My Daughters Pet Died

Updated on October 01, 2010
R.G. asks from Clinton, MD
18 answers

My 8 year old daughter had two puppies and one puppy died this morning. She had been vomiting for a couple of days and both my daughter and I took turns cleaning up behind her. We took her to the vet, they took xrays and found nothing wrong and gave me nausea medicine to give her. She completely stopped eating and it went down hill within 2.5 days. I spoke to the vet yesterday and I was to bring the puppy in today for some blood work. When I got up this morning she was already gone. I rushed my daughter off to school this morning without telling her. I'm going to need to tell her something this afternoon after school. My daughter is very mature for her age, so I will definitely tell her the truth. I'm not sure whether to have a memorial service and allow her to bury the puppy? Should I promote the fact that one puppy is still alive? What's the best way to break the news to her? Any advise would be helpful. Thanks.

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answers from Washington DC on

I think part of the whole point of having pets for children is to give them practice with dealing with death and the process of grief. Definitely let her feel the pain, have a little ceremony, and grieve her loss. It is a sad, but necessary, part of life.

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answers from New York on

I agree with Christine, I would definitely get puppy #2 checked out. Parvo is HIGHLY contagious and usually fatal (not saying that is what did this but it's fairly common in puppies) I just wanted to suggest the books that really helped my children when we lost our beloved Rott two years ago. Being a very large dog there was no way to avoid the shock of loss but the books were a real help in getting them talking and feeling what they needed to feel. My daughter still talks about her and every once in a while I will find her reading her books and will know that she is thinking of her. We also have a photo album filled with just her that we keep on the kids book shelf so they can see her whenever they want. I'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm, For Every Dog an Angel by Christine Davis, Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant and though not about animals specifically a really good book on death The Next Place by Warren Hanson. They do all mention heaven or an after life which makes it tough on families like ours who believe in reincarnation but I think with children they just want a sense of peace and these books offered that for our children. I am so sorry for your loss. Blessed be!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

You have some great advice to be honest and compassionate. I'm sure it will be awful since she was so involved. I'm just trying to think ahead about puppy #2. You may want to be proactive with her and get her tested to rule out something contagious among puppies. I would hate for this to happen a second time. I'm sorry you are going through this. Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

i would use as a way to introduce her to death. eventually, a loved one will die, so a pet, however upsetting it may be, might be a good way open up communication about death and what you want teach her about your beliefs of the afterlife or the whys in life.

our cat had to be put to sleep when my daughter was just 3, she was told that she got very sick and had to go to heaven. now at almost 6, she still refers to the cat as being in heaven, and it makes it easier for her to ask questions about when we die. we have her buried with a rock.

i would not promote the new puppy too much. what if that puppy got ill as well, that i believe is a lot for a child to deal with. i agree to get the puppy checked asap. also, its not a bad thing to stay away from replaceable living things. what i mean is, just because you have another puppy, it doesnt lessen the hurt of losing the other. its a rare case she happened to have 2 puppies, and i dont assume that would be the case again, so it would be best to teach her how to deal with loss without focusing on the other puppy since most losses wont have an "other", kwim.

i am sorry for your loss. i had many pets as a child and buried each one, even the fish. i had a beloved cat who died when i was 9, it was the first death of a pet. it might be nice to find a pic of the puppy and frame it, i actually had a scrapbook of the cat, and it really helped. good luck

ETA, just remembered when i lost my childhood cat, my aunt, a catlover, sent me a sympathy for the loss of your pet card. it meant a lot to think a grown up thought my cat dying was a big deal, not just a kid thing. have a relative that has pets send it to her in the mail right away, it really helped me realize even adults knew its hard to lose a pet.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I agree with the ladies here: be straight with her on it, and explain briefly that death is inevitable for all living things. If you believe in God, you can say this is the cycle of life God has created to keep the Earth fresh and remind us of our own mortality and relationship with him/her.

I wouldn't normally recommend something like this, but you could say that the surviving puppy is probably saddened by the loss of the other dog, and needs your daughter's love and companionship now more than ever. While this may or may not be true, it might give your daughter a different perspective -- that is, it's not all about her -- and spark some responsibility in her to console the surviving dog.



answers from Sacramento on

After doing a quick google search of "explaining pet loss to a child", I found multiple reliable sources with some good suggestions. You may find some valuable advice there. I know that I lost my first pet around this age. I definitely found solace in burying my cat and leaving her with a favorite toy and a few other items that I thought she might need to have with her. I have vivid memories of that experience, as most children probably do and I was at peace with them having done this ritual with my father. In fact, in college, I lost another pet and being on my own I actually performed the same ritual myself and this helped me to cope once again. I hope this helps.



answers from Washington DC on

We had a mouse that was caught in a trap this summer. It was a wild field mouse but was still alive. My husband shot it with a bb gun and for the sake of my 9 year old we burried him in the yard away from the house. He said a little prayer for God to take care of the mouse.
At my mom and dad's, we have a cat graveyard. I think they now have maybe 12 cats buried there. We have buried every cat in the back since I was in gradeschool.
When she gets home, tell her the truth in very staightfoward words. Tell her why, if you want her to believe there is a place for animals in heaven tell her that is where puppy has gone. THen ask her if she wants to bury puppy in the yard.
The next time you go to Applebee's where they give little kids balloons send the balloon up into heaven for the puppy to play with.
She will be sad for a couple days, let her grieve. She will bounce back soon enough with the other puppy.
Losing a pet is a good lesson before losing a beloved Grandma or Grandpa.



answers from Spokane on

Be honest and compassionate. To children a pet is often so much more like a friend. If you're comfortable with it and have the space in your yard, I would let her bury it; let her mourn and say goodbye. Let her know that you understand she's sad, but there is still another puppy that depends on her. Don't be suprised if she distances herself a little from the puppy that survived - she may be afraid that if she loves it too much it'll die too. Getting back to caring for the puppy may take some time, so just take over the puppy duties until she's ready - don't make a big deal of it, but every so often ask for her help.



answers from Washington DC on

Do not pump up that one puppy is alive. You never know what may happen in that puppies future. When my dogs died I explained to my son that sometimes bodies have problems. Doctors try to fix the problem but sometimes they cant. I paralleled it to a car breaking down, he loves cars and understands them. I explained food is like gas, etc and sometimes cars just get too old and wear out, my dog died of old age. Make a parallel that your daughter will understand and tell her the puppy went somewhere nice. I told my son my dog is in heaven with my grandpa playing with him. He was concerned she wouldnt get any more dog treats so I told him my grandpa will take care of him. Eventually he stopped talking about her and it's now a memory he's ok with.

It totally sucks having to talk about it with kids but be strong. Do it with you and your hubby do not have other adults there when you talk about it. My mom broke down upset and said things that were not very comforting.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

So sorry to hear about your puppy. When my daughter's hamster died she was soooooo upset (obviously). We buried him (I figured he was tiny so it wasn't a big deal putting him in our yard) Then we went to the craft store and bought one of those stone making kits, where kids sometimes put their handprints. We made the cement and then when it was still wet my daughter decorated it with different colored stones. She wrote his name and the date too. This happened over a year ago, and sometimes I still hear her say to a friend who is visiting, "Want to see Chip's grave?" I think it makes her feel good that it's there.



answers from New York on

You are on the right track. Being upfront and honesst is the best thing to do. You can also perhaps share your beliefs with her about death. She how she responds and determine if you need to point out the obvious about the other puppy. The other puppy may even be experiencing the loss too if they shared the same space. I would have either a funeral or memorial service because death is a part of life, quiet as it's kept. Similar thing happened in our family when the kids where really little, a few months after the death of the family cat, we lost Grandma.



answers from Boise on

I would let her decide what she wants to do. Does she want to bury it in the backyard, or have it cremated at the vet? Have a service, or just have you do it? I think she is old enough to decide. I think that you can tell her how sad the other puppy is, and that he needs some extra love right will help both of them. Just make sure that you know where the pets are buried. Whenever we had to do yardwork growing up, I would go into the house when they were digging. I didn't want to see a rabbit or cat that had been misplaced. :)



answers from Minneapolis on



answers from Jacksonville on

My very first thought was: Parvo.
Please have the 2nd puppy checked out. You don't want to go through this with the 2nd pup as well.

Be straightforward with your daughter. Ask her what she would like to do... but give her choices to choose from, because she may have no idea what is supposed to happen.



answers from Washington DC on

Wonderful answers so far. And I want to add a few things having been a vet tech for some yrs. Getting the puppy checked out is very important as others have said. If they find something, you can treat the puppy that is living. Also did you purchase the puppies from a breeder or a pet store or did you get them from a shelter? After they are tested, it's important to let the source of the puppies know what happened; as this could be present in other animals in their care.
Please do not release balloons as one poster suggested. These balloons are the cause of suffocation of many water birds and animals when they balloons come back down to the ground.
Finally, search for the poem "The Rainbow Bridge". It is of great comfort to both children and adults.
So sorry for your loss,


answers from Washington DC on

i'm so sorry about your puppy. i absolutely agree that being honest with her is best (even if she weren't mature i would advocate this) and i would follow your daughter's lead in how she'd like to handle it. certainly some sort of ritual is called for, whether or not she buries the puppy herself, and it's probably best that she does if she's able to. do not try to mitigate her grieving by trying to present a silver lining. she should be allowed to honor her love for the puppy who died by being able to mourn it without trying to 'see the bright side.'
i would break it to her very gently and simply, eg 'honey, i'm very sorry to tell you this, but scooter died today. come hold her for a while, and then we'll discuss how we'd like to say goodbye to her body.'
let her see your grief too.



answers from Washington DC on

lots of good answers, especially about being honest. you need to be clear, precise and honest. the puppy is dead, don't use any euphemisms b/c most of them have unforeseen consequences/misinterpretations. for example, a lot of parents make the mistake of saying the puppy went to sleep.... don't tell her that. it can freak a kid out about bedtime and sleeping. if you tell her the puppy was sick, make sure that you are very very clear that we're not talking about a cold here, we're not talking about the kind of sick that people get all the time. if you believe in heaven or an afterlife or anything, just be careful about how you explain it; kids her age are still pretty literal, so you want to avoid any confusion about whether or not, for example, you are headed to heaven (and might not come back) when you get on an airplane. basically, less is more, and let her ask questions so that you can get a feel for what she's thinking, how she's interpreting what you're telling her.

I agree with the folks who say that you should do what you can to find out the cause and try and treat the other puppy. there's a good chance that you're going to end up with two dead puppies if you don't, unfortunately.

as far as burying the puppy, yes, most places have laws against it. and yeah, if you live near a watershed or if there are local groundwater concerns or you have well water or there are other clear reasons to be really careful about contamination in your area, then don't bury your pets. but otherwise, well, wild animals die and decay all the time and it's part of the cycle of life. it's not the end of the world if you bury your pet in your yard.

I'm sorry for your loss.



answers from Goldsboro on

I think she needs to know exactly what's happened. Explain that the puppy was sick (she saw that, so it shouldn't be a suprise) and that she was sick enough that she couldn't and wouldnt get better.
I remember when I was about 8, my first dog ate through her pen( which was salt treated lumber) and the wood punctured her digestive tract. We took her to the vet and there was no hope. So, we brought her back home with the intent of letting her die with us. She was suffering so much though, that my dad finally took his rifle outside and put her out of her misery.
I remember him coming to my room before he shot her and he told me to lay down on my bed and put my pillow over my head so I wouldn't hear the shot.
When he came back in, I was crying on my bed and laid down beside me and cried too. That meant more than anything to me, to see that he was upset too.

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