Pets can become more than just a familiar animal around the house, they can become like another member of the family. For an adult the loss of a pet may be just part of the process, as emotional as it still remains. Still, there are other members of the family that pet loss can be hard for. Children often times have their first experiences with death after losing a beloved pet, and, sometimes surprisingly to most people, many pets who live together think of one another as family, and the death of one pet can actually cause extreme grief in the other.
Since many children first experience death with pets, it is very important to handle this situation carefully. Many people don’t remember how traumatic and confusing death was the first time they had to deal with it. Children tend to grieve shorter than adults do, but their pain is still intense. Maybe even more so. Young children also tend to come back to the subject repeatedly, be patient. Give your kid hugs and support. Discuss death and grief honestly. Side stepping the issue won’t help at all, and children have great instincts, they know when something isn’t being said. Never say things like “God took your pet,” or that their pet was put to sleep. All this accomplishes is to make a child fear God is waiting to take away everything, and it will make them afraid to go to sleep. Have an honest conversation . . . these are facts of life everyone has to learn at some point. Special Note: Do not get your kid a new pet right away. Give them time to adjust, and do not get a new pet until they are ready, otherwise it will only be harmful in the long run.
If you have other pets in the house, be sure to watch for behavior changes in them, too. Pets can form very strong family/pack bonds with one another. The remaining pets may be restless, anxious, nervous. Some pets that are usually energetic may choose to sleep for long periods of time, and eating habits become finicky. If you had several dogs and the pet that died was the dominant male/female, there will probably be scuffles and some fights as the remaining dogs try to figure out the new hierarchy. This is natural, and should be interfered with as little is actually possible. Keep your other pets’ schedules as normal as possible, and eventually they will return back to their old habits. They are like kids: they need time to grieve and work things out; just like everyone else in the family.