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Preparing for the end of your Pets Life


created at: 2010/09/23

How does one prepare for the end of their pets life?

Preparing for the death of a much loved pet often involves coming to realise that part of our initial ‘yes’ to pet ownership involves seeing our pets life cycle from beginning through to its completion.

In most cases, our lives will continue past our pets- this is most true in relation to our children.  One of the best ways of being prepared is write down what is important to you about how you care for your pet as they age and approach the end of their lives.

You are the person who knows them the best and, with the appropriate information, can oversee and manage the care that’s best for both of you. Many people feel that speaking about their pet dying before it is actually happening is a bad omen - which it will ‘sing it in’ or hasten it. This fear and anticipation is entirely understandable, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Being informed – reading, researching (embedded links to resources- articles, books, services) speaking to your vet and other pet owners who have cared for an aging pet and managed a dignified dying process, before you are in the midst of it, is perhaps the greatest practical gift you can give yourselves and your pet. The lines between aging, ill health and dying are not necessarily clear and require a collaborative approach with all facets of your pets care- medical, emotional, holistic.

As humans preparing for the completions of our lives, we are encouraged to think through and make Advance Health Care Directives about what sort of medical care we want to undergo in the event of our inability to communicate for ourselves. To think along similar lines for our pets is a natural extension of our duty of care towards them. You only get one opportunity to respond to and care for your pet in a way that is completely fitting to the unconditional love they have shown you throughout their life.

Quality and quantity of life are complex to negotiate and often result in facing the questions of euthanasia (embedded link). Some of the steps to complete before arriving at those questions are to know what principles govern and underscore how you care for your pet as their lives come towards their completions.

Some principles to get you started

  • What have your pets given you in their lives?
  • How can you give this to them as you care for them?
  • What are the elements in your pets’ life that you will safeguard and protect?
  • What is sustainable for you in their care- practically- i.e. time, who else can share the care with you, emotionally and financially?
  • When it is time to contemplate the end of life choices for your pet, these next questions can also be of enormous benefit. Use them as talking points with your partner, family members and your vet.
  • What does a good death look like for your pet?
  • What are your fears about their death- for you and for them?
  • In what ways will you farewell and honour your pet?
  • In the time after they have died, what will be important to you about how it was carried out?

These questions, although deeply sad and sometimes confronting, will enable you to make the most of the valuable time you have with your pet as their lives are ending and you are faced with the reality of living without them. The significance of this time and the attention to detail, the stories shared, the love expressed, in full knowledge that you are facilitating and witnessing the end of a life of a being you love, will be enormously comforting as you grieve them.

Victoria Spence