Grieving the loss of pet is always hard

Published 5:14 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

I was in my office sorta working on taxes, when I got a push notification from Facebook that Guardian Animal had been tagged in a post.
Since I had filed my extension and didn’t really want to be working on taxes, I clicked the link.
With the recent bashing by folks who had not been in the clinic, my heart rate rose a bit.
It went even higher when I opened the link to read a few profanities and see our blue tag. There were also photos of a boxer cross dog with nasal oxygen.
I didn’t recognize the dog! That is unheard of for me.
Owners? Yeah, you better be saying which pet you have when you meet me out and about, but dogs?
I always know them. I did not recognize Dexter.
But as I read the awful things, the owner was saying, I realized that Dexter had been euthanized after a complex surgery. I looked in our records and found no Dexter or his owners.
As a veterinarian, one of the most difficult aspects of our work is dealing with pet loss. It’s a heart-wrenching reality that we face daily.
For most of us, our pets are not just animals; they’re family members, and we love them just as much as any human being. Therefore, when I hear about cases like Dexter’s, it hits me hard.
Turns out we were tagged in an angry post by pet owners from New York about a Guardian Animal Hospital.
However, we are Guardian Animal Medical Center located in Kentucky, and we were not involved in that situation. Nonetheless, it brought to light an issue that we confront too often — pet grieving.
Dexter, a beloved pet, underwent major esophagus surgery but later developed aspiration pneumonia.
The treatment was possible, but it would have cost $20,000, which the owners couldn’t afford. They were forced to make the difficult decision to euthanize him. It’s a tough situation for anyone to face, and we empathize with the owners’ pain and sadness.
As veterinarians, we strive to do everything in our power to save and heal our furry patients.
However, we also have to be realistic and understand that some treatments may not be feasible due to financial constraints or the pet’s overall health.
In Dexter’s case, the treatment would have required oxygen and a ventilator for days, and even with the best medical care, success was predicted to be unlikely.
It’s crucial to understand that grieving is a natural and normal process that we all go through when we lose someone we love.
According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief, we experience denial, anger (or guilt), bargaining, depression, and acceptance or resolution. This final step often includes a new pet.
Although these stages aren’t linear and don’t always occur in a specific order, they do provide insight into the grieving process.
In my book, I provide resources for pet owners who are grieving. It’s crucial to remember that pets are our best support during times of loss, but unfortunately, we don’t have them with us during the grieving process.
However, we can always cherish the memories we have with them and honor their lives by doing good in the world.
I reached out to them and provided some insight and some resources for their all-too-common grief. They thanked me and removed the tag.
The loss of a pet is never easy, and it’s something that we as veterinarians understand all too well.
We empathize with the owners of Dexter and hope that they find peace in their memories of him.
For anyone going through a similar situation, please know that you are not alone and there are resources available to help you through this difficult time.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. 606-928-6566

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