Unfortunately we hear stories from upset pet owners that cannot stop second guessing their decision to have their pet euthanised. There is no doubt that these owners very much loved and cherished their departed companions. Their motivation to have their pet euthanised was to ensure that their pet didn’t suffer. Understandably many pet owners feel guilty having their pets euthanised.
This brings to mind a customer that shared her experience of having her dog Sheba euthanised. Sheba was a 13 year old mixed breed dog; unfortunately Sheba had a cancerous tumour that had spread throughout her abdomen and stomach. The tumour was making it difficult for her to go to the bathroom, to eat or walk.
Sarah (her owner), described how Sheba was the best dog ever and of course Sarah was correct – Sheba was the best dog (everyone’s dog is the best dog). She described the almost telepathic connection that they shared. Sheba just knew when Sarah was upset and needed comfort.
This is what Sarah had to say about the actual euthanasia:
“I was in the room when the Vet euthanised Sheba. No way was I going to leave Sheba on her own in the vet’s office whilst she was being put to sleep. As I felt the life leave her, I kissed her head and hoped that Sheba knew how much I loved her.”
Sarah explained to me how she keeps replaying the scene over and over trying to recall every single moment of the euthanasia:
“I just feel guilty that there wasn’t anything else that we could do for Sheba. Why am I so preoccupied with remembering every detail? I just want Sheba to know that I did everything possible to let her know I wasn’t abandoning her and that I loved her dearly.
I feel that I am being melodramatic – it’s not as if losing a pet is as bad as losing a child.”
Sarah’s decision to euthanise Sheba came from a place of love
Sarah’s decision came from a place of love. Consquently, Sarah was left with feelings of guilt. It must have been so hard to watch Sheba lose her independence. Losing her ability to eat, to walk and to go to the bathroom, would have caused Sheba a lot of distress and reduced her quality of life.
Coping with guilt after pet euthanasia
It will always be a heart wrenching choice to have your pet euthanised. It’s all too easy to second guess whether you made the right decision. However, it is important to remember that the decision to euthanise an ill pet was to stop the pet from suffering. You may find this article on coping with pet loss helpful.
Why are the feelings of pet loss so strong?
Sarah described a common reaction to pet loss – the feeling that her grief was somehow invalid. Not only was she feeling guilty because of the euthanasia, she was questioning the strength of her emotions when she said:
“It’s not as if losing a pet is as bad as losing a child.”
Our pets rely on us for food, exercise, shelter, companionship and medical care. When you consider this and that pets give us their unconditional love, it becomes easier to see why we have such a strong attachment with our pets. This goes a long way to explain why the feelings of pet loss are so strong.
Society doesn’t always recognise pet loss
Sarah, like many owners, may have felt that she shouldn’t have been feeling such strong emotions after losing her dog. Society doesn’t always recognise the impact that the loss of a pet can have on a person. All too often people try to minimise what has happened. Statements such as, ‘you can always get another one’ or ‘she was only a pet’ highlight how some people don’t understand the strength of the bond between the pet and owner.
If you find yourself wondering how you can best support someone that is grieving for their pet this article may help: tips to comfort a grieving pet parent
Feeling guilty after euthanising your beloved pet is common. It is important to remember that you had your pet’s best interests in mind. There can be no doubt that you still love your pet. This will help you with the healing process that you need to go through.
You may also find relief in sharing your story. You can do this by speaking with family members or by creating an online tribute to your pet. If you need support you could also speak with the Blue Cross support line.