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Abbotsford Animal Hospital

Children and the Discussion of Pet Loss

Kid with dog licking his nose

Children of different age groups may deal differently with the loss of a pet.

Pre school

  • This age group may not necessarily show any emotions from the loss of their pet. Because they have yet to understand the concept of time, they also do not have a concept of the finality of death. Try to use phrases that are less confusing, things like ‘passed away’ or ‘put to sleep’ may be misleading that there is possibility of their pet coming back or waking up.

After Preschool until Grade 3 (under 10)

  • Children of this age group understand the concept of time, they will understand that death is final. Depending on how a child is raised, and even influences from their favourite movies, children of this age group may see their pets as becoming spirits or ghosts. 

Middle School (pre teen)

  • At this age, children are likely to experience more of a loss and need support while grieving. They understand the basics of life and death but may have trouble communicating their feelings. They may look for support from their peers, they may be more open with someone closer to their age who they can relate to.


  • An age group already overloaded with new emotions, their loss may be shown in many different ways. They have likely built more of a bond with their pet, especially when dealing with the loss of a family pet they grew up with. It is important to be available to them for comfort and answer their questions openly and honestly.

Additional things to remember

  • It is important to ensure that children do not blame themselves for the death of their pet.

  • ‘Grief bursts’ are common and can hit at any time. Let your child know that grieving is normal and it is ok to miss their pet.

  • As pets age differently than people, a 14 year old pet dying of ‘old age’ may be confusing to a child who is only a few years away from 14. 

  • Try to keep routines as normal as possible.

  • Know your limits, if you are struggling to help your child overcome the loss of a pet, seek help from a professional grief counsellor or therapist. 

  • Don’t blame your Veterinarian

    Children are developing their relationship between themselves and their doctors. Blaming your Veterinarian for the loss of your pet may make them distrustful of not only vet clinics but their own healthcare providers. 

​Ideas for helping your child

  • Write Good-bye letters or drawings

    These can even go with the pet for cremation or kept in a special keepsake box. 

  • Make a scrapbook with your child, write special memories your child can look back on. 

  • Ink prints of your pets paw are available through Gateway Pet Memorial, these are great to be framed.

  • Plant a tree in honour of your pet.

  • Make a donation in honour of your pet to your local OSPCA or Animal Shelter. 

If you have any questions or concerns, you can always visit or call us – we want to ensure the best possible care for not only your pets but the whole family as well.​ Abbotsford Animal Hospital - Caring for Pets for People in York Region, Aurora, Newmarket, King City, Richmond Hill and the GTA. ​

Gloria Fantegrossi

Customer Care Specialist at Abbotsford Animal Hospital since 2017.