Pets, Grief, and Loss: Part One

by Erin Wasson (MSW, RSW)-Clinical Associate Social Work, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan.


When a beloved family pet dies it can be really hard. For many of us, our pets are a place of unconditional love, acceptance, and immense joy. After the loss of a beloved pet, we are often left with memories of the life we have shared with them, and immense pain where our love for them remains. The following article is to help normalize the grief we feel around losing our pets, and to talk about some of what you can expect around grief and loss.Part two of this article will discuss when additional support might be needed.
Click here to view the article Part One

Lily Toxicity in Cats - Beware! Poisonous!

Lily Toxicity in Cats - Beware! Poisonous!

As Easter approaches, species of Lily plants will be flooding the market. Cat owners need to be aware of the risks of toxicity (poisoning) associated with lilies. Many different species of plants are called lilies ... All parts of the plant including the pollen, flowers, stem and leaves are toxic if ingested. Lily intoxication can lead to acute kidney failure and ... (continued)

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Humans love chocolate for all occasions, especially at Halloween! Unfortunately, chocolate in all forms is poisonous to our pets and should be kept away from them.

Who is at risk?

Cats and dogs are both at risk of chocolate poisoning. However, there are more reported cases of dogs being affected since dogs typically eat just about anything. Smaller pets face much greater risk of chocolate toxicity than large breed dogs because it only takes a small amount of chocolate to negatively affect them. 3 ounces of milk chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea in a 9kg dog while it takes about 11 ounces to cause the same effects in an 35 kg dog.



Theobromine, the naturally occurring stimulant in chocolate and cocoa, along with caffeine can cause an increased heart rate. A pet that consumes toxic amounts of chocolate can experience hyperactivity, tremors, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially death.


Take pets with suspected chocolate poisoning to their veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian may induce vomiting. Active charcoal may be used to prevent absorption into the bloodstream. Additional fluid therapy may also be warranted.

Different types of chocolate

Dark chocolate contains more of the stimulants than milk chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate and baking chocolate contains even higher amounts, which make them more dangerous. White chocolate contains only trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine, but is still bad for your cat or dog and should still be avoided.

Why is the Human Animal Bond Important?

The Human Animal Bond is important to the health and well-being of pet owners.  More and more households include pets, and most of these pet owners consider their pets to be a family member.  

  • Many families with a pet report an increase in family happiness and fun
  • Pet owners feel safer when walking with a dog or sharing a residence with a dog
  • Families with pets have better physical and mental health
  • Relating to pets improves relationships with other people

Pets benefit children:

  • Children exposed to pets during the first year of life have a lower frequency of allergic rhinitis and asthma
  • Children with pets show greater self-esteem, empathy and self-reliance
  • Kids with pets are more physically active and involved in activities such as sport, hobbies, clubs or chores
  • Pets are a great way to teach children about responsibility and caring for others

Pets benefit seniors:

  • Seniors with pets make fewer doctor visits and cope better with stressful events
  • Medication costs are lower in long term care facilities that have animals as part of the environment
  • Activities of daily living levels deteriorate less with seniors who own pets

Pets are like therapists:

  • 33% of married women say their pets are better listeners than their husbands
  • 18% of married men say their pets are better listeners than their wives
  • 8% of pet owners claim they talk about their personal problems to their pets 

How Much Does A Pet Cost?

Approximate Anticipated Costs


average life expectancy 12 years


  • 18kg(40lb) bag dry dog food/month $720   
  • 2 boxes biscuit treats/month $300
  • 8 cans dog food (396g)/month $270
  • 4 rawhide chews/month $360        


  • Bath/comb or clip $360
  • Nail trim $90
  • **Dogs that do not shed require grooming 6-8 times/year.
  • Nail trims are usually required every 2 months.

Other costs            

  • License $30
  • 2 wk vacation kennel care $630

Veterinary Care            

  • Annual exam and vaccines $170
  • Annual deworming $60

Approximate One-Time Cost

  • Spay (female) $550
  • Microchip $100 
  • Tattoo $40
  • Food & water dish $20 
  • Collar and leash $25 
  • Brush/comb $15
  • Toys $30
  • Crate $80
  • Bed $75

TOTAL Annual cost $2990

TOTAL One time cost $935

TOTAL LIFETIME cost $36815



average life expectancy 14 years


  • 1.8kg(4lb) bag dry cat food/month    $500
  • .23kg(3 oz) bag cat treats/month    $180
  • 4 cans cat food (396g)/month    $100      


  • Nail trim    $90
  • 20kg bag litter/month    $200
  • 1 tube furball laxative    $12
  • Nail trims are usually required for dogs and cats every 2 months.

Other costs            

  • License    $10
  • 2 wk vacation kennel care     $490

Veterinary Care            

  • Annual exams and vaccines    $140
  • Annual deworming    $25

Approximate One-Time Cost

  • Spay (female)    $380
  • Microchip    $100
  • Tattoo    $40
  • Food & water dish    $20
  • Collar, harness    $35
  • Brush/comb    $15
  • Toys    $30
  • Crate    $50
  • Bed    $35
  • Litter pan/scoop    $25
  • Scratching post    $50-$250

TOTAL Annual cost $1747

TOTAL One time cost $730

TOTAL LIFETIME cost $25188


Costs are estimated and do not include purchase price of your pet, emergency medical care, initial vaccination and rabbies vaccine.  This does not include the cost of your time for needed walking playing and caring for your pet.

Adapted with permission from Calgary Humane Society website        

Examples of Additional Veterinary Care That May Be Required

  • After hours emergency consultation    $160
  • X-rays    $200-$300
  • Blood and urine testing    $150-$300
  • Dental cleanings/extractions under general anesthesia    $650-$1,500

Consider pet health insurance or set up a pet health bank account!


Some Alberta Facts Associated with Pets of Owners in financial need

      Yearly number of small animal cases of pet essential treatment requiring financial aid in Alberta*

$53 Million
      Estimated yearly cost to treat all pet essential treatment cases requiring financial aid in Alberta*

Survey of Alberta veterinary industry representatives* indicate perceived animal outcomes when clients require financial aid:
      35% are euthanized
      40% involve co-pay or pro-bono treatment by veterinarians
      12% receive no treatment
      13% surrendered
(study did not include number of pets abandoned as a result of financial hardship)

      Cost to the public to shelter or euthanize surrendered pets
      Cost to the public to pick up and care for abandoned pets
      Cost to public in pursuing “medical neglect” charges

* Capstone Project, Winter 2013 “Financial Assistance for Pet Essential Treatment: An assessment of Provincial Need and Industry Perception”  Cammille Hunt, Sarah Molund, Kristina Oxtoby & Lindsay Yeomans, University of Alberta AN SC 479/499

Tips for Saving Money on Pet Care

  • Consider adopting from a humane or rescue organization; they sometime ask only what you can afford and may include the price of spaying or neutering
  • Think about all the costs before you choose which pet is right for you
  • Buy second-hand supplies such as pet beds, collars, leashes and toys from charitable retail outlets
  • Share boarding responsibilities with another pet owner
  • Practice preventive healthcare
  • Consider pet insurance
  • Stop smoking; pets suffer injury from second hand smoke
  • Buy a good quality pet food
  • And give your companion animal lots of exercise – it’s good for both of you!

Top Tips for a Healthy, Happy Pet

  • Regular check-ups, vaccinations and care
  • Routine grooming including nail trimming, brushing and tooth brushing
  • Protection from parasites including heartworms, fleas and ticks
  • Spay or neuter your animal
  • Battle the bulge with quality food and exercise and play
  • Know which foods are dangerous, and even toxic to your pet
  • Use proper pet restraints in a vehicle
  • Provide proper training and socialization
  • Have your pet licensed and permanently identified with microchip or tattoo
  • Get your pet from an ethical and credible source; consider a rescue animal


When Owners Can't Afford Medical Treatment

When people cannot afford medical treatment for their pet, studies show the outcome for the beloved family pet is one of the following:

  • Euthanasia
  • No treatment
  • Surrender to humane organization
  • Abandonment

In fact, the top 5 reasons people abandon or euthanize their pets

  • Moving
  • Landlord doesn’t allow pets
  • Too many animals in the household
  • Cost of pet is too high
  • Owner has personal problems

People who find themselves in financial difficulty experience many of these circumstances.