Should children be present during a pet’s euthanasia? I have been asked this question many times over the course of my years as a veterinarian. There is no one answer to this difficult and emotional question. Often, the way a child will respond to a pet’s euthanasia is a reflection of the way the parents respond. If the parents’ response is highly emotional, which is often the case, then the children will most likely follow suit. Generally speaking, children under the age of 7 might not be fully aware of what is happening but will be capable of reflecting the same emotions that they are experiencing in adults. While some parents elect to have even young children present some do not and prefer to tell their children what is going to happen but not have the child be present during the procedure. There is no hard fast rule. You know your child and what your child can handle emotionally. That decision should be entirely up to you. You know what is best for your child. In my experience, being honest with your children is preferable to having your child come home and find their pet gone, with no prior explanation. Some parents elect to have their child say goodbye to their pet before the procedure and have the procedure performed while the child is not in the home. This can provide closure for the child and is sometimes easier on both parents and child. I have found that children 8 years and older are better able to grasp the idea of euthanasia, particularly if the pet is quite old or has or has been ill for a long period of time. The euthanasia process is not a frightening or traumatizing process. The pet simply appears to fall asleep. For parents who feel their children in this age bracket are mature enough to understand the concept sometimes having them there gives the child the best opportunity to say goodbye to their beloved pet. Always remember, however, you know your child best and are the best judge as to how to proceed.
The following children’s books may be helpful in explaining a pet’s passing to young children. They are available on Amazon.com and most major book stores.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (Judith Viorst)
I’ll Always Love You (Hans Wilhelm)
When A Pet Dies (Fred Rogers)
Forever Paws (Christine Davis)
Dog Heaven (Cynthia Rylant)
Cat Heaven (Cynthia Rylant)
For Every Dog An Angel (Christine Davis)
For Every Cat An Angel (Christine Davis)
Saying Goodbye to LuLu (Corinne Demas)
The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise (Adrian Raeside)
I Miss You: All Pets Go To Heaven (Judy Helm Wright)
If you have more questions regarding how to handle your difficult situation, please feel free to reach out to us! We are happy to provide consultation to clarify our in-home pet euthanasia service and personally guide you through the process. We know this can be a very tough time for you everyone in your family and we are here to help.
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