Caring for Your Dying Pet

Sad Dog

Pets are our best friends and often become family. Their love is generally unconditional. They love us so much we can’t help but love them back. They are almost more human than some people we meet.

The last days of your pet’s life are hard. One day you notice things are changing. Your friend or companion is not as strong as before. He can’t move as fast. There is weight loss and perhaps blindness. You know the inevitable is coming. Still there is time.

Veterinary costs can often be a full day’s wages. For some people, it is three or four day’s wages, for a single visit. It is worth it, but not everyone can afford it. Don’t blame yourself if you can’t. Medicine can only prolong the life that must end anyway. If veterinarian visits are out of the question, just be there for your pet and keep them as comfortable as possible. Give them extra time and love. Cut out unnecessary activities, so you have more time at home.

If you can afford the veterinarian, you have taken your pet several times over the years. Maybe she needs medicine or a prescription diet. The cost of prescription food is considerable. Even worse, if you have other animals, they may want to eat it too. Maybe your sick friend still prefers the old food. It’s definitely a challenge sorting that out.

Time passes. Maybe something happens, or the veterinarian gives you the news. Your pet is now in the advanced stage of an irreversible terminal disease. The reality hits hard. Your eyes swell with tears. You now know time is short. You can already feel the loss.

Many people can’t face this sorrow and try to avoid it. When the owners can’t face the pain, the pet is left alone or ignored. It dies lonely, on its own, with food and water provided, but with little human companionship. This is a big mistake. This is when your companion needs you the most. Don’t neglect her now. Your pet has served you and loved you for years and you need to reward her for her love and service.

You only have a limited amount of precious time left. You need to talk to her more, pet her more, and tell her she is still beautiful to you, no matter how sickly she may look. Tell your pet how glad you are they came into your life and how you would never change it. Some pets will understand. They will in the least feel your love for them. Again, this is the time to cut out unnecessary activities. You need to be home more with your beloved. Some animals as they get closer to death will cling to you more and more. Give them the time and attention.

The last days are a time of both joy and sorrow. The joy is knowing you have them for another day. There is joy in seeing they are still eating and still drinking.  You find joy in seeing they can still move around. The sorrow is knowing things could change suddenly. Any day things could turn worse. There is sorrow knowing they are eating less. The worst sorrow is you know they will soon die. But again, don’t punish your pet because of how hard it is for you. You need to face the pain and be there for them. Give them your time. Give them your love. Hug them. Hold them. Lie down beside them. You won’t regret it.

We all wish the best for them. We wish they would pass peacefully in their sleep from old age before any suffering starts. How happy that would make us. Often that is not the case. Sometimes it seems your pet is hanging onto life only because he loves you so much and does not want to leave you. Still, you must make a decision – natural death vs. euthanizing. Depending on your philosophy, religion, and culture you will choose. Even not choosing is a choice.

In countries such as the U.S., many believe in not letting the animal suffer. Many say euthanizing a pet before they suffer, “is the last best thing you can do for them.” Other cultures have different views.

What is best – I don’t know. Either way is heartbreaking.  Still, either way, whatever your view, just be there for them and keep them as comfortable as possible until the end. The best gifts you can give to your dying pet is your time, your attention, and your love. You will never regret it if you do. If you give them time, attention, and love, you will never experience the guilt of “I wish I had done more.”

A pet’s last days teaches us much. Similar to when a loved one or a  family member is dying, we consider what is important in life. We realize some of the things we valued, are not as important as we thought. We see how selfish we have been with our time, how we may have ignored our pet in the past, and also ignored our loved ones. We remember our loved ones who have died. We realize we too will die. We realize the loved ones we ignore because we are so busy in our daily struggles will die also.

Our dying pets help us realize what truly matters – other beings and how we treat each other. In a world of thoughtless and cruel people, our pets are often the ones to show forgiveness and unconditional love beyond what any person we ever meet will show us. They teach us that we should be more like them. They show us what is more important in life. It is other beings and how we relate to each other that is more important than the material things we slave for our entire lives. They show us where we need to change. We need to give up our petty quests. We need to quit judging others. We need to love others and our loved ones more.

If you believe in reincarnation, you may wonder if you and your pet were together in a past life. You may wish that if you both have more lives, you will be together again. You may wish that someday you both be liberated and can clearly remember the present relationship and laugh and share the joy again. If you don’t believe in reincarnation, you may wish you could be rejoined in the afterlife as human and pet. It’s alright to think silly things. Your pet loves you just as much.

Your pet is dying. Now is the time to be strong.  Be there for your loyal friend. Make sure they are loved and as comfortable as possible. Do what is in your heart and know they loved you and that you loved them back as best you could. There is no better way to honor your special friend than to give them the extra time, attention, and love they want in their dying days. Be strong and honor them. Comfort them and know you did your best. Your pet is worth it.

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