Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about keeping your pet happy - and also tips on dealing with the death of a pet
February is Valentine's Day - when people decorate with hearts - so Dr. Mindy Cohan joined us to talk about both Happy Hearts and Broken Hearts: things you can do to pamper your pet ... and ways to process the sadness when dealing with the death of a pet.
Showing that doggie love:
* Make homemade treats
* Visit a dog bakery
* Take a walk, run or hike (great exercise and mental stimulation)
* Go to a pet store and let your dog choose a new toy
* Buy a treat/food dispensing ball
* Take your dog on a trip to a pet friendly bed and breakfast or hotel (www.bringfido.com and www.petfriendlytravel.com)
* Buy a safety harness for car travel
* Purchase a new leash and matching collar
* Snuggle on a sofa while reading or watching television
* Enroll your dog in doggie day care or arrange for a dog walker if you will be away from home during daytime hours
* Go for a ride in the car (assuming your pup does not get car sick)
* Spend one on one time teaching a new trick or attend agility class together
* Play time (toss a ball or toy)
* Take your dog for a swim (Labs, Golden Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, Standard Poodles)
* Give belly rubs, back scratches
* Talk to your dog
* Morning cuddles in bed
* Special treats (Frosty Paws)
* Bathe and brush your dog
* Buy a new plush bed
Tips for coddling your cat:
* Buy new toys (laser pointer, feather wand, motorized mouse)
* Combing helps to prevent mats and hairballs and many cats enjoy being brushed
* Buy a cat tree or climbing furniture which provide a great look out spot, sense of security from house guests or other resident pets
* Place a soft bed in the sunshine or by a window
* Set up a window sill perch which allows for all day entertainment of watching birds, squirrels
* Provide multiple scratching posts with various textures
* Purchase a harness for walks outside
* Set aside time to snuggle on a sofa
* Leave a video on while out of the house featuring birds or fish
* Growth fresh catnip
* Provide plenty of litter boxes, cleaning them multiple times daily
* Give a gentle massage
Dealing With Broken Hearts
As a veterinarian and pet parent, I understand the devastation that follows the loss of a pet. For many children, the loss of a pet is their first experience with death. Children mourn differently than adults and expressions of grief can vary depending on the child’s age. It is very important for parents to allow children to grieve in their own personal fashion.
The bond between children and their pets is extremely strong. A recent study found that children can prefer their pets to siblings. Pets provide unconditional love, they serve as loyal confidants, pets are always available as playmates and they provide children with a sense of security during scary or sad situations. The loss of a companion which served so many important roles in a child’s life can result in tremendous grief.
Grief is a perfectly natural reaction to the death of a loved one. Grieving for a pet is a tribute to the special relationship that was shared. Shock and disbelief are very common initial reactions to the loss of a beloved pet. Shock is particularly common when the death occurred suddenly and unexpectedly. Guilt is another common emotion, especially if the pet died as a result of an accident. Sadness is a normal emotion following a death, yet many people who are not animal lovers may say insensitive things such as, “It was only a pet” or “You should be over it by now.”
Symptoms of grief are shared by adults, children and even the surviving pet family members. Common physical and emotional manifestations of grief include:
Sleeping more or less
Lack of concentration
Lack of energy/motivation
Suggestions for helping children before or after the loss of a pet include:
Allow the child to see you cry and be sad.
Always be straightforward and honest when answering a child’s questions.
Do not force a child to discuss his/her feelings, give them time and space.
Offer to help a child memorialize a pet. Set up a tribute table to include photos, a collar or leash, toys, bowls, a lock of fur. Help a child to write a poem or letter to the deceased pet. Plant a flower or tree in the pet’s memory. Allow the child to participate in a memorial service.
Avoid using terms such as “put to sleep” or inaccurate stories such as “Fluffy went to a farm.”
Reassure a child that they were not at fault for the pet’s death.
Do not replace the pet before the child has a chance to mourn.
· Resources for grieving pet families
Books for children
Dog Heaven – Cynthia Rylant
Cat Heaven – Cynthia Rylant
The 10th Best Thing about Barney – Judith Viorst
Books for Adults
When a Pet Dies – Fred Rogers
Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping – Marty Tousley
When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing – Alan Wolfelt