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Published: May 24, 2012

For many people, the pain of losing a pet is equal in grief to losing a family member - after all, many pets are among the most beloved members of the family. Whether the pet died on its own or you made the choice of euthanasia, the void left behind can be painful for anyone. Understanding the process of death and what to expect after pet loss can help some owners come to terms with the tragic event.

Today, many owners choose to euthanize an animal to give it a peaceful death. When treating pain in dogs and cats is no longer effective, sometimes this is the most humane choice. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that veterinarians have special training to make this the gentlest process possible. First the dog or cat is given a sedative to relax, then the euthanizing medication. This functions so the animal has no awareness of the end of life.

There is no "right" time to euthanize a pet, the ASPCA reports. Many animals will continue to eat or drink in spite of pain or illness. Sometimes it can help to keep a daily record of suffering and pain in dogs and cats to determine their quality of life.

VCA Animal Hospitals reports there are five stages of grieving that individuals can expect to go through - shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Everyone experiences these stages in different ways and for varying lengths of time, and no one way is the right or wrong way to grieve. Talking to someone may help you come to terms with your feelings and accept your loss more quickly.  Do not be afraid to discuss your feelings with your veterinarian.  They may be able to guide you to a professional bereavement counselor or other pet loss resource if needed.