What to Say When a Pet Passes Away

Pet Rainbow Bridge

Pet Rainbow BridgeDeath is never an easy thing and it can be really hard to know how to support someone. When a pet dies, it can be even harder to know what to say. Do you ask what happened? Do you try to find out how upset they are? Do you ask if they had to euthanize? How do you offer support?

We have been with many people as they helped their pet cross the rainbow bridge. We have been there when they decide to euthanize, and we have been there when they allow nature to take its course. Neither path is easy and at Albuquerque Vetco we understand how difficult it can be to lose a pet family member.  Here is some advice from our experience to you.

Never Underestimate the Emotional Impact

The first thing is to never underestimate the emotional impact of a pet passing away. Yes, they are a pet. Yes, they are an animal. But that doesn’t mean that they have any less emotional importance to their person than a human family member passing away. Pet’s are a part of the family, and depending on how close the person was to the pet, their pet could have been an incredibly close member of the family.  The way someone mourns a pet is no different than the way they mourn the loss of a human. They will still go through the 5 stages of grief.

Take Cues from The Grieving

Everyone grieves in their own way. The best way to know how to respond is to take cues from the person grieving. If they don’t seem very upset and are very matter of a fact, just offer simple condolences such as, “I am so sorry for you loss.”  If they seem really upset, maybe try to offer some more emotional support, such as asking them if they want to talk about it. If you know they were really close to their pet, offer to help them with a pet funeral, or to take them to lunch to offer emotional support. Don’t ask if there is anything you can do because most people won’t have an answer for that, even if they do need help. It is better to offer specific support, such as a meal, or helping with the remains.

Don’t Ask Too Much

Don’t ask the grieving a lot of questions, they may not be ready to talk about it. When you are offering your condolence, you can prompt them to talk by asking if they would like to talk about it. But if they don’t, then don’t push. If they are ready to discuss what happened, they will. Don’t ask if they had to euthanize, because that can be a very emotionally sensitive topic about whether they did or didn’t. A lot of people question if they made the right decision, if they waited too long, if they should have euthanized but didn’t. Asking can also put them, emotionally, back in the moment of their pets passing and they may not want to discuss it just yet. They will reveal as much, or as little, as they feel comfortable with about the details surrounding their pets passing.

Be a Shoulder to Cry On

You don’t always have to talk. When someone tells you their pet passed away, offer your condolences, but if they don’t want to talk about it don’t push them too. Sometimes just sitting with someone is the best kind of support you can offer. Hold their hand, put your arm around their shoulder, give them a long hug, or just sit next to them and share space. Comfort does not have to come in the form of words.

How Long Do People Grieve

There is no time frame for grief. Some people grieve very quickly and others take a long time. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Do no judge someone on how they grieve or for how long. It is about what is right for them. You just need to be a support for them.

If you have any questions about what can be done for a pet that has passed, please see our pet aftercare resources.

Myths About Winter That Could Endanger Your Dog

winter dogs

winter dogsWinter can be a dangerous time for pets. There are a lot of unseen dangers and misunderstood thing about pets that can put them in harms way unintentionally. Let’s debunk these myths so our pups stay warm and safe this winter.

Myth 1: Fleas don’t come in the winter.

Albuquerque does not get cold enough to ever be free of fleas. We have fleas year round. Do not stop your Frontline Flea and Tick prevention treatment, you will be making your pet vulnerable to a flea infestation.

Myth 2: My dog doesn’t need a sweater

Sweaters are not just for fashion, most dogs need an extra layer of warmth to ward off the cold. Some arctic breeds such as huskies and malamutes have thick undercoats designed to keep them warmer in winter months, but short hair breeds get really cold in the winter. Sweaters are a good idea to help keep your dog warmer, but booties are a good idea as well. Booties keep their feet warm and protected from ice and salt.

Myth 3: Dehydration is a Summer Issue

Your dog can get dehydrated any time of year, and it is never any less dangerous. Often dogs get dehydrated in the winter because their water is too cold to drink or it is frozen. Make sure your dog has access to warm fresh water at all times.

Myth 4: My Dog Doesn’t Need to Be Dried Off

Water on your dogs skin takes away their natural body head. It will helps prevent them from being able to heat themselves up when they get cold. This can lead to them getting sick, or getting hypothermia. Using jackets for your dog during wet cold weather can help keep them dryer when they are outside. But if they do get wet, make sure to dry them off with a warm towel. If their body temperature drops a lot, you can warm them up with a warm bath and then dry them off when done.

Myth 5: Pets Store Fat to Keep Warm

We all like to think we fatten up in the winter to keep warm. The real reason most of us fatten up is because we eat the same but get less exercise. This is true of pets too. If your pet lives outdoors, you need to increase their food by 10-15% because they are burning more calories just trying to stay warm, while indoor pets can have their food reduced because the are burning fewer calories because they aren’t exercising as much.

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Your Pets

cold safety albuquerque vet

cold safety albuquerque vetIt looks like Albuquerque may be in for a cold winter. Make sure you follow these safety tips to help keep your pets safe from the cold. Though Albuquerque doesn’t often stay below freezing, it can drop down in the 2o’s and even teens. If you are up in the foothills or on the East side of the mountain, temperatures around 0 are not unheard of. Add in some wind chill and it can be deadly for pets.

Cold Weather Tips for Indoor Pets

  • If it is below freezing, you should only let your dogs outside to go to the bathroom. Cats should be kept in at all times.
  • Remove all salt, ice and mud from your pets paws and fur. Caked mud can keep them cold. Caked on salt should be washed off your pets paws. The salt can dry out their pads and cause cracking of the pad which can lead to infection. Putting booties on your pet can prevent any salt, sand, ice, or mud from building up on their feet.
  • You can put petroleum jelly on your pets paws to help protect their feet from the ice and salt. It easily wipes off when they come home.
  • Keep your pet bed in a warm area of the house, avoid cold or drafty areas. You don’t like to sleep with a draft and neither do they.
  • You may want to reduce their food in the winter to prevent weight gain. Talk to your Albuquerque vet about issues with reduced exercise and weight gain during the winter.

Cold Weather Tips for Outdoor Pets

  • Provide your dog with a dog house so they can get a break from the cold or wind. You can put in a nice bed, some blankets, or straw to help keep it warm in the doghouse.  Make sure you read our blog about insulating your dog house, as Albuquerque law requires that you insulate your dog houses.
  • Indoor pets often need to have their food intake reduced in the winter because they don’t get as much exercise cooped up inside. Outdoor pets need more because they burn more calories just trying to stay warm.
  • Regularly check for frostbite on your pets paws and ears.
  • Give them fresh water regularly and remove any ice from their water bowl. We recommend getting an insulated water bowl or a heated water bowl.
  • Always check your car engine for your cat. Cats love to sleep where it is warm and often that is inside the engine compartment. If you start your car with your cat inside the engine compartment it could kill your cat.
  • Watch out for hypothermia in your pet: weak pulse, lethargy, dilated pupils, decreased heart rate, extreme shivering, pale or blue gums, body temperature below 95 degrees, unconsciousness, coma.

If you are concerned about your pet’s health and the cold weather, talk to your Albuquerque vet.