Children should ideally have the opportunity to say goodbye to their companion. In our experience, children over five years old are amazingly present and engaged, and will often impress with their understanding and acceptance.
Of course, this decision is ultimately the choice of the parent.
Some parents elect to have children at home but in a different room for the actual passing. This helps ensure they are insulated from the parent’s emotions (which is usually harder for them to deal with than the actual loss of the pet), but still allow them to say their goodbyes after the passing, before the pet leaves the home.
For children younger than five, they seem to be unsure about what’s going on and are, again, more upset by the parent’s emotions than by the loss of the pet.
Still, we believe open communication about the loss is usually the best policy even for this age.
Upon request, our care coordinators can email you a helpful resource from The Ohio State University that shares how to best help children cope with serious illness or death of a pet.