Momma Told Me: 5 Steps To Handling A Pet's Passing: Things To Consider Now

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

5 Steps To Handling A Pet's Passing: Things To Consider Now

There's no question that pets are family members. Whether they're adopted at birth or painstakingly picked out from the hundreds of deserving lives at a shelter, cats and dogs quickly become a part of our family. When we're children, the hardest part of loving an animal is deciding whether the fields in kitty/doggy heaven are made of butterflies or pet treats. We grieve, and our hearts are inevitably won over by a new ball of fluff some months later. As an adult, tackling the passing of a beloved furry family member can be a tough, and most often unexpected, time. I've prepared a few simple tips to answer the burning questions of this difficult subject, and help ease the process, whether for your family or to help a friend.

1.) Consider death, before life. The hardest time it will ever be to consider the passing of a pet is after the animal has integrated into your family and become a beloved staple. Unfortunately, young or old, a new furry family member means that it's passing is inevitable. While the modern house cat enjoys a hearty 12-15 years of life, and the modern dog (breeds vary) 10-13, animals, like people, can suffer from unexpected illness and injury.

We are fortunate to have the power and resources to prevent extended suffering of an animal in old age or terminal illness, but even those decisions require prior consideration. Much like a human family member it is best to discuss and look into the proper handling of a deceased or severally ill pet far in advance of the situation arising. Considering these circumstances before you adopt or bring a pet into your family will make you more aware of the options during the difficult time, even 10+ years down the line.

2.) Understand what to expect and how to handle it. While you can never be prepared to let go of a family member, knowing more about your pets breed and size will better equip you to handle their passing. Large breed dogs will prove the hardest to handle in situations that are sudden and unexpected. As unpleasant as the topic is, the animal's body will begin to stiffen and become hard to mange in as little as 10 minutes after it's passing. It may be hard to handle your beloved pet in such a manner but steps will need to immediately be taken to avoid further unpleasantness. Educate yourself on safe handling of a passed pet and have the proper supplies packaged in a sort of emergency kit (medical gloves, heavy duty trash bags (x2 or 3), a bog or container, etc).

Be prepared to store your pet's body in a manner that will postpone decomposition, such as in a deep freezer, or have a local veterinarian or pet crematory's number on hand. Much like human handlers, pet crematories will often have an after hours number and can pick up your pet's body in as short as an hour. Expect these services to be additional- if the costs are outside your family's financial budget, the pet may often be brought to a veterinarian for storage up to 3 days. Plan ahead of time and ask these questions long before the services are needed so the process is smoother and you are informed.
3. You have options. For the most part there are 3 scenarios for the end of your pet's life; sudden death at home and burial, sudden death at home and transport to a crematorium, or initiated passing via injection in a veterinarian's office. Ideally a trained professional in vet services will be available to walk you through the handling of a passed pet. If this happens at home, most veterinarian's offices have after hours contacts that will guide you through the steps. Again, planning far ahead is always best as you and your love ones will likely be distraught. If you plan on burying your pet, ensure that it is on your owned private property and in a cardboard or wood vessel a minimum of 3 feet below the surface to prevent scavengers and accidental uncovering.

4. Enlist a friend. It is always a good idea, even at adoption, to have someone outside the family in mind to help handle a pet's passing. Think of this as a furry godparent- anticipate it to be someone near enough to be there in a time of need, but ideally not someone who be connecting directly with your pet throughout the years. It is never easy to cope with and handle the passing of an animal, but having someone there who has pet sit and developed a bond with your animal can be as equally emotionally rough for you and your family. If your animal is a large breed consider someone who will be able to help handle the body in difficult circumstances, while remaining respectful and consoling.

5. Plan a memorial. Especially if you have children who may not be able to comprehend the passing of an animal, but in general a good idea. In most cases your pet will be cremated and you will be give access or the option to obtain your pet's ashes. This may be of note for families with pets 15+ years, though others will wish to hold onto more physical trinkets that represent good memories within the pet's life. You may feel the urge to hold onto everything your pet touched at first but it is always best to cleanse your home of the majority of these items, save those tiny trinkets sooner than later. Having in an in home gathering of your immediate house family members and saying a few words over a good meal can substantially help in the healing of this difficult period.


12 comments:

  1. It is so sad when a pet passes. I have been lucky I guess that the only two dogs I had- we had to give up before we moved into a tiny apt a couple years ago- so I haven't had to deal with them passing. I don't know how I would handle it.

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  2. Good list. My aunt's dog passes away unexpectedly a few years ago, and it was hard for them.

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  3. It's so hard to even think about it, hopefully my pups still have a long time!

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  4. What a challenging time for any family. Good tips to help get through it.

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  5. As always you've written an informative and thought provoking post on a difficult topic. Most people don't stop to consider this issue but the fact is that pets are going to die.

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  6. One of our birds passed two weeks ago. Thank you for this

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  7. Pets are such a huge part of the family. Before we had children, our cats really were our babies. When they both passed away, it was like losing a part of myself.

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  8. Handling a pet's passing is never easy, even at 27 years old I dread the day another one of my pets pass. We lost Runty our dachshund a little over a year ago quite suddenly and we were all devastated but they provide you with such joy for how short their lives are that you learn to handle the good with the bad.

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  9. I don't know if I could plan ahead like this but certainly see the wisdom in it.

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  10. Thank you for sharing. It is so hard when a pet passes. No one ever wants it to happen and we certainly don't want to think about it happening but it is a reality just like human life. These are great tips and planning ahead helps when the time comes.

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  11. Great, great post. We've lost a couple dogs and I don't even want to think about losing my current one. Having a keepsake made from their blankets is always a good idea too. www.bearsbylauren.com can do a personalized keepsake animal

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  12. Those are all great tips. It's good to know what your plans are when your pet does pass. Our dog who was 11 years old passed away on Christmas day unexpectadly. We were in total shock over the death, and even more so because we weren't sure what steps to take.

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