There is no doubt that the hardest part of loving a pet is the inevitable goodbye at the end of their beautiful, but far-too-short lives. When faced with the death of a pet, the options and decisions can feel overwhelming for pet families.
While it is painful to imagine losing your pet, pre-planning can reduce the anxiety that comes with the “what ifs”. It allows you to consider what is most important to your family and decreases the chance that you’ll be faced with stressful, unfamiliar, and last-minute decisions.
Benefits of pre-planning:
- Lessens the number of difficult decisions that need to be made later at an emotional and overwhelming time
- Provides an opportunity for family discussion so that everyone’s wishes can be heard, which can decrease later conflict.
- Reduces the opportunity for regret or guilt about what you wish you would have done.
- Creates time for important logistics such as budgeting and financial planning, communicating with loved ones or professionals, and coordinating family schedules.
- Allows you the time to slow down and reflect on what is most important to you and your pet and gives you the space to make decisions that honor their life and the bond that you share.
There are many ways to approach pre-planning, but we encourage families to think about and discuss their options before they are imminent and necessary – whether that is at the time of a difficult diagnosis, the first signs of a changing quality of life, or even as a pet simply ages. Include all members of the pet’s family if possible and have an honest conversation about your hopes for your pet’s end-of-life.
Preplanning topics to discuss:
- Your pet’s quality of life and what matters most to them and you. You may consider creating a bucket list for your pet or documenting their favorite things in photos or journals. This will be important for memorializing but is also helpful to be aware of as you monitor changes in their quality of life and daily routine.
- Medical decisions around treatments, palliative/hospice care, and euthanasia, and the resources and information you may need now, such as costs and scheduling options.
- Emergency plans in case your pet’s condition worsens quickly and treatment or in-home euthanasia is no longer available. Consider where you would take your pet if it’s short-notice or after-hours and whether you would need help from a friend or family member.
- Aftercare and cremation choices, such as burial, communal cremation or private cremation
- Memorializing your pet. This may include writing an obituary, conducting a remembrance ceremony or funeral, and creating memorial items such as clay paw prints or fur clippings.
- How you plan to take care of yourself as you grieve. After the loss of your pet, consider what your family can do to make space for and honor your grief. This may include identifying resources ahead of time, planning for a day away from work, or letting your friends and family know how they can help.
- If you have kids, you can also plan how you will talk with them and support their grief during and after the loss. For example, finding books to help explain what’s happening, letting their teachers know in advance, or planning memorialization activities that include them.
Every pet and family are unique and planning ahead offers a meaningful opportunity to honor the beautiful bond you share. While it’s not easy to imagine saying goodbye, considering these arrangements in advance is a brave and selfless gift you can give your pet, your family, and yourself.
We encourage you to use the resources available on our website and to reach out to us if you need support at any step in the process.