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Saying Goodbye to Pets During the Holidays

by Dr. Dani McVety, Founder and CEO of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice

The holidays are about joy, gratitude, and family. But for many people, the experience of having to say goodbye to a beloved pet can taint the celebration, as there tends to be an increase in pet euthanasia during this time of year.

This type of loss can be a difficult and overwhelming experience for pet parents. Anticipatory grief can cause a mix of emotions, including anxiety, which can impact your remaining time with your pet. In this article, we will discuss four ways to support you and your beloved during this challenging time.

Spend more time with your fur baby

Taking some precious moments each day to provide your pet with uninterrupted, unconditional love is a great way to deal with your emotions. During the holidays, we typically have additional time off, which is an opportunity to shower your pet with more love. I recommend at least 15 minutes, three times a day, or as much time as you can.

Create a bucket list for your pet

Many people make bucket lists of things they would like to experience before they pass. Having more time to say goodbye to your beloved pet is a perfect time to create a list of things that make them happy. This joy list can be a range of things, such as barking at the mailman or eating their favorite snacks.

Some owners are so focused on the symptom that they forget to concentrate on the things that your fur baby enjoy. By taking the time to accomplish the things that they appreciate, you’re providing the gift you want to give them by making sure their end of life is fruitful by doing the things that they love.

Some ideas that may inspire you to put on your own pet bucket list include:

  • Feeding your pet a gourmet meal
  • Snuggling on the couch or in bed
  • Making a new friend at the park
  • Casting a paw print
  • Taking a doggy and/or family photoshoot
  • Throwing a birthday party with their furry friends
  • Video calling with distant relatives
  • An afternoon sunbathing
  • Taking your pet for a stroll or hike
  • Visiting a national or state park
  • Hanging out at the beach
  • Playing their favorite game for as long as they want
  • Hitting all the town’s pet-friendly hot spots, sampling food at each one
  • Choosing a toy and bag of treats at the pet store
  • A day of pampering at a grooming parlor
  • Hanging out at doggy daycare and making new friends
  • Visiting a nursing home or hospital to pass out doggy kisses
  • Swimming
  • Rolling in the mud
  • Running off-leash in a large field
  • A road trip with the car windows down
  • A party with favorite two and four-legged friends

Many owners deal with anticipatory grief, which is when they start grieving before the death happens. By allowing your pet to enjoy their favorite activities,  it can redirect your focus from the loss to the living — and the time that you have left together. These bucket lists can help you have no regrets for your beloved pet.

Incorporate your beloved friend into your holiday traditions

Many people have holiday traditions that are dear to their hearts during this time of year. Including your pet in the festivities by putting them in your holiday card, bringing them along to family gatherings, preparing them a special meal, spoiling them with a gift or making their paw print into an ornament to memorialize your special moments forever.

Join a support group for pet loss and grief 

While it may feel like you’re alone, there are so many other pet parents navigating this difficult situation. Finding a support group in your area is another way to cope with the loss of a pet this time of year. There may be a veterinary specialty clinic that holds a monthly meeting.

If you are planning to say goodbye to a pet around the holidays, please schedule ahead of time with your veterinarian so that they can ensure your family has the best experience possible.

About the Author

In addition to her role as a hospice veterinarian and Founder & CEO of Lap of Love, Dani McVety is a speaker, consultant, author, and host for PetCareTV. With a deep love for the human-animal bond, Dr. Dani enjoys just about anything that has to do with pets! After graduating from college, she practiced emergency medicine and gained a greater understanding of how to help families at a time in which they felt most helpless. This has become her greatest fulfillment in veterinary medicine: helping to ease the stress and fear of the people who love their animals.

As an accomplished entrepreneur before vet school graduation, Dr. Dani partnered with Dr. Mary Gardner about one year after founding Lap of Love. Through hard work and collaboration, they have grown the company into one of the most respected networks of doctors in the veterinary profession, setting the standard for end-of-life care higher than it has ever been before. Dr. Dani graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and is the youngest recipient of the college’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award (2013), the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s President’s Award (2014), and most recently, the Pet Industry Woman of the Year (2017).

For more information about Lap of Love, please click here.