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Eine Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahme einer deutschen Dogge im Winter.

The dog has died - saying farewell to your dear pet

The dog bed is empty. There’s no one left to play ball or go for a walk with. Your four-legged companion has passed away – a time of deep sorrow and emotional turmoil for pet owners. The death of a dog is a particularly painful event, because the bond that develops between canines and humans over the years is extremely strong and personal. To top it all off, there are urgent practical decisions to be made: what should be done with the dog’s body? Read here what you should know when the day comes.

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After a long illness or unexpectedly: why did the dog die?

Coping with the death of a dog is difficult in itself, but the cause of death has a significant impact on both the grieving process and the strategies that can help you cope with the loss. If the dog is very old or suffering from an illness that is difficult or impossible to treat, you have time to come to terms with the situation and say goodbye. Radiate as much calm as possible to make your dog feel safe.

Cause of death of your four-legged friend

  • Old age: when a dog is old and its natural lifespan is coming to an end, the ideal scenario for all parties involved is for the animal to die a natural death.
  • Euthanasia: if the dog is ill and all treatment options have been exhausted, bringing it to the vet can be a final act of love for your four-legged friend. This is also an option you should consider if your pet is in unbearable pain due to age-related impairment.
  • Fatal accidents on the other hand, are a situation where you, as a pet owner, have not had time to prepare yourself emotionally to say goodbye to your dog. An accidental death therefore hits much harder.
  • Other complications: poisoning, serious injuries and the like often present dog owners with a difficult choice. Depending on the situation, a decision must be made between treatment measures that may potentially prolong the animal’s suffering with an uncertain outcome, and euthanasia. A difficult conundrum with many factors to consider.

Dead animals and vets: when your pet needs to be put to sleep

As described above, there are situations where euthanasia by a qualified vet is an ethical way to assist the dog in dying. No dog owner makes this decision lightly, and it isn’t the most pleasant aspect of a veterinarian’s job either. However, you should be aware that by putting your pet to sleep, you are ending their suffering. In a situation where there is no other viable option for the animal, self-blame is neither appropriate nor necessary. If you notice that your elderly dog is withdrawing and losing its zest for life, get comprehensive advice from your vet about the situation and the right time. The vet will take the time to understand your personal situation and give you sound advice. A professionally performed euthanasia is painless for the dog: a combination of a sedative and a strong dose of anaesthetic ensures that the animal dies in its sleep. To avoid causing your dog stress in its final hours, you should find out whether the euthanasia can be performed in its familiar surroundings. Many vets provide this service as a home visit.

The final hours – coping with grief and loss

From a human perspective, it’s unclear whether dogs “understand” what dying is. As the owner, it is your responsibility to ensure a peaceful end for your dying four-legged companion. The most important thing is to radiate calm, even if the end comes under dramatic circumstances. Prepare yourself mentally for this emergency during untroubled times: find someone you can rely on to be by your side; decide in advance whether you want to be present when your pet is put to sleep and what should happen with the remains.

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In an emergency, it may feel overwhelming to have to make a decision on the spot. It is not easy to comfort the bereaved, as every person grieves differently. Talking to other pet owners who have been through the same thing can be of great help. Young children who have no concept of “death” often find it helpful to imagine that the family pet has gone to a “dog’s paradise”, while older children may find comfort in rituals such as a burial with a gravestone to have a place to visit and mourn their dog.

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