What To Say, Not Say, and What to Do When Someone's Pet Dies

The death of a pet, just like the loss of any human relationship, comes with its own unique characteristics. When they pass, it’s another loss with the depth of the emotions varying because of the type of relationship shared. Like people, we connect more deeply with some pets than we do with others. The happy memories, the special bond, and so much more are difficult to let go as a furry friend crosses the rainbow bridge. Here is why the loss of a dog or cat, or other pet, can be so hard – and how you can help your friends through this difficult time.

Our pets represent many things in our life.

  • They represent chapters in our life, with their existence marking various passages throughout our journey.
  • They mark the time of our youth, dating, engagements, broken engagements, marriages, births, illnesses, aging children, aging spouses, deaths, divorces…

As a result, their death will also be a marker to end a chapter, or as a reminder of other life events during that time.

Pets represent all that is good, or all that we wish would be good, in people and our society. They are organic in presenting unconditional love, trust, forgiveness, the ability to “just be” and connect with their humans without words, but by heart alone.

They don’t judge, they just love, regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, how we look, and any of the physical aspects that so many people place priority and significance on. They are faithful friends to the end.

When they die, the absence of this special spirit and presence, who delivered all the elements a human loves, needs and craves, is devastating.

Grieving Pet Loss is Necessary, Never Shameful

More and more of our society is throwing shame to the wind, and giving themselves permission to grieve, mourn, and honor their special pet love(s).

70% of the U.S. population has a pet today, so more than half of our country “understands” loving an animal. They just “get it.” That means that 70% of Americans understand that the death of a pet can rock one’s world.

Give yourself permission to “feel” and listen to your heart. Let your heart be the guide and get your own head out of the way. Your head will tell you all that you project society might tell you: “it’s just a dog. I shouldn’t be feeling this way.”

Ignore all of that.

This is real, and the loss of your pet and true friend is important and life-changing. Now that we've established the ground rules for grieving the loss of a pet (there are none), let's explore how you can be a source of comfort to someone else when they are experiencing the death of a pet.

What to Say and Do When Someone’s Pet Dies

When we experience this type of loss in our life, so many people are at a loss for what to say, and how to act. Here are five ways to be a loving, supporting friend to someone whose pet has recently passed.

1. Simply listen.

It’s really that simple. Just be, and just listen.

Take some valuable, precious time to just be and listen to their stories. You might have to listen countless times to the same story.

Be “animal-like” in this act of kindness. Don’t judge, don’t correct, and practice unconditional love in just listening.

Ask questions like:

  • Remind me, where did you get [Pet's Name] from?
  • What drew you to get her?
  • How did she get her name?
  • What’s your favorite memory?
  • What was his personality when no one else was around?
  • What lessons do you think he taught you?

One of the sweetest sounds in all the world for anyone is a name. Use their pet’s name with love and meaning.

2. Help them find ways to remember the pet.

While a grieving person feels like the world has stopped, they also feel like the world is flying right by them. Help them with things that they can do to actively mourn for their pet friend.

You might help them create a special memorial section in their home. Create a special place (perhaps where the pet's bed used to be) and set up a candle, a photo, and their special toys or blankets.

3. Send a pet sympathy card, deliver food, send flowers, or donate to an animal charity in that pet’s honor.

Do something to show you care. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture, but something that shows you are thinking of them and their pain at this very difficult time. It might not seem like a lot, but it helps to know that you are on the minds of your friends and family and not alone when you are grieving.

Pet sympathy cards are a small gesture and mean a lot. Acknowledge their grief, express your deepest sympathy, and share a fond memory or two of your friend's beloved pet in your condolence message.

4. Help create a ritual or ceremony.

Create a special ceremony or Celebration of Life in honor of the pet. Ask the bereaved what they loved to do together and how they would want to remember this chapter of their life they shared.

Some inspiration includes:

  • Hiding tennis balls in the local dog park.
  • Planting a tree in the local park in the pet’s honor.
  • Inviting friends and family members over to share stories.
  • Reading poetry or scripture that’s meaningful.
  • Volunteering at a shelter together to help the homeless pets.
  • Creating a meaningful ceremony, with all the same elements of a human funeral or memorial.

5. Create a permanent memorialization piece.

The paralyzing emotion of grief and loss can be overwhelming.

Be a resource and help the grieving heart in creating the perfect, permanent memorialization piece to honor the pet, things like a rock with the pet’s paw print or nose print on it, a canvas portrait, a memorial blanket throw or a diamond to set in jewelry.

Here are 9 more creative ways to memorialize a pet. All of these can be treasured for our whole life.

What Not to Say and Do When Someone’s  Pet Dies

At this time, it’s important for people who are grieving a pet loss to find those who are understanding or at the very least, empathetic. It will be key to a healthier grief journey.

If you have a friend or someone close who has recently lost a pet, please be aware of the things not to say or do.

1. "It was just an animal."

Pets have become family for so many people. They are never "just a dog" or "just a cat." A statement such as this implies that your loved one's grief is not worthy, simply because the loss they are grieving is not a human. All losses deserve to be grieved.

2. "You can always get another one."

Saying this minimizes the relationship one has with a pet. This is never something we would say to a human grieving the loss of a loved one. Like humans, pets are absolutely irreplaceable and one-of-a-kind.

3. "You knew his life would be short."

When a person first picks up her new puppy or kitten, the last thing on their mind is the number of years they'll have together. However, as pet lovers, there is one thing we absolutely know… we will almost always outlive our pet friends.

This is yet another way to try and talk someone out of the way they feel and point out why they shouldn’t be sad as they knowingly signed up for this heart ache.

4. "You'll have so much free time now that he's gone."

You may mean well by pointing out the positive aspects of the pet's absence, but this can come off as insensitive. Reminding your friend that they'll be free to go on vacation, or they’ll have more money now because those funds won’t have to be earmarked for veterinary care will not help in their grief.

When we commit to care for a pet, we do so fully and to the best of our financial, physical, and emotional capabilities. All of those are conscious decisions we WANT to make.

5. "I can't believe how much you spent on treatment."

It's never a good idea to question how much or even how little your friend put into treatment for her terminally ill pet. With pet hospice now being readily available for pet lovers to create a special end-of-life walk, to the point of euthanasia or assistance with death, every one of those decisions are the pet parent’s to make.

7. "Why do you still have those toys, food bowls, litter box, photos?"

Holding on to items like these can be very healing and cathartic for a broken heart. They are physical reminders of a beautiful life shared.

8. "I can't believe you'd keep the remains in your living room!"

Creating a beautiful memorial, complete with an urn, is another personal decision. This is yet one more area that if you don’t agree with this decision by a loving pet parent, at least respect their decision.

9. "Why are you not over this already?"

After having a loyal and loving animal by your side day and night, it can be extremely trying as an owner to cope with the death.

Steer clear of chiding your friend about moving back to reality and acknowledge the hardship she's experiencing. Instead, honor her story by asking about the pet and letting her share. Love is love, and grief is grief. There is not a magical time where it will be over or done. Be patient and caring throughout whatever time it takes.


It's often said that grief is the price we pay for deep, meaningful relationships that change our lives for the better. Beyond that, it's our brain’s way of forever remembering the connection, and honoring the value it brought to our lives.

If you are experiencing the loss of a beloved pet, be kind to yourself, know that where you are is exactly where you should be, and honor the life and time you shared together with a special love. And if you are walking with someone on this journey, be kind, be supportive, and “just be.”