Caring for a terminally ill or geriatric pet can be a challenge, often involving special care routines, frequent veterinary visits, and intense worry. Knowing that the time you have left with your beloved pet is limited can cause stress and anxiety. You may find yourself hoping for a natural death, or the “perfect” death.
Many pet owners experience anticipatory grief at this stage of their pet’s journey. Anticipatory grief occurs prior to actually losing your pet, and consists of a range of emotions including fear, guilt, anxiety, and frustration. Anxiety surrounding the anticipation of death is normal, but allowing the anxiety to overwhelm you can interfere with your ability to enjoy the remaining time you have with your pet.
Being prepared for this stage of your pet’s life is the best way to deal with anticipatory grief, and help your pet. Begin preparing and planning for your pet’s passing by asking yourself the following questions:
How do I envision the last few moments of my pet's life?
Where do I want the last few moments to take place? Who should be present? Is there anything I don’t want to happen?
How do I feel about euthanasia?
Do I understand the process? Do I have questions for my vet?
What can I do now so I can look back and think, "This was the perfect passing?" and "I have no regrets?"
Are there any “bucket list” items I want to experience with my pet? What can I do to make my pet feel extra special?
While it’s extremely difficult to face the prospect of life without your pet, answering these questions will help you prepare as your pet’s time draws near. Thoughtful, advanced planning will help alleviate much of your anxiety so you can focus on providing your pet with compassionate physical care. Making your pet’s last days extra special, with lots of love, and their favorite toys, activities, and food also may ease your grieving heart.
If you are experiencing anticipatory grief, or find it difficult to answer the above questions, an in-home consultation with one of our veterinarians may be beneficial.