Helping Children Cope With Euthanasia Of The Family Pet

Written by Dr. Jennifer Merry

One of the saddest realities is that pets never live as long as we would like.  Inevitably there is going to be a time when the pet’s quality of life is such that humane euthanasia has to be planned. This can be made even harder when there are young children involved.

You know your children the best. So all decisions should be made taking their unique personalities and ages into account. This is not a “one size fits all” decision. Use words that your child will understand but be honest. Old fashioned ideas like “taking the dog to a farm” inevitably lead to problems in the future. What if the child wants to go visit?

Don’t use euphemisms like “put the dog to sleep”. Although you have probably heard it many times it can create fear in a young child – what if they need an anesthetic in the future and the doctor reassures them they will be “put to sleep” for the procedure?

Explain that dogs and cats age differently than humans and grow older faster. Her body is worn out and she is in pain. Or she is broken and can not be fixed.  Explain that she won’t be here to live with us anymore. Perhaps draw a picture together to go with your pet – we would be happy to include it with her.

If you are religious perhaps talk about how your pet will be happy and pain-free in heaven waiting for her friends.

You can take a special picture or we can provide a clay paw impression or plaque to create a special place where your child can go to remember the happy times.  Maybe under a favourite tree in the garden or beside the cat’s favourite chair.

There will be tears and sadness but don’t underestimate your kids. They understand more than you think. At Clappison Animal Hospital we are here to help if you have questions about how to make this difficult transition as easy as possible.