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Pet loss and grief: identifying at-risk pet owners during the euthanasia process

By S. Barnard-Nguyen, M. Breit, K. A. Anderson, J. Nielsen

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Pet owners often experience complex and profound grief reactions when their animals are euthanized. Veterinary staff are increasingly being called upon to be aware of and to respond to the grief reactions of pet owners at this critical time. The objectives of this study were to identify pet owners who are most at risk of grief and to suggest veterinary interventions during the euthanasia process. A convenience sample of 409 pet owners whose animals had been euthanized in the past year took part in a survey. Variables of interest included pet and pet-owner demographics, pet-death characteristics, attachment to pet, and bereavement reactions. Stepwise multiple regression analyses were conducted to identify factors related to the three grief reaction subtypes: sorrow, anger, and guilt. Results indicated that attachment to pets was a strong predictor of feelings of grief/sorrow (p < 0.001) and anger (p < 0.001). Sudden death was also related to feelings of anger (p < 0.05). Cancer diagnosis was negatively related to feelings of anger (p < 0.05) and guilt (p < 0.01). The findings from this study provide additional insight into the complexity of grief following pet euthanasia. For veterinary staff, anticipating the needs of pet owners and supporting them through the grief process is an integral role. Understanding which pet owners are at greatest risk of grief is an important initial step, followed by empathic communications, sensitive interactions, and the provision of grief support.

Date 2016
Publication Title Anthrozoƶs
Volume 29
Issue 3
Pages 421-430
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2016.1181362
URL https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2016.1181362
Language English
Author Address School of Social Work, University of Montana, Jeannette Rankin Hall 014, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.keith.anderson@umontana.edu
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Anthrozoology
  3. Cancer
  4. Death
  5. Diagnosis
  6. Euthanasia
  7. Human diseases and injuries
  8. Humans
  9. Interactions
  10. Interventions
  11. Mammals
  12. Men
  13. Non-communicable diseases and injuries
  14. objectives
  15. pathology
  16. Pets and companion animals
  17. predictions
  18. Primates
  19. Psychiatry and psychology
  20. Social psychology and social anthropology
  21. vertebrates
  22. Zoology