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8 Ways To Help Your Dog Deal With The Grief Of Losing A Family Pet

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on October 3, 2017

The death of a beloved pet is devastating to the entire family, including the other pets in the home. Dogs may not grieve as openly or in the same way we do, but they definitely go through a period of mourning.

During this difficult time it is important to monitor your remaining dog(s) for “distress reactions” and take steps to help them through their grief.

Signs of grief in dogs include:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Lack of interest in normal activities like walks or play
  • Reluctance to be alone or away from human family members
  • Wandering the house, searching for their lost friend

8 Ways to Help Your Dog(s) Navigate Their Grief:

1. Closely monitor your surviving dog(s).

There is no right or wrong way for humans or animals to grieve, so it’s okay if your dog(s) goes through some of the symptoms above. What matters is that you recognize their distress and react accordingly.

2. Keep daily routines as consistent as possible.

It may be difficult to immediately return to “life as usual” after the loss of a family pet, but dogs rely on consistency in order to feel safe. Do your best to keep mealtimes, walks, playtime and other daily activities on a steady schedule.

3. Monitor appetite closely.

When mourning the loss of a loved one, appetite is often the first thing to be affected. The same is true for our dogs. They can go about 48 hours without eating before you need to be deeply concerned, so resist offering treats or special goodies in place of regular food. Simply offer meals at the regular times until he’s ready to eat normally.

If his appetite doesn’t pick up after a few days, consult your veterinarian.

Related: Looking for dog memorial gift ideas for someone who lost a pup?

4. Take care not to inadvertently reward your pet’s depression.

It’s normal to want to offer special attention in times of sorrow, but doing so could reinforce undesirable behaviors like picky eating and anxiety. Instead, try distracting your pooch with positive behavior reinforcement activities like a nice walk or a game of fetch.

5. Allow surviving dogs to establish their own revised social structure.

When a death occurs in a multi-pet household, the group dynamic is disturbed and things can get a bit chaotic until the remaining dogs reassemble their roles. A bit of barking and growling may occur, but as long as none of them pose a threat to each other or the family, it’s best to allow them to sort it out on their own. If fighting and aggression occur, consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

6. Think twice before quickly adding a new pet to the family.

Most experts recommend waiting at least 3 months for your dog to grieve and adjust to the “new normal” of your home before bringing in a new dog. Remember, the surviving dog(s) are trying to restructure their roles without the lost pet and adding a new animal into the mix too quickly could cause more harm than good.

7. Give it time.

We don’t know just how long our pets remember and grieve for a lost friend, but there is no set time frame for a dog in mourning to return to their normal self. Some dogs may show no outward signs at all, but grieve in silence for months. If you feel your dog is suffering emotional or physical symptoms beyond what is normal for the loss of a housemate, discuss the situation with your veterinarian.

8. Consider having your pet present at his companion’s death.

Animals understand death and do not tend to rail against it the way that humans do. Some veterinarians encourage dog owners to have their other dogs present during euthanasia or to allow them to inspect the body after death. This provides the closure of knowing that their friend has passed on, not simply vanished.

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