When It Is Time To Say Goodbye To A Pet

Unfortunately, pets grow older.  Whether its a bird, cat, dog or horse, pets get older.  The differences between an energetic young pup to an older dog is quite amazing but it is a natural process of life.  Like our human friends, our pet friends age and understanding the changes, limitations and when it is time to let go are difficult things to accept.  Many individuals have a hard time making the decision to euthanize a pet, or say goodbye.  This is quite natural since pets are family.  It is hard to say goodbye to anyone we love but with animals, the choice is always ours.  Animals are like children and do not understand aging or death, but it is up to their human parents to guide them through it.  The pet loss grief will be intense, but owners need to be strong for their pet.

It is not an easy decision to say finally goodbye to an old or terminal pet. Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program


Pets need love and presence when the that fateful days comes.  After limitations to movement, eating, digestion and quality of life erode, the owner must make the difficult case to help ease the transition of one’s pet to the next life.  Sometimes the day is picked in advance, other times, the horrible decision falls suddenly.  Regardless, owners need to be there for their pets.  They need to hold them and keep them comfortable.  They need to ensure their pet dies with comfort and dignity if possible.  The simple presence can reassure a pet during his or her passing.  This simple act of kindness to a good friend can make it so much easier on the pet.

One thing everyone should remember is pets are parts of our life, but to a pet, we are their entire life.  As much as we would like to have our pets live a long as we do, it is not possible.  Human life span is almost immortal in relationship to a dog.  Humans may have multiple pets and love them all equally without forgetting any, but the owner is the everything to a pet.  It is good to remember these faithful friends and grant them the most dignified death possible.

The article, “How to Know When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to a Pet” by Laurie Dove takes a closer look at signs and signals that it may be time to euthanize a pet.  The article acknowledges the difficult decision but points out that pets deserve to die with dignity if certain movements or qualities of life are no longer present.  Many times it may be a difficult answer, no one answer is white or black in making this difficult decision, but certain elements will appear when the time does come.  The article mentions mobility, hygiene, pain, hunger, thirst and energy as all things to take into consideration.  Ultimately, Dove states,

“It’s tough see your dog or cat grow old or get sick, but it’s even harder to think about putting them to sleep. Something just doesn’t feel right when you know your pet’s “death” is scheduled via an appointment with their veterinarian — and you had to make that call. While the intensely personal process for making an end-of-life decision for your pet is rife with the complexities surrounding death and grief, it’s a decision that you simply can’t ignore. But how do you know when the time is right?”

“How to Know When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to a Pet”.  Laurie Love. October 11th, 2022. HowStuffWorks?

To read the entire article, please click here


Pet death loss can be an emotionally devastating experience for many individuals, as it often involves the disruption of a significant bond between animal and owner. In cases where this bond is strong, pet death loss can lead to complicated reactions on the part of the bereaved, including feelings of guilt and intense grief. Such feelings can manifest in various forms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and rumination. Furthermore, pet death loss has been associated with lower levels of social support.  Such losses have been studied extensively within the field of psychology, where it has been characterized as an attachment-based bereavement experience.  This loss can also be equal to any type of human loss based on the above considerations.

Pet Loss Grief Counseling is sometimes necessary after letting a pet go. Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Counseling Certification


Knowing When to Let Go

Euthanasia is a difficult and often emotionally charged decision for pet owners, requiring careful analysis of the situation. When confronted with the need to euthanize an animal companion, it is best to consider both physical and emotional factors. On the physical level, veterinarians typically consider whether the pet’s health issues are terminal and/or significantly compromising their quality of life.  This act entails the intentional termination of life for a pet suffering from a terminal illness or experiencing severe and irremediable pain in order to alleviate their suffering. In such circumstances, it is important to consider the quality of life for the animal in question, as well as the emotional impact on owners who may be struggling with feelings of guilt or grief.

One should consider a variety of issues.  First and foremost, is it a selfish motive keeping a suffering pet alive.  True love for a pet sometimes involves sacrificing and allowing an older pet with terminal symptoms to find peace.  However, there are signs that one should look for that include dietary changes.  Is the animal able to eat, digest, and find nourishment.  Is the pet hungry or constantly thirsty?  Does the pet have energy?  Is the pet in constant pain?  Is mobility affected?  These are important things to consider when making a difficult decision regarding one’s pet.

It can be very painful to make this decision, but as a pet parent, sometimes tough decisions need to be made for the overall welfare and state of the pet.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Video on making this difficult decision.  Review the video below



Letting go of a pet child is never easy.  It is not supposed to be easy.  Saying goodbye can be a difficult decision but this decision is always made with love and respect for the dignity of the pet.  It is the final option but is also the most merciful option.

If after saying goodbye to one’s pet, one needs pet loss grief counseling, then one should consider working with a professional expressing this type of loss.  Many times, individuals are mocked or disregarded after the loss of a pet.  This type of disfranchisement is common with pet loss.  Individuals do not consider it as important as losing a human friend. The reality is that losing a pet can be equal or even greater.  Many individuals grieve very hard over the loss of a pet because pets are family.

If you would like to help others better deal and cope with pet loss, then please review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Counseling Certification.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pet Loss Grief Counseling.


Additional Resources

“How Do You Know When to Put a Dog Down?”. Liz Bales. VMD. August 8th, 2019. PetMD. Access here

“Euthanasia: Making the Decision”.  August 25th, 2016. American Humane.  Access here

“When Should You Euthanize a Pet?”. Jessica Pierce. February 16th, 2012.  PsychologyToday. Access here

“How Do I Know When it’s Time?” The Ohio State University. Veterinary Medical Center.  Access here

“How to Cope when Your Pet Needs to Be Euthanized”. Chloe Carmichael, PhD and Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA. September 15th, 2021. WikiHow.Pet.  Access here

Pet Loss Grief Program Article on Saying Goodbye to A Pet

Saying farewell to a pet is one of the most difficult things. It involves making the decision if a pet is able to live comfortably.  It takes understanding that the terminal condition has finally become too much for the beloved pet.  It takes sacrifice to say good bye for the better good.  There is a long process in this grief process that starts from the decision and continues well after the final goodbyes.

Saying goodbye to a pet is the most difficult but sometimes most humane act. Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Program


The article, “How to Say Goodbye to Your Pet” by Kyle Ramond Fitzpatrick looks at this difficult but humane choice of love.  He states,

“When there’s an emergency or when an animal is suffering from an incurable issue, he says, making the choice to end an animal’s life is obvious. When the situation is more nebulous, like having a senior pet, one should wait for them to “tell you” when the negatives outweigh the positives of their life.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Program.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.  Please review the program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.

Pet Loss Grief Counseling Article on Pet Death and Farewell

Saying farewell to a pet is a difficult thing.  It is a painful moment when you finally say goodbye to a loved one.  In saying farewell, it should be done like anyone else we love.  Rituals and traditions can help ease the pain.

Saying farewell to a pet is a critical part of the grieving process. Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program


The article, “How to farewell your pet if you can’t be there when they die” by Rachel Edwards discusses how one can ease the pain of losing a pet through ritual and tradition.  She states,

“Linda Michie is a registered counsellor for people experiencing the gamut of life — including the death of pets.  She says many people feel guilty if they are not able to be with their pets at the end, thinking they should be there right to the last moment.  “I remind them that they gave their pets such a great life and that without great love there is no great loss,” she says.  Linda works with people to find a solution to not being able to be present for a pet’s death. These are her suggestions.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.


Chris Haws Article on Pet Loss

Excellent article from Chris Haws on the disenfranchised grief pet owners experience.  Pets are family and loss itself is not dependent upon one has two legs or four.  Pet loss is something that can be as traumatic as family loss.  Pets for some are as close as family.  Chris Haws below discusses how this loss needs to be acknowledged.


“He was only a dog …”

“He was only a dog – it’s not as if a real person died”;   “You knew this day would come – cats don’t live forever”;   “You can always get another pet – move on”.

Unfortunately, too many of the attendees at the pet loss support groups that I conduct report that they have encountered sentiments like these while grieving over the loss of a beloved animal companion.  Generally, such insensitive and unhelpful statements are made by people who have not known the unique, enriching and profound nature of the relationship we have with our pets.

“They just don’t get it”, said one grieving Miniature Schnauzer owner.

“… And that’s their misfortune”, added her neighbor at the table – a cat owner.

They were both right – and in more ways than you might at first imagine.  Numerous studies have shown that not only do people enjoy a wide range of positive emotional benefits from their pets, (the Comfort from Companion Animals Scale – the CCAS – lists over a dozen, including companionship , pleasure , play,  laughter , constancy , something to love, comfort , feeling loved , responsibility , feeling needed , trust , safety , and exercise), but pet owners also tend to live longer than non-pet owners and report fewer visits to physicians, psychiatrists and therapists.

Pets are integral parts of people’s lives. Losing a pet is not a trivial thing for many people and needs to be acknowledged.


So why the disconnect when a person is grieving over the loss of their pet?  Part of the answer lies in the fact that society at large doesn’t always cope very well with certain types of grief.  People aren’t sure what to say or how to behave.  Death is never a comfortable topic, but when that death involves “socially delicate” circumstances such as suicide, drug overdose, abortion, AIDS, or any other loss that cannot be easily acknowledged, or publicly mourned, it can provoke what is described as “Disenfranchised Grief”.

And that’s what can occur when someone loses a pet – (“only an animal”, and “not a real person”, remember?)

The owner of a recently euthanized 13 year old Boxer/Bloodhound mix is a busy wife and mother, who also holds down a full-time job.  Of her family, and her grief, she remarked: “They don’t want me to cry in front of them, and no one will talk about my pain”.

It’s a sentiment that is frequently expressed: “I can’t stop crying.  My husband gets angry with me.  I know he’s sad too, but he just won’t show it” noted an elderly lady, grieving the loss of the couple’s treasured cat.

And, of course, that additional, unwelcome, experience of “disenfranchisement” only makes an already sad situation worse, as the grieving Miniature Schnauzer owner ruefully observed:  “Everybody has moved on like it was just yesterday’s news.  I’m not expecting everybody to feel as I do, but to be so utterly deserted has been tough.  I was literally told that I would just have to get over it.  Right….Just take twelve and a half years and move on….Sure, I’ll get right on that.”

Chris Haws points out that counselors need to recognize the loss of a pet. Pithy sayings of “he was just a dog” or “at least it was not a person” are bad statements. The loss needs to be acknowledged.


The point is that pet loss generates a degree of grief that can be every bit as acute as human loss.  Some go even further… “These have been the worst days of my life.  For me, this is worse than losing people”, wrote one grieving Pomeranian owner.  She is not alone. Many of the attendees at the pet loss support group sessions have expressed the same view.  Grief from pet loss hurts.  A lot.

And, of course, grief from pet loss is also an equal opportunity emotion.  Our session attendees have included high ranking military officers, diplomats, corporate executives, and professional artists, as well as normal mortals like you and me.  Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.  There are a lot of us pet owners around.  Sixty-eight percent of all U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet.  73%  of those families own one or more dogs (89.7 million) and 49% own one or more cats (94.2 million).  And the sad – and significant – fact is that no pet lives forever.  The mean age of death for dogs of all breeds is just over eleven years, (curiously, the larger breeds die much younger than the small breeds – scientists aren’t quite sure why that should be), and for house cats the mean age at death is just over fifteen years.  So pet ownership is almost certain to lead to loss, at some point in time.  Most of us understand that reality, although we don’t like to dwell too much on it.  And the benefits (remember that Comfort from Companion Animals Scale, the CCAS?) of pet ownership are so compelling.

So the relatively short lifespan of a pet also brings its own unique challenge.  The relationship that we have with our animal companions is beyond special – a two way dependency that is based on an unspoken agreement that we will look after each other, with no questions asked.  But at the end of a pet’s life, that understanding can be tested in a way that has yet to present itself in the realm of human mortality (although it may one day).  I’m talking, of course, about euthanasia.  A large animal hospital such as VCA South Paws “puts down” over 20 animals a week, (but only after extensive veterinary medical review and never without the full agreement and participation of the owner).  Nevertheless, many of the attendees at the pet loss support sessions are still wracked with guilt about the decision they made to end their companion’s life.  Might he have recovered?  What else could have been done for her? Had they been too hasty?

If it’s any consolation, in every case I’ve encountered, not only had the time truly come to end the animal’s pain or suffering, but in many cases the creature seemed ready and willing to stop battling on, as well.

“He was ready to go”, observed the owners of their cancer ridden, Irish Setter. “She was suffering and I needed to help my best friend”, remembers the Boxer/Bloodhound owner. “There was nothing more anyone could do” agreed the heartbroken owner of his fourteen year old Yorkie.

That unfamiliar blend of resignation, relief and heartache is a difficult one to process and it takes a while for people to reconcile all those internal conflicts.  And that’s where the grief support groups can play an important role.  It really helps someone who is bursting with questions and doubts, on top of their inevitable grief, to hear others express similar feelings and emotions.

As one newcomer to the group remarked: “I was astonished to hear her talk about the same feelings I have, and the same behaviors I’m doing.  Someone I’ve never met, not in my age group, probably with a completely different life than mine, doing the same things and feeling the exact same way as myself.”

Another “fellow-griever” agreed: “I was surprised that my reaction is NORMAL!  It’s nice to speak to others that recognize those dark moments”.

As you might imagine, there’s a lot of sympathetic nodding and wry smiles of recognition at these meetings.  We also get through a lot of Kleenex tissues.  And that’s perfectly OK too.  Like any grief counseling session, the participants are encouraged to talk openly about their feelings and express whatever emotion overwhelms them.  Pet loss support groups are resolutely safe places … places where nobody is allowed to feel “disenfranchised”.

Counseling must accept all grief loss and recognize the loss as unique and important to the griever.


And there’s also a lot of laughter, as we hear about how Stan the cat defended his place on the family couch, or how Pippa the dog had a habit of herding the young children towards the meal table at supper time.  These are precious memories, shared with people who understand.

People who “get it”.

Chris Haws is a British born Psychologist and Counselor based in Northwest DC who specializes in grief, loss, recovery, and personal development.  For over three decades, his writing has appeared in print, radio and TV around the world. 

Contact: chris@telegrief.com



Please also review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program


Pet Loss Grief Counseling Article on Pet Bereavement Time

The loss of a pet is a big loss.  For years and years, people downgraded this loss and acted as if it was just a pet.  People were told they are over reacting over a loss of a pet.  Now, society is seeing such losses as big losses to individuals.  Pets are like family and the bonds of love are just as strong.  With such discussions, some ask if pet bereavement time is needed from employment.  Should employers give an employee time away from work to properly grieve?

Saying good bye to a pet is like losing family for many. Pet bereavement is a possible need. Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program


The article, “Can You Take An Extended Period Off Work After Your Pet Dies?” by Rebecca Reid looks closer at this.  She states,

“Mixed in with the sympathetic responses to Lorde’s loss were the voices of those who found her raw misery unpalatable, because it was felt for a pet, not a person. But grief is a strange, complicated thing. It’s entirely possible to feel nothing when someone who you ‘should’ feel sad about dies, and a huge amount at the loss of someone strange”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.


Pet Loss Grief Counseling Training Article on a Grieving Dog

When our dogs are sad, we are sad.  Dogs are family and when a dog is not feeling well or is grieving the loss of another person or pet, then we naturally want to comfort our dog.  Dogs display emotion and sadness in different ways and we need to identify that grief and also be able to spark joy into their lives again.

What should you do when your dog is grieving? Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling training and see if it meets your needs


The article, “How to help a dog who is grieving the loss of a loved one” by Lisa Walden states,

“Dogs experiencing a loss can show signs of confusion, fear or depression. If it’s the loss of their owner, you may notice dogs trying to figure out where that person has gone. If it’s another pet who has passed away, your dog may spend more time in their bed or favorite places, often with the hope that their friend may return.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Pet Loss Grief Counseling Article and Losing a Dog

Losing a pet is not a minor thing in life.  A cat, dog, or horse is a long term companion.  To some, the pet is even family.  Learning to live without the pet is something harder to do than other people may imagine.

Losing a dog is like losing a family member to many. Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program


The article, “4 Things I Learned About Grief After My Dog Died” by Deanna Adams discusses the pains of losing a dog.  She states,

“Sometimes the death of a beloved pet comes suddenly and sometimes it’s expected.  It can be tragic, traumatic and devastating. The loss is keenly felt and lives often change abruptly. Many of us consider our pets to be family, not “just a dog,” or “just a cat.”  The death of a pet can hurt as much as the loss of a relative for some people”

To read the entire article please click here

Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals

Pet Loss Grief Counseling Article on Pets and Divorce

In a breakup, many secondary losses occur.  One secondary loss that is not considered is the loss of a pet in a divorce or breakup.   Not seeing a pet is one loss that can occur.   This can lead to a loss that sometimes is overlooked by society.

In breakups and divorce this type of loss is all too common and the state, like with children, does not grant shared custody of a pet, even if we wish to consider our pet equal to a human.  Ultimately, many bitter breakups use children and also pets as ways to punish the other when in reality you are only punishing the child or the pet.

Sometimes divorce can can also cause the loss of a pet. Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling program
Sometimes divorce can can also cause the loss of a pet. Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling program


“I remember the day we got her: Penny was a tiny chocolate ball of a puppy who already knew how to fetch and she could sleep in the bed with her human parents. I lived with my boyfriend and we raised her together before adding another puppy, Zelda, to our household a year later. I loved all three of my roommates so much—until my boyfriend and I broke up and he took the dogs. And that’s why I have to write about them in past tense. They’re still alive, but not in my life.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling program to learn more.  The program is online and independent study that is open to qualified professionals looking for certification in Pet Loss Grief Counseling.


Pet Loss Grief Counseling Article on The Rainbow Bridge

Good article on what the rainbow bridge is and what it means to individuals who lose pets.

All pets go to heaven is a good belief indeed and a way to say goodbye only temporarily

The article, What is the rainbow bridge and why do we think dead pets cross it?, by Ann Marie Gardner states,

“If you’ve lost a pet, chances are you’ve heard of the Rainbow Bridge.

This bridge is a mythical overpass said to connect heaven and Earth — and, more to the point, a spot where grieving pet owners reunite for good with their departed furry friends.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pet Loss Grief Counseling.

Pet Loss Bereavement Counseling Training Article on Finding a New Cat

Good article on dealing with the loss of a pet, in particular a cat, and how to determine when it is the right time to find a new cat.  Obviously not a cat to replace the lost cat, but one to share your love with for the next years.

The article, “How Long After Your Cat Dies Should You Wait Before Getting a New Cat?”  by Kellie B. Gormly states,

“Losing a cat is devastating for a household’s humans and other pets. While no cat can replace another beloved cat — each pet, like each person, is unique — hopefully, you will open your heart and home to a new cat at some point. But how long after your cat dies should you get a new cat, and what can you do to make a successful match?”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pet Loss Bereavement Counseling Training