it is best, to be honest about what has happened.

Do not say the dog has gone away as the child will expect the dog to return at some point and it is important to make the permanence clear, this also applies to “put to sleep” They need to know it is not the same as ordinary sleep. Tell them Fido is now free of pain and happy.

Many people talk about the “Rainbow Bridge” as being heaven for dogs and this is can be a great comfort for the family members both young and old. Most importantly encourage them to talk about their feelings.

10. What are the stages of grief after losing a pet?

Everyone experiences grief differently but it is now becoming more accepted that the loss and sadness someone feels at the death of their dog is identical to losing a family member.


This does not mean you do not understand that your canine companions are gone. It is more like numbness, shock, and disbelief that the dog is not around anymore. As with humans who may make 2 cups of tea instead of one when their partner dies you may find yourself looking around for your canine companion. Denial is our brain’s way of protecting us from the full shock and emptiness that comes from the death of a dog while we learn to adjust.


This usually follows the initial shock and in actual fact, is a helpful emotion as it shows you are moving forward. Life is unfair. It sucks! Why you? Family and friends who think that after a week you are moving on make you even angrier as it seems your feelings and emotions are being dismissed or undervalued. It is important to realise that although it may not make sense anger is a necessary emotion to enable you to move forward to pet grief recovery. There is also a pet loss support group if you wish to attend one.


This often accompanies the guilt we feel at the loss of our pets we bombard ourselves with questions “what if’s?” “If only I had or hadn’t done this?” Wishing we could turn back time and reverse the things we did or decisions we made. This is an essential part of the grieving process as it forces us to make sense of what happened.

Typical thoughts during this stage include:

  • “What if I’d noticed my dog was ill sooner?”
  • “If only I had been with my dog it might not have happened”
  • “Should I have seen another vet and had a second opinion?”
  • “I would do anything to see my dog one more time”
  • “Please, let this be just a nightmare”
  • “If only I’d taken my dog to the vets earlier”


Depression is a natural feeling when suffering any loss and you may find yourself finding it difficult to get up in the morning, withdrawing from friends and family who don’t understand and insist that you “snap out of it” or try to cheer you up constantly. The best thing they can do is accept your sadness without trying to make it better, someone listening to your thoughts and emotions can be a tremendous help, try writing your feelings down in a journal. Pet loss forums, where you can speak to other dog owners who understand and are in the same position are a great way of coping with the emptiness you are feeling.


This doesn’t mean you have got over the grief but rather you have accepted your dog is no longer part of your life. You may find yourself thinking of Fido with a fond smile instead of bursting into tears. It will be easier to look at photographs and you will start to experience more good days than bad. There is no set timescale when you should start to feel better so don’t put yourself under pressure you will move on only when you are ready and even when you do it doesn’t mean your beloved hound is forgotten.

11. Will my other dogs grieve?

Almost certainly yes. Just like humans no 2 dogs are the same and they deal with situations differently. We only have to look at true stories like Hachi to realise dogs are capable of deep emotional attachment and there are many more similar stories that confirm dog’s do feel grief.

They may react to the death of a dog with physical signs of sadness being off their food and looking depressed or they may act out with negative behaviour some may not show any signs at all. It is important you retain the normal routine for your dog perhaps engage in more play as this raises serotonin levels. Be patient with them and take comfort from each other.

12. Who can I talk to about my dog bereavement?

Unless you have friends or family who have suffered the loss of a dog it can be difficult to know who to talk to who understands the grief you are experiencing.

You can talk to your doctor or health professional about counselling if the grief persists. However, many dog owners find comfort from online forums. These are a great way of getting to know others who are feeling the same.

You can exchange stories of your beloved pooch and gain comfort from people experiencing the same emotions, who understand the grief you are feeling making you feel less alone.

13. Do something in memorial of your dog

Doing something in memory of your pet is one way to help with the sadness you feel planting a rose or tree, creating a blog or website telling their story, creating a seating area in your garden with a plaque to remember them and donating to an animal charity in your pet’s name are all popular memorials. Some people recently have even left boxes of tennis balls on the beach for owners and their hounds to borrow with a picture of their dog. Other people will write a losing a dog poem to tell the story of there life.

Knowing your dog will not be forgotten is a comfort during this difficult time.

14. How long will the grief last?

It will take, as long as it takes. There is no simple formula for how to get over losing a dog, or a set time limit for grieving for a dog. Because of the special relationship many of us have with our four-legged friends the loss of a pet can often be as upsetting as losing a human member of the family.

It could take weeks or months. The good news is you don’t have to forget your beloved canine companion. He will always be with you in your heart where your love for him will remain.

15. When to get a new dog?

It takes time to come to terms with the grief you feel at the loss of an animal so it is generally not a good idea to get a new one straight away. It is important not to try to replace your lost dog.

You will end up making comparisons and resent the newcomer for not living up to your expectations, (forgetting about the remote control) Once you feel ready to build a relationship with a new four-legged friend rather than trying to fill the hole in your heart left by the loss of a dog you can move forward.

16. Consider volunteering

If you don’t feel ready to accept a new dog into your life, why not consider volunteering at your local animal shelter caring for or walking other dogs who are in need of human affection will keep you busy and help you come to terms with the grief. Getting involved with a dog charity can take your mind off things, keep you busy and make it feel like your days have a purpose.

17. When pensioners lose a dog

When an older person loses a dog especially if they are alone it can be devastating. Often their four-legged companion is their only companion and a reason to get up in the morning.

The loss can hit them harder than younger people as they are not being kept busy with work and children and may not have the support of family. It is vital for a pensioner to look after themselves and try to find new purpose. Volunteering or helping friends to look after their pets, perhaps offer fostering services to a local shelter or rescue.

18. Look after yourself

The best advice we here at Dogs Barn can give for those coping with losing a dog is that, no matter how you feel, you need to look after yourself. Stay hydrated and even though you may not be able to face food try to eat little and often to keep your strength up.

Make sure you get some exercise as that releases endorphins that make you feel better. Don’t cut yourself off from people try to have face to face contact with someone every day. It’s Ok to smile a little, a good tip is assigning time for grieving when you can let go of your emotions and reduce the time a little each day.


Everyone reacts to the loss of a dog differently so no you are not going crazy to feel the way you do. Unfortunately, no-one can tell you when the pain will go away, in many cases it doesn’t for a long long time. Time is a great healer and eventually, you will find yourself looking back at all the good times you had together with a fond smile. The love and joy a dog brings to its owner are unique and something that will remain with you forever. For more articles from our blog try this page.

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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