Deciding to put your family pet to sleep can be one of the most emotionally challenging times for everyone concerned.
Although you are certain it’s the best decision for the welfare of your cherished pet, It’s a decision that can be emotionally draining and leave you reeling from the effects.
With not only your own emotions to deal with, but you may also have to tell other family members about what’s going to happen and take on their sadness too.
As one of Brisbane’s most respected pet cremation services with over 20 years of experience, we understand that saying goodbye to everyone involved can be heartbreaking.
Join us in our guide to understand more about the best ways of discussing pet euthanasia with your family.
Most children are much smarter than we sometimes give them credit in sensitive situations. Some children as young as one month old will be affected by parents’ emotions, according to research.
Other studies have shown that infants as young as one-month-old sense when a parent is depressed or angry and are affected by the parent’s mood.
So when you tell your family you’ve made the difficult decision to put a family dog, cat or other pet to sleep, it’s best to keep it clear and straightforward.
It helps to start a discussion with the fact that when a pet is really loved, sometimes you have to make the best decisions for their welfare even if they are difficult.
Explain in an age-appropriate way that your family pet is ill and suffering and that the vet who looks after them can help end their pain gently and humanely with a painless injection. Keep the medical details as simple as you can.
Understandably, you will be sad, too
Dealing with your own grief when euthanising a treasured pet is a powerful emotion.
While explaining the situation, it’s understandable that you may feel upset and show your own emotions. This can be helpful for the rest of your family members as they will see you processing the information in both a thoughtful and healthy way.
You might find your younger children or even older ones will mimic your reaction, but this means you are providing them with a role model to help them deal with death and difficult situations.
Discuss how you came to a decision
It’s important to discuss openly how you have chosen to end your pet’s life as it is the best way to care for him.
Talk about why you came to a decision and that although it’s made you feel incredibly sad and they will too, no one is to blame, and they should not feel guilty.
Children under seven
It can be difficult to broach this subject with the younger family members, especially for very young children, as they may not have the understanding to be fully aware of the implications.
Recent research states that children first understand death at around five or six, which corresponds with when they grasp the idea that the human body functions to keep us alive.
However, it’s important for younger children, as well as older members of your family, to let them know as soon as possible.
Try and choose a peaceful, relaxing place that’s familiar and ensure they are not overtired or it’s too late in the evening. Choose a time after a nice lunch in the garden or an afternoon trip to the park.
It’s important to reassure younger children that they can still enjoy time with their pet and that extra cuddles and playtime are an excellent way to say goodbye if possible.
Use words they can understand
One of the most important ways of making sure your child understands if you are putting a dog, cat or any other pet to sleep is to use the words ‘death’ and ‘dying’ rather than ‘went to heaven’, ‘‘he’s gone to sleep’ or your pet is ‘going away.’
This is because they may become confused and not understand that your treasured pet is not coming back and be more upset when they, for example, might wonder, ‘when will he wake up?’
Young children will not understand subtleties, which may cause them more anxiety and mistrust.
A child’s age and level of development are crucial factors in how they process the subject of pet euthanasia.
It’s worth understanding that most children under six will lack those skills and will struggle to understand the fact a pet will not be coming back.
You may even find they might regress developmentally during the time before, during and after a pet’s euthanasia. You may even notice them acting out themes in their play, such as talking to a dog or cat that’s been out to sleep.
You can join in with this play and reinforce that your cherished pet is no longer with you. You may also find younger children will repeatedly need to be told that their pet’s body ‘stopped working and died’.
Younger children may think it’s their fault
You might also find that they might think it’s their fault, so make sure you reassure them. Ensure you spend some extra time re-inforcing this, especially with younger family members.
Make sure you explain that your dog or cat was sick and that his caregivers are well and healthy.
Answer their questions as simply and fully as you can. If your child under seven years old asks questions, it’s a good sign that they are processing what may happen.
We’re Here for You
Here at Pets in Peace, we are here for you when you’ve made the hard decision to euthanise your pet.
Our caring team conducts all our services, including pet cremation, with sensitivity, dignity and respect.
We have fully trained staff across all our locations and are Brisbane’s oldest and most trusted pet crematorium, with over ten years of experience.
If you’ve recently decided on euthanasia as the best way of caring for your much-loved pet, our compassionate team can help. When you are ready, get in touch here.