Handling a pet’s illness

A pet is a beloved member of your family. When a terminal illness hits, it can be traumatic and stressful for everyone. Here’s some advice on how to handle it.

Dog at the vet

Be informed

As with every life situation, the more information you have, the better equipped you are to handle it, and a pet’s illness is no exception. Once the diagnosis has been made, take the time to do some research and gain valuable knowledge that will help you cope and make the appropriate choices throughout the progression of the illness. Discuss the diagnosis and treatment options with your vet, get a second opinion if necessary, hit the library or search the internet and talk to friends who have been in a similar situation. Do everything you can to keep yourself informed.

Make the most of the time you have

It’s tough knowing you have a limited amount of time left with your pet. The waiting period will be painful, as you know what’s coming is inevitable. While you should allow yourself to feel and work through your emotions, it’s important to keep in the moment and enjoy quality time with your pet. It’s OK to feel sad, but don’t let it overwhelm you and cause you to distance yourself from your pet; doing so will only lead to feelings of regret or guilt. Instead, spend extra time with them, doing the things they love so you keep their last moments happy ones for you both.

Include the family

This is a difficult situation for your whole family, so be sure to include your children, as they should have the opportunity to enjoy time with their pet before having to say goodbye. How and when to tell a child their pet has a terminal disease can be a tough call, but it’s imperative to be honest and keep the conversation real. Use simple language geared toward the age of your child, and be prepared for any questions they might have or any emotion they might display. Your child could be feeling many emotions, such as frustration, fear, guilt and anger, so be there to reassure them and help them deal with the situation. Encourage your child to follow as much of a normal routine with your pet as possible and to provide comfort to the ailing animal. It can also help the whole family to take extra photos and create special mementoes, such as a scrapbook or journal book of everyone’s memories.

Letting go

As time goes on, eventually a point will come when a decision needs to be made. It won’t be an easy one, but when you’ve done everything you can to prolong the life of your pet, and the quality of his life is suffering, it may be time to the consider the alternative. Putting your pet to sleep is a personal decision based on the progression of the illness and the love you feel for your pet. Discuss your pet’s condition with your vet, and if the disease has progressed to a point where your pet is experiencing so much pain he’s unable to enjoy life, it’s time to let go and end the suffering.

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