The loss of your beloved companion is a devastating time. As much as we wish we could keep them with us for the whole of our lives, we know that our wonderful canine family members are only with us for a fraction of our own life. But sometimes you’re still left with a ‘why’ – is there an answer, a reason, that can bring you some closure.
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Sometimes the decision is left to us as owners, putting them out of their suffering with illness or old age. Even when we are prepared for this, it is still one of the hardest things we have to do.
However, other times, their death can be unexpected and sudden, and you are left wondering if you will ever have answers.
We are all very well aware that bodies have design flaws, and that a side effect of life is eventually death. However, it doesn’t make the non-answers any easier for us, especially when you have no justification for your loss. From traumatic circumstances, to perhaps a fatal stroke, tumour bleed or bloat, there are many reasons for a death that is sudden and in these cases, it can be very difficult to find peace.
Other times, you may have the objective data as to the cause of their death, a diagnosis of disease, or a clear deterioration in their suffering. However it just happened quicker than you were prepared for.
No matter the circumstances, it is important to note: you are entitled to your grief.
For many of us, pets are our family members.
We spend more time with our pets than we do extended family, friends, coworkers. Our symbiotic relationship with dogs over time has resulted in us welcoming them into our homes as a part of our family. They bring us more joy and love than some could imagine. They allow us to welcome the present moment, to remind us to be excited about the smaller things in our day. We are awake on an unremarkable Tuesday morning. ‘It’s time for an excited twenty minute bottom wriggle session in the kitchen everybody!’ Their absence can be overwhelming, especially when unexpected.
Questions are likely to arise
What did I miss? Should I have seen something? Could I have prevented it? And in these times we are likely to replay their final days and moments over and over in our heads; looking for the hints that we should have seen. We often put the pressure on ourselves to see and control everything. When most of the time, it is simply biology and mother nature at work.
In these cases where you are searching for the answers, there are options for you to consider to give yourself the best chance at getting those answers, and invariably some closure and peace. These include talking to your regular veterinarian about the possible causes. And considering a post mortem, or as it is called in the human world ‘an autopsy’. In the animal world, we call it a ‘necropsy.’
Why would a post mortem exam help?
For some people, a post mortem comes with an instant ‘no,’ for all manner of reasons. It won’t change the outcome; they want their pet to lie peacefully; they don’t like the idea of their body being disturbed. And sometimes it doesn’t give us the clear answers we’re after. And we will never push you to consider a post mortem if you feel strongly against it.
However, it can bring you some peace of mind being able to answer the questions around your pet’s death. And bring some comfort that in most cases, it was entirely out of your hands. Many diseases and medical conditions are insidious, meaning that they don’t show obvious symptoms until it is too late. If it is something you want to consider, then have a discussion with your vet as to whether it is a reasonable option in your particular case, and go from there.
In my personal experience, the value of finding something on a post mortem that explains the cause of death is often a welcome closure for my clients, allowing them to bring some sense into what was previously a senseless loss.
The loss of our pets can surprise us with the intensity of grief, which should be unsurprising, considering they are such a big part of our modern lives. If you have any questions surrounding your pet’s death, then there are always people to talk to. And whilst everybody deals with loss very differently, know that in time, you will be able to remember them with a warm smile, thankful for the time you did have together.