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Nearly half of UK pet owners suffer in silence following the loss of a pet

Katie Court
Authored by Katie Court
Posted: Monday, February 26, 2024 - 12:00

Nearly half of UK pet owners have felt they have had to suffer in silence after losing a pet, with just 52% saying they would feel comfortable reaching out for support, a survey by national pet charity Blue Cross has found.

The survey of 2,000 owners found just 50% were open to discussing the loss of a pet with family or friends, while less than 40% felt they could open up to their employer. Most (81%) felt they couldn’t request time off work to grieve; with 67% believing it is important for employers to offer support following the loss of a pet.

Michelle Weller said she found it difficult to talk to anyone who understood the pain she was going through following the loss of her beloved Springer Spaniel Bailey.

For nine years, they had shared an unbreakable bond, but Michelle’s world fell apart when he passed away suddenly in 2022 after collapsing while out on a walk.

The 48-year-old nurse from Wiltshire, who has two grown up children, said: “Nothing prepares you for losing your best friend.

“Bailey brought me such happiness and laughter and was the reason I got up every morning.  Wherever I went, he was with me for nine years. I was distraught at his loss.

“People didn’t get it. They would say ‘he’s just a dog and you’ll get another one’ but (following his death) I’d go in a room and, when he wasn’t there, I’d almost have a panic attack. When I went to pick up Bailey’s ashes from the vets, I absolutely broke down.”

Fortunately, the vet gave Michelle the details of Pet Loss Support at national pet charity Blue Cross when she went to collect Bailey’s ashes, and it was the vital lifeline she needed.

“When I phoned the (Pet Loss Support helpline) for the first time, I didn’t speak for the first hour, I just sobbed,” Michele said.

“The lovely person on the end of the phone just listened. I felt so bad because I couldn’t talk but she told me to take my time. It was as if someone had given me a massive hug. She took me out of that dark place I was in, and just listened. It was a hug in a phone call.”

This year Blue Cross’s Pet Loss Support (PLS) team is marking 30 years of helping pet owners through any type of pet loss. In 2023 PLS helped more than 20,000 people through the free and confidential helpline, email and webchat, which provides support 365 days a year, including Christmas Day.

Michelle is not alone in not knowing services like PLS exist. Despite the fact that 57% per cent of UK households own a pet, just 23% of owners know that support is out there for when you lose your beloved companion. PLS offers a lifeline of support to those coming to terms with any type of pet loss.

Grieving for the loss of a pet can be a sad and difficult experience. Life once filled with the love and friendship of a pet, may suddenly seem very empty and result in feelings of deep sadness and loneliness. People can also struggle if a pet has gone missing or been stolen, or they have been forced to leave their pet behind after a break-up or had to make the heart wrenching decision to rehome a pet due to a change in their circumstances.

Diane James, Head of Pet Loss Support at Blue Cross, said: “We’re a nation of pet lovers but we often struggle to talk about our emotions when it involves the loss of a beloved pet - even with family and friends. It can be a distressing, confusing and lonely time.

“No-one should have to endure the pain of losing a pet alone and PLS is here to hold people’s hand when they need it most through all types of pet loss.”

The charity also supports employers which offer bereavement leave to employees following the loss of a pet.

Diane adds: “We’d urge employers to be considerate of the devastating impact the loss of a pet can have, and to consider have procedures in place to allow time for owners to come to terms with their loss.”

If you need support, you can reach out to the team at Blue Cross Pet Loss Support at



Tips for dealing with the loss of a pet


  1. You are normal - Some may not understand how upsetting the loss of a pet can be, and can make you feel you’re overreacting. You should not feel ashamed of your emotions, and the grieving process can’t be forced or sped along. Be patient with yourself. Understand that what and how you are feeling is perfectly normal.  


  1. Don’t ignore pain - bottling up your feelings will only make matters worse in the long run. To heal, you need to actively face your grief. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. It’s okay to cry or feel angry, after all you have lost someone very special and dear to you. Don’t be hard on yourself if some days are more difficult than others. There will be events that trigger your grief. These can be places you often went to, or the date of your pet’s arrival or their birthday. Support from others will help, and when you are ready, make these days a celebration of that unconditional love you shared.


  1. Open up - talking about your feelings and your pet can really help. Reach out to family and friends, especially if they knew your pet, or if you need a confidential ear you can reach out to a charity like Blue Cross which provides a Pet Loss Support service. Trained volunteers provide support through a free and confidential helpline or if it’s easier you can use their email or webchat service to write down how you feel.


  1. Holding a funeral for your pet can help you and your family openly express how you are feeling. If you choose to cremate your pet, you may want to keep the ashes in a special casket or bury them in a special place such as their favourite spot in the garden.


  1. Memorialising our pets is an important part of the grieving process. Some ways to remember and celebrate their lives include writing poems or letters to your pet, painting pictures and making models, making a scrapbook with photographs or a memory box, volunteering or sponsoring in your pets’ memory.


With the increasing demand for Blue Cross pet welfare services, the charity needs the support of animal lovers to continue its work helping pets and their people, in any way they can. Whether that’s by donating to keep rehoming and veterinary services going through these tough times, fundraising for Blue Cross, providing foster care for pets while loving new homes are found, volunteering at pet food banks, or signing up to support Blue Cross campaigns for better pet welfare.

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