Explaining to Children about Euthanasia of a Pet

Use age-appropriate terms and avoid euphemisms

The finality of death is a difficult concept, especially for children under the age of 5 or so. It is best to talk in honest terms, at an appropriate level of detail for the child's age. Very small children need to know that this is final - the pet isn't going to wake up or come back. To say that the pet "went away" or is "in heaven" without offering any other details can also confuse children. Telling children that euthanasia or death is like ”going to sleep” may trigger sleeping problems. Older children need to know the reasons why this decision is being made, and why it is humane for the suffering animal.


Dealing with difficult emotions

To be or not to be present at the actual euthanasia is a personal decision that should be discussed with your veterinarian. Some veterinarians believe children under the age of 5 should not be present for the actual euthanasia. This is because very young children have a hard enough time understanding the concept of death and that witnessing the event may not necessarily make it easier to understand or cope. Children of all ages may have difficulty understanding the reasons why and the emotions involved with the act of euthanasia.

When you're explaining why a pet must undergo euthanasia, let children know it's okay to be sad. You can show them the logic of relieving the pet's pain, but you must expect them to react emotionally.


Helping Children Deal with their Grief


Find out more about the euthanasia process here. If you have further questions regarding euthanasia, please do not hesitate to phone us at (06) 358 8675 to discuss the process a little more with one of our friendly team members.


Parts of this article have been adapted from http://vetmedicine.about.com/od/lossandgrief/a/PetLossAndKids.htm


Published by Cahill Animal Hospital on 21 April 2016

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