Death of Pet

Updated on December 05, 2007
H.M. asks from Lisbon Falls, ME
10 answers

We are in the process of finding out our dog may have cancer. In order to find out, he has to have major surgery next week. If it is, it is a death sentence. He is our baby and we are heart broken. How do we tell our 3 yr old? I am looking for anyone who has explained this to a pre-schooler before. I don't want to scare him. He already knows Chance is sick. Thanks to all who can help.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Boston on

I am having the same problem right now. I have 2 boys, 3 year's and 17 month's and I have a 14 year old dog that I need to put to sleep. I just dont know what to say to them but my oldest sons preschool is helping me. I have been telling him that Shayne is sick and in a lot of pain to maybe make it a bit easier, but I dont think anything will make it easy. Its a hard thing to do. My 3 year old has now had to put down 2 dogs, but the first he was only 1 so he just did not know where his buddy was.
Good luck.

More Answers



answers from Burlington on

i think we used a book called "dog heaven", although i couldn't get through it without tearing up.
good luck



answers from Hartford on

Hi H.,

This is a tough subject and it will be hard for a 3 year old to understand, in the event your dog will pass. We had a beloved cat that passed away 2 years ago, and in order to explain it to my son in a simple way that he would understand, I told him that Clyde got sick and that the doctor was not able to make him better, so Clyde went to sleep and that he would now sleep forever. He seemed to understand but was sad anyway; there's no getting around that. But the key is to use simple words or phrases that they will understand, in, of course, the gentlest way possible. Depending on if you're spiritual or religious or not, and if you are, you could always explain kitty heaven. Even though I am not religious, I also used that story too. I told him that he was somewhere playing with other kitties that had gone to sleep. He asked me if Clyde would ever come back (so expect that question) but I told him no, he would not, that this is where he belonged now.

Hope this helped.



answers from Boston on

This is hard. I know you dont want to really lie to a 3 yr old. I told my daughter that he went to doggie heaven. That he was sick & very tired. That hes sleeping, & he cant wake up. He will probably ask you quite often about it. Just reassure him the dog is okay, that hes in heaven playing with new dog friends. Its hard what to tell kids, sometimes i find it easier to use make believe. I dont know how you feel about it, but when you find out wheather or not he has cancer, if/when you put him down, or he passes away, consider your son & other dog to be there. At least so he can see the dog is "sleeping". It would also help your other dog to know what happen to him. Dogs are smart. Best wishes.



answers from Boston on

Hi, H.,

I am a veterinarian and while I am only pregnant and not an actual parent yet, I understand what a tough situation this can be.

There is a pet loss support helpline through Tufts Vet School (my alma mater), the number is ###-###-####. Their webpage is If you go to their website and click on resources for grieving there are some good tips on explaining pet loss and two lists of excellent books.

I hope that helps and my thoughts are with you,




answers from Boston on

just try to explain it simply.. Chance is sick and it's a kind of sick that you can't fix. He's gone to heaven and now he's happy and isn't sick anymore. if he asks for more, then give him little bits of info .. sometimes they really don't want details, and a simple explanation is enough



answers from Boston on

H., Last year we had to put down our 9 year old dog due to a serious illness. We had him my daughter's whole lives (8 & 4). They never knew life without him. We explained to them that he was really sick and in a lot of pain and it was scary to him. That we had to let him go so he wouldn't hurt any more The three year old really didn't understand the whole thing, at first she was very angry with him and wouldn't give him hugs before he went off to the vets. So when she asked if Shakey went to heaven, we said yes, he was an angel puppy and he was playing catch with the other angels. Her comment was she didn't want him to be an angel puppy anymore, but we believe in heaven, and it helped her to think of him playing with God. For a while when she prayed she asked God to rub his belly or her. It breaks my heart to think of it still, but it has made it easier for her. I know many may not take this approach, but I guess we don't really know the truth, so it seems harmless to us and helped comfort her! We also got each girl a special dog frame with a picture of him and an ornament with his breed of dog on it. I'm sorry for your loss, especially at this time of year!



answers from Boston on

I suggest finding an age appropriate book to read with him, explaining life and death gently, even if it's not about a pet. (Flowers, plants, people, pets, etc.)

some pet ideas:

Hopefully this will help to open him up to questions he may have, and be honest. Children don't always need too much information but it's easier to learn about death of a pet before you the loss of a family member. Children also tend to feed off your energy. Most importantly let him know it's okay to be hurt over it. It feels worse to hold it inside.

I also suggest framing a nice picture of him and your other baby and putting it on his bureau, or making a scrapbook so he has a chance to remember good memories about his little friend rather than thinking about how he's not with you any longer when the time does come.

Good luck and hang in there. Best wishes to your friend.



answers from Springfield on

So sorry to hear about your pet. We had to put our Bassett Hound to sleep last may and it was heart wrenching. Our daughter had just turned for at the time and our older son has just turned 7. First you will need to expect that he will have a very hard time with this especially if he has known the dog his whole life as my two children did. We explained in simple terms that Ginger was very sick and in pain and she was now going to go to heaven so she will feel better. We took about 2 rolls of film with the kids with the dog and had little albums made up for each child that they could carry around with if they want. This may sound a little morbid to you but we decided to bury our dog in the back yard and my husband made the box she was to go in. I took the cover and had the kids draw pictures on it and write special messages to ginger so she will know that they will always be thinking of them. We also buried her with her blanket, collar and toy. But we kept two toys and washed them and gave one to each our children to sleep with. This will be VERY hard for your son to get over and just have the patience to know that it will get easier everyday. We still have times where the kids cry for ginger. We have waited long now and decided to get the kids a new dog after the new year. I hope this helps. I'm so sorry for the decisions and the experience you will have to endure in the times to come. Good luck



answers from Boston on

Hi H.,

My daughter, when she was 3 yrs old, went through the death of a beloved classroom pet (it was her brothers' classroom, next class to hers). The pet was a snake named Sophia. My daughter adored this snake, had to say good morning and good night to it. If we left the school w/out her saying goodnight, she was beside herself.

I also have a son that died as a baby - he was born before my daughter. She knows about him - but Sophia's death actually led to some wonderful conversations about life and death.

I was fortunate in that her school explains death to children as when your body stops working. So since Sophia died, her body didn't work anymore, she didn't eat, poop or sleep anymore.

That conversation was expanded on - and I also expanded on it. I explained to my daughter that death is part of life. Every living thing dies at some point - grass, flowers, bees, trees, cats, dogs, even people. She asked me if she would die sometime - and I just calmly explained that everyone will die at some time - but hopefully not for a very long time.

She asked about her brother - and I said, yes, he died but most people live a very long time.

She would bring the subject up from time to time, I let her know it was okay to cry, be sad - that she could always remember Sophia, she could always think about her brother - but that we couldn't see them again. Now they lived in our hearts.

For a while she would tell me she didn't want to die or didn't want me to die - and I said I didn't want that to happen - not for a very long time. She tells me she wants to live forever, and I just let her know that well, maybe she will live so long.

She seems fine w/ the circle of life. (I also explained that if everyone lived forever, then whenever someone was born - it would be more and more crowded). She seems fine with it - she will bring up the subject, but not in a sad way. She seems to be well-adjusted to life/death now.

Good luck w/ helping your son handle your pet's illness. I'll keep good thoughts for Chance - maybe it will be something he can recover from, and give you all more time to discuss this topic.

Take care.
Mom to 2 surviving triplet boys, will be 7yrs old next month, and 4 yr old daughter.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches