Starting with pet loss—before the loss

Second in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”

pastel painting of a cat peeking out from under a bed

Waiting for Mom, my Fawn, pastel painting © B. E. Kazmarski

Sometimes the loss of your pet is sudden, an accident, or an acute disease like cancer or a virus, and there is no preparation for the loss. Your decisions are made all the more difficult, and your grief all the harder to resolve, by the very shock of the incident. When there are no apparent threats to your pet’s health, who would have thought about arrangements and aftercare?

But in other cases you can begin to prepare yourself for eventual or imminent loss in very specific ways, first by finding a veterinarian with whom you are comfortable, and, second, by learning more about your pet’s health and participating in their health care.

These two actions can help save your pet’s life in the first place. But sometimes the grief of loss is made even worse by realizing that your pet had a condition that could have been treated if you had only known a few easy symptoms to look for. Learning some simple palliative care can prolong your pet’s life or give the last weeks or months a better quality and help you with knowing you could simply do something helpful in the situation. And even if there was nothing you could have done, just having a little time to prepare and be with your pet before it dies is a comfort in itself.

Finding a veterinarian for you and your animal companion

photo of Namir

Namir, photo © B.E.Kazmarski

When you adopted your animal companion, you probably realized you were adopting a living being that was not necessarily maintenance-free. Some animals, like some people, live out their whole lives with no health issues at all, and die quick peaceful deaths. But this is really only discovered at the end of that life and can’t be predicted at the beginning or any point along the path, so it’s best to take precautions.

I can’t say enough about the importance of my veterinarian in the health of my cats and my ability to care for them. Caring for them at home, guided by her, has been instrumental for me in my acceptance of all my losses as she has always been willing to explain diseases, give me care options and has taught and supported me in basic palliative care and generous phone consultations. She is a house-call veterinarian with no formal office, and this has always been my preference since she can see them when they are still fairly relaxed and not freaked out by a ride in the car. Because she has no clinical situation, I need to go elsewhere for other treatments such as spaying or neutering, X-rays or emergency care, but because I can do so much at home I have also found other clinics that I can call on the rare occasions when I need those services.

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