Helping Children Deal With the Loss of a Pet

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Dealing with the loss of a pet is never easy. When dealing with the sudden loss due to an emergency illness or injury, or euthanasia, the decisions that must be made and the ultimate loss of the family pet bring up a lot of conflicting and difficult emotions.

When children are involved, special considerations must be made to help them understand what is going on and how to deal with the loss of a pet and grief that follows.

Preparing for Euthanasia

Euthanasia is “death by injection” for a terminally ill, suffering animal. Many people refer to this as “putting an animal to sleep”. The finality of death is a difficult concept, especially for children. Children can be confused and even frightened by the term “putting to sleep” if they see the lifeless pet after the euthanasia is performed.

When preparing for an appointment to have a terminally ill pet euthanized, it is best to speak 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. Older children need to know the reasons why this decision is being made, and why it is humane for the suffering animal.

To be or not to be present at the actual euthanasia is a question many adults grapple with. This is a personal decision and one that should be discussed with your veterinarian. It is common practice that children under a certain age are not allowed to be present for the actual euthanasia. Children, especially under the age of 5, have a hard enough time understanding the concept of death and witnessing the event does not make it easier to understand or cope.

It is important to realize that when humans (adults and children) are upset, the pet is, too. While difficult, it is important that the humans try to lend support and comfort their animal friend in this last time of need. Seeing their humans upset may upset the pet, too.

Sudden Death or Finding a Pet Dead

For situations where the animal is fatally injured or is found dead from unknown causes, children need to be assured that the animal is no longer in pain. The shock can be more emotional than a “prepared for” death. If veterinary care was attempted, the child should be reminded that sometimes pets don’t survive, despite the attempts to save them.

Signs of Grief in Children

Children may take longer to grieve or “get over” the loss of a pet than adults. A short time of depression, acting out, or gloominess can be expected and should go away. Longer periods or abnormal activity following loss should be addressed by the parent, a counselor, or a grief/loss support resource. Warning signs of severe or prolonged grief will vary significantly with the variables of the child’s age, relationship with the pet, emotional maturity, circumstances involved with the death, and so on, but here are some general guidelines for recognizing grief in children:

  • Not interested in usual activities, withdrawing from friends and family

  • Eating considerably less than usual

  • Reverting to pre-potty training or bedwetting

  • Afraid of being alone or going to sleep, nightmares

  • Preoccupied with thoughts of death

Talking about the death of a pet with your child is a good first step. For more assistance and guidance, know that there are many grief and loss support resources and hotlines, many of them free of charge, available online and over the phone.

Moving Forward and the Time to Heal

Remembering the deceased pet

It is important to never belittle or ignore the child’s relationship with the deceased pet. To say that it was “just a goldfish, and we can get a new one tomorrow” dismisses the importance of the human-animal bond and does not address the child’s grief. Children often have imaginary friends that warrant conversations and emotions. Pets are real. They warrant true feelings and emotions, too. Take the time to remember your pet with your kids and do something special to help them navigate their feelings.


Having a burial, memorial, or similar ceremony helps to reinforce the importance of the pet’s life and mark the death event. Children should be allowed to participate in whatever way is appropriate. From helping mark the grave site, decorate the urn of ashes, or draw pictures of happy times together with the pet—whatever activity best fits with the child and allows them to say goodbye in their own way.

Getting a new pet

Getting a new pet is a very personal choice. Children should not be rushed into getting another pet to help them “get over” the deceased pet. One pet does not replace another, and getting a new pet too soon may only cause the child to resent or even mistreat the new pet. Only once a child can speak openly about a deceased pet and shows interest in a new pet should the subject of a new pet be discussed.

Dealing with the loss of a pet is never easy, but you are not alone. There are many grief/loss support resources available.

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Keeping Your Cat Cool in the Summer

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Cats and hot weather don't always go well together.

During the summer months, cats are just as at risk of dehydration and heatstroke as the rest of us.

These are serious conditions that can lead to illness and even death. Here are some steps on how to cool your cat down and how to keep your cat cool in hot weather.

Make sure your cat has plenty of water.

It’s common sense but you should check your cat’s water bowl regularly and fill it up whenever it’s low. Cats can’t survive for long without it.

Ensure there’s a shaded spot in your garden or yard.

If you have an outdoor cat and there are no naturally occurring shady spots in your garden, create one by placing some cloth or cardboard over an area to keep the sun out. Also, make sure you check outdoor buildings like sheds and greenhouses before shutting them as cats often get locked in accidentally overnight.

Brush your cat daily.

Matted hair traps heat so give them a daily groom if possible. This is especially important for long-haired cats.

Keep cats out of conservatories and greenhouses.

These areas can get dangerously hot even when the weather just feels warm. Bear in mind that they both exclude cooling breezes and magnify the heat. Cats are also prone to getting accidentally trapped in conservatories and greenhouses (curiosity truly can kill the cat).

Use damp towels to cool down your cat.

The warmest part of a cat’s body is their tummies, the pads of their paws, their armpits, under their chin and on the outside of their ears. Although most cats hate getting wet, try dampening a cloth with cold water and gently stroking your cat with it from their head and down their back.

Keep your cat calm.

A very active cat that is running around on a hot day will quickly become exhausted and dehydrated. Encourage your cat to relax when temperatures outside are soaring.

Create a retreat.

Cats are clever when it comes to comfort and they will seek out places such as the bath or sink as these often stay cool even when it’s hot outside. You could also try creating a cool and darkened indoor retreat for them to sleep in and feel safe. A top tip is to place a cardboard box on its side and position it somewhere cool and quiet in the house, such as behind a chair or on a cool surface like a wooden floor. Line it with a breathable natural fabric such as a cotton towel.

Keep outdoors cats indoors.

If temperatures really soar, then it’s worth considering keeping your cat inside during the hottest hours of the day.

Take care in the car.

It’s less common for cats to travel in cars than dogs, but they are just as susceptible to the risks. If you are taking your cat to the vets or a cat show, for example, never leave them in the car. Always make sure their carriers are secure, shaded and allow air to circulate. Solid plastic boxes with a secure wire mesh door are preferable.

Encourage cool play.

Ice cubes are a great way for cats to play and keep cool at the same time. Put a few on the floor so they can chase them as they scatter around the floor. Perhaps even consider flavoring the ice with a hint of chicken stock to encourage their interest.

Close the curtains.

Things that keep you cool will also benefit your cat — keeping curtains or blinds closed will keep the sun out.

Watch out for signs of heat stroke.

Although this generally only occurs on really hot days, it’s worth being aware of. Symptoms of heat stroke can include agitation, stretching out and breathing rapidly, extreme distress, skin hot to the touch, glazed eyes, vomiting and drooling. If you’re at all worried about your cat, contact your vet immediately.

Circulate cool air.

Open the windows, turn on a box fan or keep air conditioning at a reasonable temperature. Your cat will appreciate having a cool place to relax indoors if it’s scorching outside.

Cats and hot weather could mean sunburn.

Don’t forget cats are susceptible to sunburn, particularly those with white ears and noses. This can lead to painful blistering and sores, and long-term exposure can lead to skin cancers. It is possible to buy pet sunscreen to apply to the hairless areas on the end of the ears and nose. It’s also advisable to keep white-faced cats indoors during the heat of the afternoon.

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Water Safety for Your Dog: High Risk Breeds & Puppy First Aid

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Many puppies leap before they look, or simply fall into the swimming pool, hot tub or break through ice on the lake and can’t get out. Dog paddling may be instinctive but they can still drown if they can’t climb out, get too tired to float, or are at risk of being top-heavy.

High Risk Breeds

Some puppy breeds adore the water but others have a hard time staying afloat. For instance, Labrador Retrievers especially love the water. Puppy breeds with heavy coats such as Collies become waterlogged and tend to dislike puddle jumping. Heavy-bodied breeds like Bulldogs have trouble staying afloat and actually could sink and be unable to get out of the pool.

All pets are at risk but especially small breeds and puppies are most prone to drowning. Their inexperience, curiosity, and fearlessness prompt them to explore but they may be unable to climb out of even small bodies of water. The steep sides of backyard pools and hot tubs prove particularly dangerous during the summer.

Water Safety for Puppy Swimming

Pool safety is just as important for puppies as it is for children. Most backyard pools have steps in the deep end along with a shallow end. Teach your pup to find these easy exits through guidance and praise. Never ever leave pets unsupervised around the pool.

Does your pup enjoy a nice boat ride on the gulf? Camping and spending time with our furry friends on water can be tons of fun, but pets can easily lose their footing on slippery boat decks. Even if your pup manages the trek back to land, they may become lost on the beach or sandbar, so it is important that they have their identification tags/collars on, as well as microchipped.

To avoid your pup hurdling into the water at 40 mph, provide double-sided rubber mats on boat decks for a more secure footing for your pet. A harness and a strong lead or tether also helps assure your pet stays secure onboard. Don’t forget safety life vests for pets. You can find these products at most any pet store these days to assure even if they fall into the water, they have some assistance. Most of these floatation harnesses provide a handle for you to lift your pup upwards out of the water with.

First Aid for Drowning

Please, pet-proof pools and other water adventures to prevent tragedies all year round. Supervise your water-babies so cooling off during the summer stays safe. Water games should be fun for the entire family.

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Simple tips on how to pet proof your garden

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How do I create a pet-friendly garden or yard?

Your garden is the perfect place to enjoy with your pets. However, while you may be in the safety of your home, there are a number of hazards present in your garden which could harm your pet.

Here are a few cat and dog-friendly garden ideas to help protect your garden and keep your pet safe.

Raise your flower beds

Raising your flower beds help keep dogs out of flowerbeds and protect your more delicate plants. For areas where dogs and children will be rough housing, choose tougher, hardy plants or shrubs that can withstand a bit of rough-n-tumble.

Identify toxic plants

There are quite a few plants out there that are toxic to animals, so make sure that your garden only contains cat and dog-friendly plants and flowers if you are to leave them left to their own devices in your garden. Common toxic plants include: crocuses, azaleas, bleeding heart (dicentra), box, bluebells, broom, cyclamen, daffodils, dieffenbachia, hyacinth bulbs, mistletoe, yew, onions, and rhubarb. Although most plants are not attractive to pets, puppies and kittens are especially inquisitive and dogs can chew on sticks where you were pruning.

Secure fencing or enclosure

Ensure that your fencing is secure and without gaps or holes to prevent little escape artists. Consider your pet’s habits as well. Do they tend to dig? If so, give them an area to dig in and encourage him to use this area by hiding toys or treats, rather than your nicely cared for lawn. For cats, consider planting cat nip (Nepeta cataria) or cat grass that is safe for them to chew on.

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Pet-friendly garden checklist

- Clear pathways

- Raise flower beds

- Secure fencing

- Provide shade

- Store chemicals and fertilizers in a safe place

- Identify toxic plants

- Keep compost out of reach

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Hill's Pet Nutrition Wet Dog Food Recall

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Hill’s Pet Nutrition has issued a voluntary recall of select canned dog food for possible elevated levels of vitamin D.

This recall includes the items listed below:

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Consumers should stop feeding the products listed above. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for dogs, ingestion of elevated levels can lead to potential health issues depending on the level of vitamin D and the length of exposure, and dogs may exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling, and weight loss. Vitamin D, when consumed at very high levels, can lead to serious health issues in dogs including renal dysfunction. Pet parents with dogs who have consumed any of the products listed above and are exhibiting any of these signs should contact their veterinarian. In most cases, complete recovery is expected after discontinuation of feeding.

No other items manufactured by Hill’s Pet Nutrition are impacted by this issue.

If a patient of ours has purchased food through us, you may can contact us directly, and we can check the product number to see if it's a match. We will handle it case by case. If you have purchased your product through an online vendor, you will need to reach out to that vendor directly or contact Hills at 1-800-445-5777. 

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