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Mourning Man’s Best Friend

Mourning Man’s Best Friend

January 7, 2014

Medical Research

Euthanizing a pet dog triggers intense grief reactions similar to those experienced after the loss of friends and family members, according to a BGU study published in the February issue of Death Studies.

The study involved recorded interviews with 29 people who had euthanized a pet dog in the previous two weeks. The dogs were six to 18 years old and had been sick for at least two years. About 41 percent of the animals were cremated while 27.6 percent of owners buried the dog themselves.

Owners were asked if they’d had time to prepare for the dog’s death, why they chose to euthanize the dog or felt guilty about it, if they had other pets, and if friends and relatives understood their grief.

Most pet owners were still mourning the dog after two weeks but only 17 percent regretted the decision to euthanize. A few reported nightmares, vomiting and other physical reactions to the dog’s death. Photos, leashes, and collars were still visible in 38 percent of households.

Dying dogs often received special attention in the form of treats and baths. Families with children drew pictures of the dogs or wrote goodbye letters in preparation for euthanasia. About two-thirds of owners reported positive support from veterinarians, family members and friends.

“The calmest owners were those who performed a burial ceremony for their dogs,” the BGU researchers say.