Loss of a loved one is an inevitable occurrence when you share your life with a pet. Working in a veterinary hospital we see it all too frequently. Each person experiences grief in different ways. Although there are stages of grief common for many people, which emotions and for how long they are experienced may differ. Families who are saying goodbye to a beloved pet may experience many of the same emotions in the coming days, weeks, and months, however every individual is different. Although we normally talk about fun things on our blog, we did want to take a moment to recognize the loss of pets.
5 Common Stages of Grief
We purposefully call these the “common” stages as you may experience them and you may not. You may feel something entirely different, grief is different for everyone.
- Denial and Isolation –You may find yourself unwilling to accept that your pet is gone or find it hard to want to be around others after the loss. Over time, our brains cope with the loss and slowly let in the reality of what has happened.
- Anger –For many people this may be the most surprising emotion. As you begin to accept what has happened you may become angry at your lost pet, family, friends, yourself, or for no reason at all. As odd as it sounds, this is a sign that you are healing and progressing forward.
- Bargaining –It is common to feel helpless and uncertain about what to do in a state of loss. To cope with this our minds will bargain the situation. Thoughts like “if only we had gone to the vet sooner” or making deals with a higher power to try and bring back the lost pet are signs that you have moved into this stage.
- Depression –Depression, like all emotions talked about so far, is a normal response to loss. In this stage, you may find yourself sleeping more or less, eating more or less, withdrawing from social activities, or finding less pleasure in activities you use to enjoy. Talking with someone who understands what you are going through can help you process through these feelings.
- Acceptance –Although we would love to say that “reaching” acceptance means you have made it through and can move on with your life, unfortunately that isn’t always the case. The stage of acceptance is simply that your brain has come to terms with the reality that your pet will no longer be in your life. It is still entirely possible that you will feel past stages or other emotions once you reach this point. For some this is the end, and they will move on, either path is completely normal.
The most important thing to remember is not to put expectations, timeframes, or limits on yourself. Grief will look different for everyone. If at any point you feel that the emotions are not normal or you are unable to control them, seek the assistance of a trained professional or counselor.
Who you can talk to
Questions or general support: For questions regarding euthanasia, terminal illness, quality of life, or what it may be like to lose your pet, you are always welcome to call the hospital. As many of you know, the bonds and relationships we develop with PAH families continue well outside the exam room. Our website also has a host of resources and further information to aid in understanding the loss of a pet.
Further Professional support: If you are a feeling as though you can not control the emotions you are feeling, the loss is greater then you can handle, or you would like to seek assistance from a counselor, contact the San Diego Humane Society’s Pet Loss Support Group. They offer day and evening support groups, and can offer further referrals if requested.
A recent visitor to our hospital, Georgie, was a classic example of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed. From his beautiful coat, bright personality, and wonderful smile, he exuded classic Corgi personality. You may be familiar with Corgis thanks to the Queen of England and her love of her spunky little Corgi brood, however there are some other things you may not know about Corgis. Here are the pros and cons, ups, downs, and in-between’s of introducing a Corgi into your family!
A very quick overview of Corgi history:
- Originally bred as herding dogs, they are known for their short stature and clever minds.
- Both versions of the Corgi, Pembroke and Cardigan, are considered to have originated in Wales as early as 1200 BC (Cardigan) and about 1100 A.D. (Pembroke).
- Corgis have some of the best folklore written about them. Most notable are several stories about them being ridden like horses by fairies and as a gift to Queen Victoria from the fairies.
- Corgis are a favorite breed amongst the royal family of England and have been a part of the family for more than 50 years.
Why a Corgi may be right for you:
-Corgis are known for their high level of intelligence. If you are thinking about participating in dog agility contests, Corgis are a great option. Some are even known to be “show offs” who love the attention and praise they receive for their tricks.
-Corgis are total hams. All you need to do is search “Corgi” on Youtube to find hours of entertainment. These pups love to act silly and have a great time.
-Corgis are very social. If you are looking for a great family pet, Corgis are an excellent option. A well-socialized Corgi puppy will grow into a loyal, social family dog that is great with children.
Why Corgis may not be right for you:
-Corgis are notorious for getting chubby easily. I’m sure we have all seen a Corgi or two who needed to lay off the fillet of steak (yes, rumor is that is what the Queen feeds her Corgis). Corgis can gain weight very quickly, and with their short stature can quickly become immobile. A healthy, balanced, and regulated diet is a must for this breed!
-They have a double coat. If you dread having to deal with shedding and hair, this may not be the best dog for you. Due to their dual coat, meaning a coarse outer coat and thick, fluffier under coat, these dogs will shed twice a year and need regular brushing throughout the year.
-Corgis can be known to have major health problems:
- Pembroke Corgis are known to have hip dysplasia, spinal issues, epilepsy, and in some cases vision and eye-related issues.
- Cardigan Corgis are known to also have hip dysplasia, urinary stones, and in some cases vision issues as well.
Bi-annual exams are a must for these pups! As well as lots of precautions in the home to ensure they do not increase their risk of hip dysplasia.
If you are considering adding a Corgi to your family, but want further information check out the handouts on our webpage about Corgis or give us a call! We would be happy to share with you more of the pros and cons of these fabulous pups!
If you follow our Facebook you may have seen our post a couple days ago with a picture of a German Shepherd named Grace with swollen eyes and face. Without any known cause of the swelling, her parents brought her in to be seen at PAH. After a thorough physical examination, and ruling out any possible food or toxic ingestion, the cause was determined to likely have been a bee sting. A surprisingly common occurrence, every spring and summer we see several pets that ended up on the losing end the “catch the bee” game.
Although there are a couple reasons why your pet’s face may swell, the most common is allergic reactions.
The very common allergy, as was the cause for Grace, is bee stings. In addition, spiders, some plants, foods, and chemicals can all cause allergic reactions in pets. Although quite rare, vaccines can also cause pets to have allergic reactions. Most veterinary offices will still send you home with a warning flyer about vaccine reactions as a precaution.
How to prevent allergic reactions:
- The easiest way to prevent an allergic reaction is to limit contact with the source.
- Supervise your pet when they are outside as much as possible.
- If you are a beekeeper, ensure your pet’s safety by keeping the hive’s house as far away as possible from where your pet lounges and plays.
- For indoor allergens, like chemicals, use low-chemical detergents, store chemicals in cabinets that are locked, kid-proofed, or out of your pet’s reach.
- If you are concerned that your pet may react to vaccines, speak with your veterinarian. A reputable hospital or clinic will have a vaccination schedule, that follows the minimum needed vaccines, and will utilize multi-year vaccines whenever possible.
- If your property has an unwanted bee hive, wasp nest, or you think that there might be, contact the San Diego Beekeeping Association
What you can do if your pet has an allergic reaction:
Gracie’s parents did everything right! They saw something was wrong with Gracie, and immediately called the hospital. If you are a PAH client or are in our area, no need to even call, just come in. In a matter of minutes, facial swelling can lead to closure of the windpipe and lack of oxygen. It is very important that they see a doctor who can help rapidly reduce the swelling, identify the cause, and treat accordingly.