Pets can grieve the loss of another animal or human with whom they are close. Luckily, pet grief is usually more short-lived than ours.
Just like humans, no two dogs are alike when it comes to grief and mourning the loss of a loved one. There are, however, certain behaviors that tend to be common in pets who are struggling with the pet grief associated with loss of another animal or human they are close to.
Telltale signs that your pet may be experiencing grief or is in a period of mourning include:
- A change in appetite. Many pets will eat less than usual when they are sad.
- Insecurity. An animal experiencing pet grief may not want to leave your side or spend time alone.
- Restless sleep or sleeping far more than usual. The animal may pay extra attention to doors and windows.
- A lack of interest in playing or an inability to settle down. The animal may wander aimlessly as if they are searching for the pet or human. They may also appear to be aloof or disinterested in what is going on around them.
- Whimpering or howling more than usual. It is not uncommon for some animals that are mourning to be more vocal that usual. On the other hand, an animal may also become more quiet than normal.
- Aggressive as they compete for dominance with other pets.
If you notice these symptoms, talk to your vet to make sure no underlying illness is responsible. Assuming your pet is healthy, there are ways you can help it work through grief. You may even find that helping your pet helps you.
- Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Keeping the same feeding and exercise schedule will be comforting to your pet.
- Spend a little extra time doing the things your pet enjoys. Go for walks and explore new places. Cuddle and play. Take up positive training activities.
- Provide your pet with and item containing the scent of the other animal or the person who had died.
- Avoid the temptation to allow your pet to engage in negative behaviors. Use compassion with discipline and reward positive behavior.
- Introduce new toys or enhancements to habitats.
- Be patient!
Pet Grief: Adding a New Pet
It is common to want to add a new pet to the household after we have lost one. Be sure you give yourself and your surviving pets time to recover from grief before introducing a new animal. Changing the social structure and adjusting to a new family member can cause additional stress and make it difficult for your pet to accept the new addition.
The best thing you can do for your pet who is grieving is to be patient. Spending a little extra time doing the things the animal enjoys, maintaining a normal routine, and giving the animal the chance to work through the loss are usually sufficient. If, however, you are concerned with your pet’s behavior or you think they are not recovering as they should, consult with your veterinarian.