how to tell a children that a family pet must be put down

Naomi - posted on 11/15/2010 ( 10 moms have responded )

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i have had this dog for 13 yrs and my kids age 7 to 3 love her dearly. she has our heart and now she has tumors that cant really be removed. so how do i tell them the news she must be let go to go to heaven? any info would help me

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Mary - posted on 11/17/2010

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No matter how you explain it -there are going to be lots of broken hearts... anticipate the worst and hope for the best. Make sure they understand you are not KILLING the animal but helping to end the pain of dog that they love so much. It's the very least you can do when they are suffering so much. Be prepared too, about questions about our own deaths and why we don't do this to human critters. We just put our puppy of 10 years down because of congestive heart failure and a failing spleen and pancreas. We did as much as we could - for as long as we could but it was time for our friend to rest.
No matter what faith you are - heaven is supposed to be everything you ever dreamed it could be - and I always told my kids that my heaven includes all of our animal friends that have passed. Heaven just wouldn't be heaven without them! Good luck - also spend some time remembering all the silly and funny things your dog has done from the time you got him /her to her last days! It helps a lot!

Jessica - posted on 11/16/2010

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I would tell them exactly what is happening. Tell them it's her time to go and live in Heaven with the angels (or whatever you feel comfortable telling them about death) and if she has a condition - let them know what it is called like cancer, etc. It's important that they know it's not just because she's sick because they may worry when they get sick.
I had to put my 14 year old cat down when my son was 3 or 4 years old. She had bone cancer in her jaw and it was very fast acting - I had to put her down a month after she was diagnosed because she could no longer eat. I made sure my son knew the reason she was dying. I told him she is very old and has a bad sickness called cancer and that the cancer was making it so she couldn't eat anymore. I told him that she was going to the vet so he could give her a special injection to help her die. I told him the injection would make her go to sleep first and so she wouldn't feel any pain. I also told him that this was only for animals so he didn't worry when he went in to get his shots!
I used to work at a vet clinic and we euthanized animals often and it was hard to see the kids, but sometimes it helps if they are there for it. It depends on the age, though, so use your discretion.
Also you want to discuss a way to remember your pet after she's gone. Some choose cremation and get the ashes back to scatter somewhere. Others bury the pet at home. Some people plant a tree or a flower in the pets memory and that is helpful for the kids sometimes.
Also some vet clinics have books for kids about the subject. Maybe call your vet and see before you take the pet in.
I'm so sorry that you have to go thru this!

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Mary - posted on 11/20/2010

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We are doing fine Kim - we have had lots of practice out here on the farm. We say goodbye a lot whether it be by death or by selling our livestock (who become pets too) ... The day after we put old Po down it was hard getting out of the car (when I came home from work) Old Faithful was usually waiting at my car door with his tail wagging .. My other outside dog is completely lost and my husband is trying to persuade us in to getting another dog to keep him company - I am just not ready yet... although, we may have to because the other dog is still looking for his buddy. It does get easier-and I think it was easier for us this time because Po was in such bad shape. He was one of the few animals we had gotten as a puppy - we inherit quite a few animals when people get tired of them... (sad as it is - they find a happy home with us)....

Kim - posted on 11/19/2010

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How did it go? I told my kids last night. My cat is a loner except for with me, so I was going to wait but the kids were bothering him too much, never did before, and I had to tell them to leave him alone-he was trying to sleep and then eat. My son figured it out, Vet the other day, telling them to leave him alone and asked if he was dying. I couldn't lie and tell them he would be ok. My almost 11 and 8 yr old were sad for like 10 mins and moved on. My almost 4 yr old keeps saying she is sad and will miss him when he is gone. I try to tell her he will be in Heaven with her Great Grandmother (who we lost this yr too) but it doesn't seem to help a 4 yr old. My cat was doing well for a few days but tonight he's looking like he is in pain. Of course the weekend is here. I guess the hardest part is going to be deciding when to take him in. I hope things are going ok with you and your kids *hugs*

Angel - posted on 11/17/2010

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I have this happen with my dog a few year age.my son was 4 year old at the time.we told him the dog was old and blind that he need to go to Heaven.he was okay once we told him that my dog was in a better place.

Kekua - posted on 11/17/2010

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Our family dog just recently died, on the day that I had an appt to have her euthanized b/c she had cancer.
I had always told my kids that our body is not who we are, it's where we live (our soul, spirit, energy, whatever is appropriate for you). So, we do not die, but our bodies do. Our bodies get sick, in small ways like catching a cold, but sometimes in big ways that it can't recover or be healed from. When our bodies are ill like that it's such an unhappy thing and can be so painful and hard to live because the body is working so hard. If we "let the body die" (aka. put the dog to sleep) the soul/spirit/etc can come out and find its way to heaven/the next life/its new body so that it can be happy and healthy again.
This worked really well for my children. They understood that it's okay to be really sad that she's not living with us anymore but they didn't want her to be in pain all the time just to be near us. So we cried our eyes out but they dealt with it really well overall. They don't have a fear of death b/c it's not just this sudden end of your existence, which tends to freak them out, but instead a transition.
I hope that helps you and, also, I'm soooo sorry for you and your family and I wish you the best. ♥

Kim - posted on 11/16/2010

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We had to put our cat to sleep about 5 yrs ago. My kids were 5 and 3 and we explained like Jessica did. Unfortunately I just found out my other cat has the same problem Jessica's cat did and we don't have much time with him. I haven't told my kids yet, found out today, but it will be soon. My kids are now almost 11, 4 and 8 now. I'm so sorry. I know how very hard it is to make this decision even when you know its the right one to do.

Julie - posted on 11/16/2010

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There is no right or wrong age when they start asking then its time to give them simple answers however you may be surprised by their understanding This story will make you laugh I hope. Our Family went through an period when pets were dying due to old age the first time one died my mother inlaw told the girls that it had gone to baby Jesus so when it happend again so not to confuse my daughter we continued this went on for 2-3 pets then number 4 came just as I was about to say its gone to baby Jesus my eldest child put her hands on her hips and stamped her feet She said " I'm fed up with that baby Jesus why does't he get his own pets instead of stealing mine she was very angry well we could not help but laugh to this day she is anti Jesus lol

Candy - posted on 11/16/2010

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Be honest and be ready to answer any Q they may have. If you believe in God it also makes it easier for them to know God will be taking care of her. It will be very hard but it is a fact of life they must learn.

Cassandra - posted on 11/15/2010

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I had a cat that we had to put down an it was my daughters cat an we had her for 3yrs when a dog attacked her an broke her jaw it was going to cost over 1000 dollars to fix her so we decided it was best we put her down i sat with my daughter an told her wat had to be done an why she was very upset but it is bettert to let them know wat happened that way they understand

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