A picture of a black cat and a reddish dog

The loss of a pet is heartbreaking. They are family members, companions, confidants, and often the most comfortable social interaction we may have. They don’t judge, complain, or care if we have brushed our teeth. These are just some of the reasons why it is so difficult when we have to say goodbye.

In recognition of the significant loss of a pet, we have invited a local veterinary technician to provide some advice and support on how to manage this challenging time. Lisa Clifford, RVT, has been a Registered Veterinary Technician for over 30 years and is currently Practice Manager and RVT at Manitou Animal Hospital in Kitchener.

Is the End Near?

If your pet’s quality of life is not what it used to be, please know there are people and resources that can help you understand a way forward. At this point your family’s veterinary team would be a good place to start. They can assess your pet’s quality of life and see how it has been affected by their condition.

Things to consider:

  • Does your pet enjoy the things it did before? Walks, playing with a toy, chewing on treats, sleeping in your bed, or even eating?
  • Is your pet in discomfort, sleeping all the time, crying or very confused?

There are also online resources that you can consult, such as the Villalobos Quality of Life ScaleCreated by Dr. Villalobos, the decision tool is based on seven indicators: Hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility, and more (HHHHHMM). Pet owners rate each one on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being very poor, and 10 being the best.

As these are assessed, talk to your vet about how behaviours and health compare to before and look for concerning changes. Some factors can be helped by your veterinary team in the form of palliative care. This would involve the use of pain medications, inflammatory medications, dietary considerations, help with movement and general human care. Whether it is for a few weeks, or just a few days, we know you want to keep your pet as comfortable as possible until the end.

How to Deal With the Loss of Pet

Saying goodbye to our fur babies is so difficult. It is normal to feel sad, depressed and even guilty that you could not do more for them. Seek support from your circle of care.

If you know someone who has lost a pet, let them know you are there for them to lean on and offer support. Simply saying “I’m sorry” and offering sympathy goes a long way. Consider sending a card to your friend as they have lost a true family member. Listen to them talk about their pet, and feel free to share your favourite memories of their pet with them.

The truth is that our pets never live long enough to give them all the love we can.

Additional Resources

For those who may need some extra support, please consider the following resources:

Ontario Veterinary College Pet Loss Resources

Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement

The Pet Loss Support Page

Thank you to Lisa Clifford for sharing her time with us, and for helping to provide comfort and support to pet owners. 

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