Pet Loss

Making the decision to end the suffering of your pet can be one of the most difficult and painful decisions you will ever make in your life. We have developed this guide to help you with this difficult decision.

If you are contemplating or may need to consider euthanasia, it is helpful to be aware of the resources available that can assist you with your decision. While this guide is comprehensive, it is not a substitute for the medical advice of your veterinarian. Please discuss your decisions, concerns and worries with your veterinarian. In this guide you will find information on:

Understanding Euthanasia & Loss
Cremation, Burial and Memorial Services
Pet Loss Support Services
Online Support Resources
Books on Pet Loss


Understanding Euthanasia & Loss

Many owners wish to be present for the euthanasia process and find that it helps to provide some closure at the end of their pet’s life. You have the option to be present during this process and to visit with your pet before and after the euthanasia for as long as you may need.

The euthanasia process involves the veterinarian administering a medication into the vein. This medication will cause a decrease in breathing, heart rate and neurologic function. The process is completely painless and takes less than one minute from the time of injection to end your pets suffering.

Prior to administration of this medication, we will want to be sure that your pet has an intravenous catheter in place in order ensure that the medication goes into the vein. Additionally, the veterinarian may administer a sedative medication prior to giving the euthanasia.

After your pet is euthanized, you may wish to have your pet’s remains cremated or to take the body home for a private burial. If you decide to have your pet’s remains cremated, BVNS will gladly coordinate and organize this for you while you mourn your loss.

We at BVNS are always trying to learn more from our patients in order to try and progress neurologic disease diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, we may request to obtain a partial post mortem examination in order to obtain tissue for further analysis and help to obtain a more definitive diagnosis. This procedure is optional, only performed with your permission and is free of charge.

The decision to euthanize your pet is never an easy one and it is important to know that your feelings of grief, sadness and fear are both normal and healthy. In addition to these resources, please seek the support of your friends, loved ones, support groups and healthcare professionals.

Here are several online articles that are very helpful:

When Your Pet is Sick
Deciding to Euthanize Your Pet
Common Grief Symptoms
Understanding Grief
Responding to Children’s Needs

Additional resources can be found at the website for the Argus Institute, a part of Colorado State University.

In addition to these resources, below is a list of resources related to cremation, burial and memorial services, local and national grief support along with a list of books that might be helpful.

Cremation, Burial, and Memorial Services

Sugarloaf Pet Gardens – Barnesville, MD
Sunset Pet Services – Alexandria, VA

Remembrance & Memorialization

Life Gem created Diamonds
Paws & Remember
Peartree Studio
Pet Memorial Jewelry

Pet Loss Support and Hotlines

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone: 800.273.TALK (8255)

A free, 24-hour support line available to anyone in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis.

Pet Loss Support Group in Ashburn – Ashburn Psychological Services
Location: 44110 Ashburn Shopping Plaza, Suite 251, Ashburn, VA 20147 (handicap accessible)
Phone: 571-278-9162
Meets Every Third Tuesday of the Month from 7-8 PM

Pet Bereavement Group at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter
Location: 14645 Rothgeb Drive, Rockville, MD – Dr. Mary Knipmeyer
Phone: (301) 279-1077
Meets on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. Free but reservations are required by the preceding Friday.

Pet Bereavement Support Group sponsored by the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
Location: Vola Lawson Animal Shelter, 4101 Eisenhower Ave, Alexandria, Virginia.
Phone: (703) 838.4774, extension 225
Meets on the first Wednesday of every month in the community room. A licensed grief counselor facilitates the group.

Pet Loss Support Group at Fairfax County Animal Shelter 
Location: 4500 West Ox Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: Please call Cathy Reiter at (703) 830-1100
Meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 PM.

Grief Counseling Discussion Group

Grief Counseling Discussion Group with Doctor Barbara Kohl – A small discussion group meeting in Annapolis with the goal of imparting information, understanding and comfort for people who have lost a beloved pet companion.  An experienced psychologist specializing in grief counseling (for loss of pets or people) will lead the discussions. Please contact Mr. Andy Furtado of CVRC at 410-224-0121 about details of times and topics.

Pet Loss Support Online Chat and Telephone Hotlines

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
On-line Pet Loss Chats: Monday, Wednesday, & Friday nights from 8 – 10pm and Sunday afternoon from 2 – 4pm (EST). Anticipatory Bereavement Chat is available on Thursday nights from 8-10pm (EST)

Local Telephone Hotlines

PAL: People Animals Love Pet Loss Comfort Line
Phone: (202)-966-2171. Leave a message if calling after hours. Your phone call will be returned promptly.

Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: 540-231-8038
Available to answer calls Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 – 9pm. Messages may be left at this number during other times and Hot Line personnel will call you back during operating hours.  All information is strictly confidential.

National Telephone Hotlines

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone: 800.273.TALK (8255)
A free, 24-hour support line available to anyone in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Phone: 1-877-GRIEF-10 (1-877-474-3310) – This is a direct line to ASPCA’s psychologist and grief counselor, Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, PhD.

Chicago Veterinary Medical Association

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: 607-253-3932
Hours: 6pm – 9pm (EST), Tuesday – Thursday

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University 
Phone: 508-839-7966
Hours: 6pm – 9pm (EST), Monday – Friday during the academic year. Hours vary in the summer, please call for more information.

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: 1-888-478-7574 (toll-free)
Hours: 6pm – 9pm (CST), Monday through Sunday from September through April and on Wednesday and Friday from May through August.

Michigan State University
Phone: 517-432-2696
Hours: 6:30pm – 9:30pm (EST), Tuesday through Thursday and Tuesday/Thursday during the summer

University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: 352-392-4700, ext. 4080
Calls returned 7pm – 9pm, EST

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: 877-394-CARE (toll-free) or 217-244-CARE (local)
Hours: 7pm – 9pm (CST), Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday

University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: 865-755-8839
Hours: 9am – 6pm (EST), Monday through Friday
Offer support groups, art therapy, and individual, couple, and family counseling services.

Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: 540-231-8038
6pm – 9pm, EST, Tues and Thursday

Washington State University
Phone: 866-266-8635 or 509-335-5704
Hours: 7pm – 9pm, Monday through Thursday and 1pm – 3pm (PST) on Saturday during each semester. During other times of the year, messages and emails will be checked once daily from Monday through Thursday and Saturday.

Online Resources

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Foundation Pet Loss Library
Argus Institute, Colorado State University
The Delta Society – the Human-Animal Health Connection
Pet Loss Grief Support and Candle Ceremony

Books

Montgomery, M., & Montgomery, H. (2000). Forever in my heart remembering my pet’s life. Minneapolis, MN: Montgomery Press.
Montgomery, M., & Montgomery, H. (2000). I remember a book about my special pet. Minneapolis, MN: Montgomery Press.
Sife, W. (2005). The loss of a pet. Hoboken, NJ: Howell Books.
Traisman, E. S. (1996). My personal pet remembrance journal. Portland, OR: Dove; Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital.
Online book Compiled by The San Francisco SPCA. Losing a Best Friend An outstanding list of books for children about the topic of losing a pet can be found here: http://aplb.org/resources/books.html