Surviving the Death of a Dog

Dog death is one of the most difficult losses to survive, especially if you were somehow involved in your dog’s death. These suggestions for surviving the death of a dog are inspired by an email I received from a reader.

“Dear Laurie,

I have read and reread your ebook on Surviving Pet Loss.  It is very good and I would recommend it to others, but I am still having a difficult time getting past this experience.  My dog died due to poisoning by the drug Trifexis that was recommended by my veterinarian to keep him healthy.  It is a chewable heart worm protection and flea prevention monthly medication.  I feel so sad and guilty that I gave my wonderful dog this drug.  I am sick with worry until the drug leaves the systems of my two remaining Golden Retrievers.  I have done all of the recommended activities to “move on” but losing a best friend so unnecessarily is not acceptable.”

My dog Georgie also took Trifexis and had a very bad experience, which I describe below.

I’ve written several articles on surviving dog death and coping with pet loss. When I wrote my ebook on surviving the death of a pet, I interviewed several grief experts, counsellors, pet owners, and even pet psychics.

But all the tips and experts in the world on surviving dog death doesn’t make the reality of living with loss and sadness any more bearable.

Surviving the Death of a Dog

Here are two suggestions for coping when it seems like you’ll never heal, never stop grieving the death of your dog, and never move on.

I won’t rehash my tips on surviving pet loss – they’re available in the links above and below. If you read those articles on surviving dog death, don’t forget about the comments section! Readers have shared hundreds of stories and experiences, which may help you heal.

If you haven’t lost your dog yet, read How to Prepare for the Loss of a Pet.

Complicated grief and dog death

If you’ve been struggling with extreme depression, guilt, or anxiety because your dog died, you might be dealing with complicated grief.

Here’s how the Mayo Clinic describes it: “For some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. This is known as complicated grief. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the loss and resuming your own life. If you have complicated grief, seek treatment. It can help you come to terms with your loss and reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.” – from Complicated Grief on the Mayo Clinic website.

If you just can’t seem to accept your dog’s death and think that there is something deeper going on, please call a counsellor or talk to your doctor. Reach out for help today.

Take action – be an advocate for dogs and dog owners

Another suggestion for surviving the grief and pain is to turn your pain into a mission, a life purpose, a vision for the future. For my reader – if Trifexis isn’t a good flea prevention medication for your dog, then maybe it’ll help you cope with her death if you speak out about it.

I gave my dog Georgie Trifexis once, and she was horribly sick for three days. She has a sensitive tummy – I actually think she has intestinal bowel disease or syndrome. The veterinarian encouraged me to try Trifexis for flea and worm prevention. I did, and Georgie didn’t eat for a whole day, and was lethargic and had diarrhea for three days.

I just assumed Trifexis wasn’t right for my dog. I didn’t realize that it could actually cause dog death! If had known (or done the research), I wouldn’t have let her try it. Now, I research medications before I let the veterinarian prescribe them, and I try to stick with natural remedies, medications, and food. To learn more about this medication, read Is Trifexis a Good Flea Treatment for Dogs?

Turning your experience into a mission or life purpose isn’t a typical way to survive or cope with the death of a dog, but maybe it’ll help! Maybe you need to turn your grief into action, to do something to protect other dogs and dog owners.

I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences on surviving the death of a dog. Writing can help you heal and move on, and will show others that they aren’t alone.

If you’re having trouble surviving your dog’s death, read

Ways to Cope With Pet Loss.

“The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.” – Ben Hur Lampman.

dog death

3 comments On Surviving the Death of a Dog

  • The date of this blog is the date my pup died. I’m lost heartbroken and will never fill the hole that has been left in my soul.

  • I think guilt is the worst part of a pet death. When my cat (and best friend) died, I found it relatively easy to cope with. I was astonished because I have a lot of difficulty letting go and I loved him so much. However, he was ill and I tried so much to make him well again, but none of it worked — it just seemed to upset him.

    I think that we have the illusion that we are “in charge” of death because of modern medicine and that just because we know how a pet (or person) died, we could have prevented it.

    However, most of the time, death is just part of life and cannot be prevented. I could have taken my cat to the vet sooner. Your reader could have gone against the vet’s recommendations.

    However, how are we to know these things?

    What gives me the greatest peace with my cat is knowing that I did all that I could and that it was just his time and that there is nothing anyone could do about that.

    I wonder if the person who wrote to you could benefit from that type of thinking. They were just being a loving pet owner and following the vet’s recommendation. And the medication probably does not usually harm/kill dogs.

    It was simply very, very bad luck. I think the key to getting over this is to STOP thinking that the outcome was preventable. Technically, the person could have not taken their pet to the vet or not believed the vet about the correct treatment option. However, as lay people, we cannot second guess every authority in our lives — life is too short.

    I think we complicate our relationship with death by thinking of it as something preventable because we know so much about science, etc. However, the reality is that sometimes our beloved pets have to leave us and it is not our fault. Even if we gave them the medication that killed them, it is not our fault. We try to be loving, caring pet owners, but we are not gods and not every dog’s biology is the same.

    I don’t know if that helps. The other thing that helped me get past my cat’s death was allowing myself to be sad about it. We sometimes can tend to think of sadness as an illness instead of just as a process to go through.

    I found that sometimes I would just cry (sometimes I still do) and that the times that I needed to do that became fewer and farther between as time went on.

    I hope that helps a little.

  • My Shih Tzu, Bandit was with me 18 years. Nursed him through 2 ACL surgeries; an adverse reaction to the anesthesia–slept w/him daily when he would not leave his bed & hand fed him (the homeopath gave up hope); every nighttime thunderstorm we slept in the windowless bathroom to keep him calm. His dry eye became severe and caused pain and issues with one eye. He stopped playing with the bunches of toys he had (he knew everyone by name :-). He began to cry/scream every time I cleaned his eyes-cut his nails-put in eye drops. His quality of life was failing. My patience grew thin; my guilt level rose every time I lost my cool.

    I kept asking him for “signs” it was time, but I never saw them. I set up for home euthanasia 3 times and kept giving him a ‘stay from the governor’ I would joke.

    One morning at 4 AM I took him outside. He could not stand…he screamed. I tried to hold him up to urinate and he screamed. I dropped to the grass and cried….my buddy was telling me “it was time!”

    Fed him chicken livers (his favorite) and he gave me a big wet kiss. Went to the vet and asked for help. We were brought into a room…I held and stroked my Bandit-puppy as the first shot was administered. He did not flinch…I kept talking to him as he drifted into a deep snore….it made us all smile..he was relaxed. The vet asked for stories and I shared them. With each snore, I knew he was pain-free and so became I. The second shot was administered and the snores ceased. We sat for a while. But the wave of calm that came over me was surreal..I knew it was right. I left his favorite toy Hairy, to be cremated with him.

    11-11-11 a noteworthy day never to be forgotten. That weekend was weird, I kept getting up to let him out. I curled in a ball on the sofa with “our” fuzzy blanket. I held his pillow to smell him. I was guilt ridden and second guessing my actions. I asked nature for a sign–animals can communicate via nature. It was November…what sign–a butterfly? a rainbow? …a toad…he use to chase toads and they were scarce lately. Send me a toad to let me know it was okay…that I did the right thing.

    Tuesday, they called to pick up his remains. As I drove into the parking area at my house, I picked up Bandit’s box and stepped out of the car. Something banged the grill and I jumped. When I looked down, the biggest dang toad (the size of a large grapefruit) was there–clear as day. I talked to the box, to Bandit and asked if this was my sign. The toad jumped again banging the grill. Goosebumps! I ran into the house to get my camera, two minutes maybe…the toad was GONE! I searched everywhere…gone. I sat with Bandit’s box and cried and laughed. It was all good..my buddie was at peace and so was I. I love my Bandit-puppy and always will.

    It is 12/23/13 and I write this as clearly as it was yesterday. I am here because I have a friend and his ex…struggling with a sick dog whose decline has been sudden..hanging on hope…his illness might be containable (cirrhosis of the liver) but his quality of life is gone. After a week in the hospital trying to regulate his blood sugar, loss of going outside routine-he is messing the kennel and hense himself, he is sick from antibiotics, he eats and then won’t….10 years he was a loving wonderful boy…now he is pitiful and it is Christmas and they are struggling.

    I am looking for some impartial words of comfort to guide them… Dr. Hayes says it best: “There will come a day when it is absolutely clear to you that your dog is not enjoying life. That day is one day too late. If you can save your dog even one day of discomfort, you must.”

    God Bless Y’all..Our pets are in our hearts and we must learn to let go and smile with our memories.

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