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Compassion. Advice. Support. 

Office Hours 8:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Saturday  (AEST)
Vet Consulting Hours 8:00am – 8:00pm 7 days

Home Euthanasia and End of Life Care 

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Sunset Vets_Pet Loss Guilt

Did I make the right decision?

Was there anything else I could have or should have done?

Did I act too quickly?

The pain of pet loss can be overwhelming and the above questions and the feeling of guilt following pet euthanasia is a complicated, but very normal factor of grief and loss.

Following the euthanasia of a beloved pet, amongst the normal waves of grief, many pet owners can sadly also find themselves experiencing further suffering by questioning or doubting their decisions. This can happen even when the decision was clearly in the pet’s best interest, and no matter the scenario, love and loss can leave us susceptible to ‘could haves’, ‘should haves’ and second-guessing decisions made.

Why do we feel guilty following a loss?

Guilt can unfortunately present itself in a range of ways and it stems from grief. Instead of focusing on all the love and quality we contributed to our pet’s life, we find ourselves second-guessing everything. We may agonise over what other course of treatment we could or should have explored or whether we acted too quickly or not quickly enough. Did our pet suffer unnecessarily due to our unwillingness to say goodbye?

We might even find ourselves feeling guilty about how we behaved while our pet was alive telling ourselves ‘I could have spent more time with him’ or ‘If only I had given her more attention’. Whilst some levels of guilt can be a normal emotion, unhealthy levels of guilt or prolonged guilt, can be a cause for concern.

Saying goodbye to your pet

Even the most responsible and doting pet owners can find themselves engaging in self-blame. Grief is a process, and everyone recovers from loss in their own ways and in their own time. Below we’ve included some advice if you find yourself struggling with guilt over the loss of a cherished pet.

How to manage grief

Psychologist Laura Grace, from the University of Queensland Psychology Clinic, says, “It’s important to avoid thinking that involves words such as ‘should’, ‘could have’, or ‘what if’”. She says to keep in mind that we all have these kinds of unhelpful thoughts from time to time, but you can choose to not give them more attention or power than they deserve. Go easy on yourself and stop the critical self-talk. When you feel negative thoughts creeping in, break the cycle by telling yourself to stop. These thoughts are not a good use of your energy and are not helping anyone. Instead, try and reframe your self-talk and stop mentally rehearsing the guilt. Treat yourself with the same degree of love and acceptance your pet gave you and you gave them. You could even try imagining what you would say to a friend who is going through this and direct that towards yourself.

Pet Loss Guilt

Another great option is to reach out for support. Externalising your thoughts/feelings with someone supportive can help provide an objective view and a healthy outlet. Speaking with a friend or family member about how you’re feeling is a great option. Alternatively, seeking out the support of a grief counsellor who specialises in pet loss may be beneficial to you.

Sunset Vets offers complimentary counselling and support at any stage through the grieving process and this includes supporting you through the difficult process of letting go.

Remember, above all, that you were doing the best you could under the difficult circumstances you were presented with. The reality is that at-home euthanasia allows your pet to pass peacefully with the assistance of a compassionate professional. The decision is often heart-wrenching, but it will ultimately bring dignity, respect and peace to your furry family member who deserves nothing but the best. Euthanasia is known as ‘the good death’. It’s about a final act of love and grace to a pet that is lacking the quality of life they deserve to have.

For information on Sunset Vets counselling and support options CLICK HERE.

Sunset Vets Palliative and End of Life Care

Sunset Vets is a dedicated end-of-life and palliative care service for pets. Our veterinarians are available to support families with in-home care 7 days a week by prior appointment. Get in touch for more information about how we can help.