Dog owners mourn the loss of their pets and grieve their death very deeply. Often the loss of a dog can be just as painful or even more painful than losing a human friend or family member. The loss of a dog is very painful. The sad emptiness that follows can be hard to get through.
Humans, however, are not the only ones to grieve when a pet in the family passes away. Other animals in the home can also grieve the loss of their best friend and companion. When suddenly a pet is no longer there, the sudden loss affects pets and forever changes their life, too.
While its unknown just how much dogs understand the finality of death in general, many owners will tell you that they had a pet that seemed very aware. It’s also known that dogs are very empathetic and pick up on and react to their owner’s emotions when they are sad and grieving.
Since dogs are also very pack oriented, they are also highly in tune to nuances taking place in the household. Not only do they miss the companionship of their furry friend, they may also experience a sudden change in schedule, find themselves alone for long hours while their owners are at work, lose their mealtime buddy, are suddenly left without their playmate, and experience a new pack hierarchy.
Like people, all dogs experience loss differently and have different relationships to the other pets in the house. While some dogs are inseparable, others may not share a very close bond. However, all are sure to be impacted in some way.
Signs that a pet is grieving include:
• Separation anxiety
• Searching for the pet
• Refusing to enter a room
• Being withdrawn or hiding
• Sudden behavior problems
• Refusing to eat
• Accidents in the house
• Change in sleeping habits
• Seemingly confused or anxious about new things
If your pet is grieving, of course you’ll want to comfort them but it’s important not to reward, nurture, or to soothe unwanted behavior. Try to intervene in the behavior before petting or comforting your pet. For example, if your dog is pacing and crying, call your dog to you and then take a little walk or go outside before petting the dog.
Other things you can do to help your pet through their grief include:
• Comfort your pet
Spend some extra time with your pet to reassure them. Spend some time cuddling, grooming, petting, or feeding special treats to have them feel loved and secure.
• Get some exercise
Exercise is good for everyone’s mental health. Going for a walk together will help you both clear your mind and help you feel better.
• Do something fun
Do something fun with your pet to help fill up the time that was spent with the pet that passed away. Ideas include a car ride to a new place, a hike on a new trail, or playing with a new toy.
• Stick with your routine
Dogs do best with a routine so sticking to your usual meal times, potty breaks, and playtimes can help your dog feel more secure.
• Feed a healthy diet
Be sure your pet is eating right and getting plenty of fresh water. If they refuse food to the point of concern, try enticing them with some healthy toppers or sit with them so they don’t have to eat alone.
• Let your dog know that you’re ok and they’re ok
Don’t overly baby, coddle, or hover over your dog. Let them know they’re ok and that you’re ok by encouraging their normal behavior and speaking to them in a normal voice. Encourage them when they do something normal, like play with a toy. Don’t baby talk or be overly dramatic if they’re acting anxious.
• Give yourself time to grieve
Be kind to yourself and your dog. Give both of you the time you need to grieve. Get rid of toys, dog beds, etc. when it feels right to you. Don’t punish your dog for accidents but at the same time, don’t allow destructive behavior.
• Get help if you need it
If your dog seems to be taking the loss especially hard, see the vet to rule out a medical problem. If they are physically healthy, ask your friends for support. If your dog has doggy friends, schedule some play dates and see if they enjoy it.
• Getting a new pet
Only you will know when the time is right to add a new dog to your home. A new dog will never replace the one you lost so rushing out to adopt a new one may not be fair to you or your dog. Give yourself time to process your grief then make a plan that works for both of you. On the other hand, if it feels right, there is no rule to how long you have to wait. Just remember, your dog is going through lots of changes and needs time, too.
We hope these tips help you and your friend. Please pass along to your friends.
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