Etiquette for People Facing the Loss of a Valued Animal

Bonnie S. Mader
The Pet Loss Support Hotline and the Program for Veterinary Family Practice
University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine


While these are written specifically with the veterinarian in mind, they have a lot to offer anyone who has a friend who has lost a pet.

DO....

Don't say....

Most of us have said some of these "don't say" comments at one point or another. In fact, some of these comments have a lot of truth to them. Life does go on. Time often does heal, or at least lessen, enormous heartache. The ending of suffering is good. The thing to keep in mind is that when a person is experiencing an acute sense of loss, logic is not comforting. With acute grief, simply acknowledging the sadness and overwhelming sense of loss is appropriate and is more helpful.

Don't ever say, "You know, you can always get another animal. As a matter of fact, I know of one who needs a home right now." This comment does not acknowledge the unique relationship the person has lost. People need to grieve and be validated for the feelings they are having about this specific loss. It is impossible to recreate lost relationships with another being who is, in itself, unique (even if the same breed). The length of time, and way a person needs to mourn varies with each individual.

Telling a person that she/he can simply replace a relationship by getting a new dog/ cat/iguana/ parakeet/horse, etc., is similar to telling a parent who has lost a child that she/he can always have another one..

©Bonnie S. Mader
The Pet Loss Support Hotline and the Program for Veterinary Family Practice
University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine
Click here for further information about the Pet Loss Support Hotline.