Whether it's sudden or if it comes after an illness, the death of a loved one can be a shock that requires a period of adjustment, of acceptance of what has happened. You need to adjust to the fact that they're no longer physically present, and this can be problematic, although everyone deals with their grief differently. A loved one doesn't necessarily have to be human. The death of a beloved pet is nothing short of a tragedy, and acceptance of the fact that this constant presence is gone can be difficult. If you, a family member, or a friend are having trouble coping with the death of a pet, simply carrying on might not be the most appropriate course of action. Don't dismiss the emotional impact of the pet's passing, and additional assistance can be beneficial when it comes to addressing this emotional impact.
Of course, the pet will be dearly missed. It would be be curious if this was not the case, even if the death came after a decline in health. In attempting to give solace, you might receive misguided (though heartfelt) sympathy containing the word "only." Others might not understand your grief, and in an attempt to make you feel better will tell you that it was "only" a dog. From your point of view, the word "only" can be unhelpful, even offensive, potentially seeming to devalue the life of your pet. The obvious suggestion that you can simply replace the pet can also be difficult to hear, with however much sympathy the sentiment was intended.
The Loss of Emotional Support
Without realising it, you might have been using your pet as a form of emotional support. There is nothing wrong with this, and indeed, this is part of the joy of forming an emotional attachment to your pet. Difficulty in adjusting to the loss of your pet can arise when this emotional support is withdrawn. A sense of purpose, that of diligently and lovingly caring for the animal is also gone, and this can result in a sense of aimlessness, even hopelessness.
Assistance Might Be Needed
There is no set timeframe in dealing with the loss of a beloved pet, and yet you shouldn't be afraid to seek bereavement counselling if the death is affecting your ongoing quality of life. It's not as though counselling is a quick, exhaustive fix, and it's really about teaching you coping mechanisms, as well as understanding why you have reacted in the way that you have, and if there are any other contributing factors that might not be immediately evident. There is no right or wrong way to react to such a sad event, and yet counselling might be necessary to ensure that your reaction doesn't overshadow your ability to live your life.
Perhaps some day in the not-too-distant future you will be ready to welcome a new pet into your life, even though in your view it will not be a replacement for the pet who is no longer with you. They were never "only" a dog or a cat, and there is nothing wrong with recognising that you might need assistance in dealing with such a loss.
Do you feel low? Do you struggle to complete daily activities such as having a shower or eating regular meals? Do you have trouble sleeping? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing low mood. For many years, I would have long periods of low mood. I didn't do anything about them until my wife suggested that I see a counsellor. The experience really helped me to explore my low mood and in combination with medication, my mood is now much improved. I decided to start this blog so I could offer advice to other people.