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How to deal with clients when their pets die

By E. Malmierca

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Veterinarians need to show understanding and provide more personal treatment during visits where clients' pets are put down. Reasons for putting down animals include loss of quality of life due to old age, terminal illnesses, or non-treatable behavioural problems. Vets can and should assess, explain and help, but never make the decision regarding animal euthanasia. Sometimes pet owners may decide to prolong animals' lives for selfish reasons, in which case the vet may need to help owners reach a different decision. Grief is a psychological trauma which should heal with time. There are four stages in the grieving process: denial, aggressiveness, depression and acceptance. The duration and intensity of grieving is influenced by factors such as the type of death, the quality of the relationship between pet and owner, and the owner's age. In the period leading up to euthanasia, veterinary nurses should attend to the comfort and wellbeing of both pets and owners, and help allay owners' fears. After the process is completed, the corpse should be covered with a blanket and removed to another place. Owners should be offered somewhere tranquil where they can collect their thoughts. In many cases losing a pet is like losing a family member, so treating the corpse as an object is not appropriate. It is normal for pet corpses to be dealt with by municipal services. Sometimes corpses need to be stored until there are enough to cover disposal costs. Technically there is no difference between incineration and cremation, but the International Cremation Federation has established that the correct term for humans is cremation. Animal incinerators have followed this trend by establishing pet crematoria. Recently formed companies have trained their staff to deal with the psychology of human grieving. There are few pet cemeteries in Spain, but vets should be able to provide information about these if necessary. After the death of an animal, the veterinarian should keep in contact with the owner. It is also important to ensure that records are updated so that, for example, vaccination notices are not sent out for deceased pets.

Date 2007
Publication Title Ateuves
Volume 2
Issue 12
Pages 10-14, 16-18
ISBN/ISSN 1885-8481
Language Spanish
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Death
  3. Pet ownership
  4. Pets and companion animals
  5. support
  6. Veterinarians
  7. Veterinary medicine
  8. veterinary practices
  9. Veterinary surgery