Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death

If you accidentally hurt your dog or cat – or you had to put your pet down – these ways to deal with guilt for causing your pet’s death will help you cope.

feel guilty caused pets death

When Your Pet Dies

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing by Alan D. Wolfelt is a guide for pet owners who are struggling with grief when their pet dies. This book will help you understand why your feelings are so overwhelming, and help you cope with the guilt you feel about your pet’s death. The topics discussed include practical suggestions for grieving, ideas for remembering and memorializing one’s pet, understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet, understanding why grief for pets is unique, pet funerals and burial or cremation, celebrating and remembering the life of one’s pet, coping with feelings about euthanasia (and guilt about putting an animal to sleep), helping children understand the death of their pet, and things to keep in mind before getting another pet.

These tips are inspired by a reader who shared his guilty feelings about putting his dog to sleep. Saying good-bye to your beloved dog or cat is heartbreaking – and it’s even worse if you feel guilty about your pet’s death. I hope these tips help. “If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there,” says Pam Brown. “Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”

4 Ways to Deal With the Guilt of a Pet’s Death

Some people accidentally cause their dog or cat’s death by accidentally leaving them in harm’s way. The most important thing to remember is that you did NOT purposely cause your pet’s death. Dealing with guilt may be a bit lighter if you know you would’ve acted differently if you had the chance. If your actions led to your pet’s death, you have to keep reminding yourself that you did not deliberately harm your dog or cat. It was an accident, and you would have done things differently if you had know what would happen.

Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death

If you’re struggling with grief and guilty feelings because of the circumstances surrounding your dog or cat’s death, read Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss. I interviewed veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts for the best ways to survive the death of a beloved dog or cat, and I included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways.

Identify “imagined” guilt about the loss of your dog or cat. Not recognizing that your Yorkie, cockapoo, or Siamese cat was ill doesn’t mean that you weren’t paying attention or taking good care of him or her! This is imagined guilt. Animals can’t always communicate their physical health; pet owners can’t see inside their bodies and brains.

Another type of “imagined” guilt is if you’ve accidentally caused your pet’s death by letting him out, keeping him in, or losing track of his whereabouts. If you did not deliberately set out to harm your pet, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. I know this is easier said than done – and it takes effort to forgive yourself.

If you’re dealing with imagined guilt because of your pet’s death, remember that sometimes illness or disease overcomes our dogs, cats, and other beloved pets…and there’s nothing we can do. This loss of control is a very painful — but real — part of life.

I recently wrote How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog, to help you deal with the guilt you feel. Please take a moment to read it — it’s the comments on this article that inspired me to write it.

Remember that it’s normal to feel guilty when your dog or cat dies. Whether your guilt is real or imagined, know that it is a normal grief reaction. Even the most “innocent” pet owners feel guilt over a pet’s death. For instance, I now cringe when I recall how angry I was at my beloved cat, Zoey, for scratching the basement door (I didn’t realize the door to her litter box was shut tight, and she couldn’t get in). That was over 12 years ago, and I still feel guilty! Healing after you had to put your pet down often requires forgiving yourself.

dealing with guilt pet deathGoodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet is the number one bestselling book on pet loss and grief on Amazon. I love the book because it offers both heartwarming stories and practical guidance on grieving the loss of a pet. It’ll help you deal with guilt when you caused your pet’s death.

Identify “real” guilt about your pet’s death. Real guilt may spring from your feelings that you neglected your dog or cat’s annual vaccinations, daily food intake, exercise habits, and “quality time” with you. If you’re struggling with real guilt, remember that you had reasons for doing what you did. The stress of money, work, kids, marriage, and daily life may have taken precedence over how you treated your pet. Maybe you didn’t make the best choices.

guilt over dog cat death

“Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death” image by Laurie

Healing after your pet’s death involves accepting that you wish you would’ve done things differently — and talking this through with your family, friends, or loved ones.

Remember what you did right — because you did a lot right. Your dog or cat loved you beyond all reason – so you must have done something right. How did you love and take care of your pet? Balance your real guilt with the real ways you loved your pet. You took good care of your dog or cat in many ways; don’t wave that away.

Dealing with guilt when you caused your pet’s death isn’t just about grieving; it’s about cherishing the best parts of your life with your dog or cat.

Do you feel like you caused your dog or cat’s death? I encourage you to share your experience below. Talking and writing about it is healthier than ignoring it, and can help you process your grief.

We share ideas to encourage women over 40 to make positive changes and Blossom in a new season of life!

139 comments On Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death

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    I lost my beloved Tristan on August 2, 2023. He was in good health except a minor collapsing trachea that was well managed by mushing his food so a soft diet. I maintained his weight and we walked everyday. Three years ago I had a brain injury. I still suffer from aphasia an d post concussion syndrome which can occasionally cause issues. One issue is that my brain sometimes doesn’t register things right. It will repeat an old habit like on autopilot.

    Well, I always brushed Tristan , walked him and gave him a non rawhide smartbone which is soft. At least until the last year when we realized a soft diet was necessary. So 3 nights before he died we brushed and walked. And I gave him a smartbone, which I hadn’t done the last few months. But I did. He dropped it but I told him to “get your bone”. He did. The next morning he was retching. He’s done it before but I knew this was different,

    I haven’t worked in 3 years due to the injury and have no income or any money or assets. No credit cards. Well, broke. So I couldn’t take him to the vet. I have no family and lost friends after the brain injury because I was not well for a long time. So, he suffered. For 3 days. The last day was so bad. He was gasping for hours and I had to leave to go to the emergency room. He was just looking at me standing there with his eyes big and panting. Begging me to help him.

    I’ve protected him all his life. I slept on the floor with him 6 weeks when he busted his Achilles and broke his foot when I was on vacation. He had an 8 hour surgery and almost lost his leg. We slept on the living room floor caged off on a6 square feet area. He was 2 years old. And it was hard. I live alone in a city I had just moved to and he was my best friend.

    He remained my best friend through so much. He had his teeth cleaned, he played. We walked. He ate vegetables and real meat. I took care of him. Until I could not. I knew why. He didn’t. I had always done so before. He was spoiled. And he begged me for help. And I left him to die alone with his cat brother. I just couldn’t believe he would die. He had calmed down before I went to the emergency room. But he didn’t make it and the thing I remember is the begging. And how I let him down.

    I loved you Tristan. I’m so sorry.

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    My 14 year old Maltese shih tzu had fleas so I put a flea collar on her and she got deadly sick and had to be put down and I was with her while the vet put her to sleep. If only I had not put that flea collar on her she may not have died and I feel extremely guilty about her death. I loved her greatly and would never harm her

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    My pet tortoise died because I put her in the bath and the water was too hot. The worst part is that I was cleaning the side and keeping an eye on her as she was swimming around the sides of the bath but now I realise she was desperately trying to get out. I looked back and she was lifeless. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to forgive myself, tortoises live until they are 60 and we had her less than a year. My partner told me not to put her in water too hot and I never listened. I just remember meeting her for the first time and they way she came out of her shell for me but nobody else and how in my head I promised I’d never hurt her and I told her she could trust me, but in the end it was me who stopped her from experiencing this world for all the years she was promised. Her strawberries are going off in the fridge and I can’t go in the bathroom because of the guilt. Thank you for this page, I’m not ready to forgive myself yet but sharing my experience with others feels constructive at least.

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    I lost my kitten of 6 months old. She died while giving birth and I couldn’t do anything for her. I didn’t even gave her the comfort she demanded and I am feeling so guilty.

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    i’m so sorry to hear that, I feel the same way my cat got lethargic I took to the vet and he gave her a shot did all blood work came back great then 2 weeks later she got really bad and watching her be sick made me think she was dying so I took her to the vet and ethnized her and did not have him tell me what was wrong with her, He kept saying she had stroke I was tired and sleep depraved and was confused and now i feel like a piece of shit cause i listened to people telling me she was old and not waste my money and let her go in piece.. i can’t sleep. cant eat dont wanna do nothing had no idea how painful this is. lost people and wasn’t this bad.

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    I am struggling so much. About a month ago I lost my 4 year old dog. We have two dogs and typically they are always together. Thinking they were both in the house by 9pm, I went upstairs to bed but my two daughters were downstairs. Not realizing that only one was in the house and the fact that the other didn’t come to the sliding glass door to be let in,, they too went upstairs 45 min later. Needless to say we accidentally left him out all night. I found him the next morning and sadly he had passed away. I will note that evening the temp was 55-65 degrees. The vet couldn’t find anything. She mentioned either a seizure or a un diagnosed heart issue. Possibly died earlier in the evening. Regardless I feel so guilty that he was left outside. Can seem to get over it.

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