Pet Factsheets

How to cope with the loss of a pet

©VetFolio LLC and Vetstream Ltd. Created and peer-reviewed by VetFolio LLC and Vetstream Ltd.

Grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a pet, and everyone grieves differently.  There are resources available to help people who are grieving the loss of a pet.

The Five Stages of Grief

Regardless of whether the pet is old or young, or whether the loss is expected or sudden, family members and those who were close to the pet will experience similar feelings when a beloved pet dies. These feelings, commonly called thefive stages of grief, are the same as those experienced when a person passes away:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining (ie, trying to find an activity or action that either could have helped avoid the loss or that will take it away)
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

There is no "set" way that people experience these stages, and not everyone goes through all of them. Everyone grieves differently. What is important to know is that if you have lost a pet, it is normal to feel sad or angry. Sometimes, people who did not know the pet may say things that imply that grief is a reaction that should be reserved for the death of a person. This is not the case - grief is natural whenever you lose a loved one.

Ways to remember your pet

Some people find that performing a special activity, such as planting a flower or creating a memorial item, may help ease the sadness they feel at losing their pet. A memorial item might be something you make yourself, like a photo of the pet in a special frame, or something you can purchase and personalise for your pet -  type "pet memorials" into an internet search engine to find some suggestions. Donating to an animal shelter or favourite charity in your pet's name can also be a way of remembering your pet.

When should I get a new pet?

Just as there is no set way that people mourn, there is no set time. Some people feel that they are ready for a new pet quickly, and some people do not want to consider getting a new pet until time has passed. Some people decide not to have another pet, even when they have finished grieving. Because every pet is different, it is not possible to "replace" a pet, but every pet offers a new chance for companionship.

Where can I get some help?

There are many resources available to help people who are grieving the loss of a pet. Some veterinary schools and charities offer a pet loss support helpline. Your vet may also be able to suggest local support groups or other people, such as therapists or spiritual counsellors, who can help.