Monthly Archives: May 2014

Pet Loss Grief Books For Children

Pet Loss Books for Children

Pet loss article by Dr. Wendy Khentigan

Children do not respond to death in the same way as adults. The reaction of a child is typically more natural and curious until it is influenced by adults. The death of a family pet is often the first death experienced by a child. How this is handled will influence the child for the rest of his or her life. Children naturally develop strong attachments to a family pet and may relate to a pet as a sibling, playmate or special confidant. Children need guidance and support to understand their loss and to mourn that loss.

Pet Loss Grief Books for Children

Memories of You - Pet Memory BookMemories of You : Pet Memory Book (Helping Kids Heal Series) by Eraiinna Winnett and Lucia Martinez (2014)

This is for kids ages 6 to 12 with lots of exercises that will help a child talk about their feelings. A useful tool for parents to start discussion with their kids about the loss of their pet. Get the book.




When a Pet Dies by Mister RogersWhen A Pet Dies by Fred Rogers (1998)

Beloved childhood figure Mr. Rogers helps the very young understand the death of their pet. An important first book to help explain death to a child. Get the book.





Pet Loss and ChildrenPet Loss and Children: Establishing a Healthy Foundation by Cheri Barton Ross (2005)

Great resource for parents to understand how children experience grief and loss. Get the book.





When Shiner DiedWhen Shiner Died: A Children’s Book About Pet Loss by Rebecca Hauder (2010)

This is a moving book both for children as well as adults. Best read with Kleenex in hand. Get the book.



Fragile Tears - Children's Pet Loss BookFragile Tears: Stories and Guidance For Youth by Alan Blain Cunningham Ph.D., D.V.M.,M.D. (2005)

A heartwarming book with many personal stories. Sure to bring tears and comfort to animal lovers of all ages. Get the book.





Dr. Wendy Khentigan - Pet Loss ExpertWendy A. Khentigan, M.D. graduated from New York Medical College. She completed her residency in psychiatry at the University of California San Diego where she served as a chief resident during her final year. She is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. She has completed her certification in Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, a technique particularly effective in addressing grief as well as trauma. She has been in private practice in Encinitas since 1994. A lifelong animal lover, she has a special interest in animal welfare and the people who care for animals.

When to Say Goodbye to a Pet

How Do I Know When to Say Goodbye to a Pet?

Pet loss article by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

(Photo credit: Flickr -  Oakley's Originals)

(Photo credit: Flickr – Annie’s Originals)

Deciding if and when to euthanize a terminally ill pet is one of the most agonizing decisions a loving pet owner has to make. In some cases, where a pet is clearly suffering and the body is shutting down, the decision is clear. But in many instances of slow disease progression, the line between acceptable and unacceptable quality of life may be very blurry. The guidance of your veterinarian can be invaluable in this challenging time, but the final determination lies with you. Here are a few tools I use with my clients to help them make a decision:

  1. More Bad Days than Good

Some owners feel as though their pet must be suffering every minute of every day before an unacceptable quality of life is reached, though this is often not the case. It is very ethically acceptable to let a pet go before they reach that advanced a state. Even pets in the end stages of terminal disease can have some days that are better than others; this is a normal part of the process. When the bad days outweigh the good, this may indicate the end is nearing.

  1. The 3/5 Rule

Pick five things your pet loves: walks, bites of turkey, rides in the car, sitting on the windowsill. When your pet is no longer able to enjoy three out of those five things, this can be a sign of an unacceptable quality of life.

  1. The Quality of Life Scale

This is the most quantitative approach to evaluating a pet’s quality of life, and is a tool I like quite a bit because owners can use it repeatedly to track trends over time. The Quality of Life scale, developed by Dr. Alice Villalobos, scores seven different life functions such as appetite, hydration, and mobility to give a numerical score of the pet’s quality of life. There is an online version of this scoring system here.

If you find this decision is confusing and difficult, you are not alone. It is a unique burden of pet ownership to make this difficult decision on behalf of another living being, and no matter when you make the decision it is very common to experience guilt over whether or not you made the right call.

Communicate your fears and concerns with your veterinarian. They are there to advise you. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement ( offers weekly online chats for those experiencing anticipatory grief to help them talk through this challenging decision making process. Above all else, know that your pet loves you unconditionally and trusts you to do what is in their best interest. Decisions made from a place of love are the right ones.

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang - Pet Loss Expert

Jessica Vogelsang, DVM is an author, veterinarian, and owner of the award winning pet-centric website Dr. Vogelsang is a regular contributor to multiple online publications on topics related to pet health and the human-animal bond. Dr. Vogelsang is currently practicing as a hospice care specialist with Paws into Grace in San Diego, and has a special interest in helping loving pet owners through the difficult end of life stage.