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Children and pet loss

What do I tell my child?

The single most important thing to remember when speaking to your child about their pet is to be clear. It's OK to say die and dying, because it's crucial that the child understand what is happening. Using euphemisms such as 'going to live with the angels' or 'going to sleep', may make it easier for you to say what is happening, but it can leave a child confused, or even worse, thinking the pet may be coming back.

We use terms like 'pass' when talking to other adults, because we understand what they mean, but a child may not. 

Gently explain that this is best thing for the pet, that

  • the vet has done everything that they could to try and make the pet better, but it hasn't worked

  • your pet will never get better and that this is the kindest way to take the pet's pain away

  • your pet will die peacefully, relaxed and comfortable, without feeling hurt or scared.

Is my child old enough?

Only you will know the answer to that question, but it isn't about age, it's about emotional maturity. A child of 5 or less is generally too young to grasp the situation, but from 6 or 7, they will be more curious. Tell them about things, and let them decide if they want to be there. If they say yes, then that's fine with us. We have plenty of experience of having children present and handle everything with great sensitivity.


They may not want to be present, but now they WILL have the chance to say goodbye and this is very beneficial to the grieving process. Maybe they want to draw some pictures or write a letter to the pet which we can have present for everyone's benefit. This may even help you feel more connected to your child.


When the time comes, you and your child will have the option to stay with the pet until they pass away or leave after they have fallen asleep from the sedative injection. Our process is peaceful, dignified and calm and we will make sure we stay at their side until the very end. 

Feedback from a young child...
...and her mother
Talk about things

In the time preceeding, during and after, it's important for everybody to keep talking. It's OK to share with your child that you feel sad too. Obviously it's best to try and stay strong to avoid inflicting any kind of trauma, but make sure your child feels that you are all in this together.  

Afterwards you might think about some kind of memorial. Some people like to plant a new shrub or tree in the garden - and writing is good too. It keeps the feelings close to the surface and allows for the healing process to take effect.

Support for young children 

The loss of a family a pet is terribly difficult for all concerned, but with young children there is a delicate balance that must be struck. To help ensure each young person is able to understand what has happened and then to  develop ways to cope, we offer two very helpful books that can assist with this challenge free of charge, just ask for them.

My Pet Memory Book is a kind of scrap book that encourages children to remember your pet by creating a lasting memorial


The Invisible Leash is a children's story book that tackles this complicated issue. As the books says, "An invisible leash around our hearts connects everyone to their pets no matter where they are, on this Earth or somewhere beyond"

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