Should Your Child be present for Euthanasia of a Pet? 

This is actually a very difficult question.  I will start by saying there is clearly no one right answer for all children and all situations.  That being said, of course I have my own opinion on the topic.

I am a veterinarian, but I am also a mother.  I have four wonderful children and they range in their sensitivity.  As a parent, I wish for my children to grow up to be well balanced and emotionally healthy.  My hope is that they will have a healthy respect for life and and understanding but not a fear of death.  

My children have had more losses of pets than likely most.  Partly because I am a veterinarian and we have always had lots of animals.  Also, partly because we had pets before we had kids so the pets were aging when my children were still young.

In my house there is a deep bond between my children and the pets.  The pets are like siblings to them.  The dogs sleep in my kids beds, they play with them, sing to them, dress them up, and LOVE them like the wonderful part of the family they are.

My children are also intimately connected to decisions regarding the pets in our family.  They do not make the decision regarding medical decisions or when to euthanize a pet.  However, I do discuss with them my reasoning and why we have made certain decisions.  It is difficult to explain to a child that their pet is aging and it is their time to let them go on to heaven.  Of course it is difficult!  There are tears, hugs, and the full range of emotions.

My children grieve for every pet lost, even those with short lives such as Hammie (the hamster), or Blade (the rat).  And they likely grieve more deeply for those that have been part of the household for as long as they can remember.

Read Dr. Sarah Whitley’s full blog.