"It's the price we pay for loving them."
Cheryl Weber, JD, a client counselor specialist at the University of Illinois' veterinary college, adds that client grief is real.
Consequently, the range of emotions following a sudden death or euthanasia of a pet is very comparable to the loss of a loved person.
She should know. With more than 10 years of experience in human hospitals and hospice centers, Weber says understanding the faces of grief can help veterinarians deal with clients' suffering from the emotional pain of death.
"So often the pet has helped them get through a rough time in their life or the pet has offered an important source of support," she adds.
Client reactions closely model Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' 1969 work on death, including these stages:
There are differences in the way humans mourn the loss of people and pets. Consider how many rituals accompany the death of a person. "In human grief there are funerals, visitations, days off of work. Pet owners don't have that luxury, and pet owners end up right back at work where people can say insensitive things."
It's also important for veterinarians to help clients grieve in healthy ways. To this end, one strategy is to build rituals to help clients say goodbye.
Other considerations include:
Pet loss resources
University of California-Davis: (530) 752-3602 or (800) 565-1526 www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu
University of Florida: (352) 392-4700 www.vetmed.ufl.edu/vmth
Michigan State University: (517) 432-2696 http://cvm.msu.edu/petloss/index.htm
Chicago Veterinary Medical Association: (630) 325-1600
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: (540) 231-8038.
The Ohio State University: (614) 292-1823.
Tufts University: (508) 839-7966. www.tufts.edu/vet/petloss/
Iowa State University: (888) ISU-PLSH (888-478-7574). www.vetmed.iastate.edu
Argus Institute, Colorado State University: (970) 491-4143 www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu
Washington State University: (509) 335-5704; www.vetmed.wsu.edu