Healing Your Pets Grief
Updated: May 17
Helping Your Pet Deal With Grief
Life can change drastically for a pet that loses the companionship of another pet or a human. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted a study, which found that 66 percent of dogs exhibited four or more behavioral changes after losing a pet companion.
As animals move into the steps of acknowledging and acceptance of the death, they will possibly stop eating, playing, or interacting with others. It can be very hard to deal with a pet that is grieving because, in most cases, other family members are also dealing with the loss of a loved one. Helping your dog adjust to this loss will help you at the same time.
By Tim Dawson (Flickr: Sad Lucy) [CC BY-SA 2] (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Signs of grieving:
Loss of appetite
Less vocalizations and barking
Acting very tired or lethargic
Loss of interest in taking a walk or playing
Changes in the quantity and location of sleep
Some pets become more affectionate and clingy with their caregivers
How can I help my pet deal with grief?
Give them the opportunity to say good-bye. It is important that your pet realizes that his/her friend passed away. If possible, give your pet the opportunity to see the dead friend, if this is not possible get a clipping of the pet’s hair and allow the other animal to sniff this. Animals can smell the scent of death and this will serve as a confirmation of the death for the surviving animal, which is the first step in the process of grieving. If the loss was of a loved human, allowing them to have an item bearing the persons sent can be soothing.
Take grief seriously. Closely monitor your pets as they grieve. One of the most noticeable signs is the loss of appetite and this may lead to serious health conditions. For example, cats that do not eat for more than 24 hours are at risk of developing a serious and potentially fatal condition known as feline hepatic lipidosis. Try to stimulate your pet’s appetitive and take your pet to the vet if he/she refuses to eat for more than 24 hours. Grieving can also decrease your pet’s immune response and predispose him/her to infectious diseases.
Keep routines unchanged. You can help the other pets in the household by
Do more things together. Increasing their activity, through going for walks or playing with toys, may also be helpful. This will not only benefit your pet, but it will help you too. You can also create rituals that your pet can look forward to each day. For example, spend 15 minutes grooming your pet or playing with him/her every day at the same hour.
Healing for the whole family. Your pet can feel if you are sad; for this reason, it is important that you and other family members grief and accept the loss of a loved one together with your pet. Take the time that is needed to accept your loss and work through grief.
Should I bring another pet home?
Before getting another dog, it is important that all the family members are emotionally ready. Human beings tend to experience the emotion of denial before they can acknowledge the death of a loved one. Replacing the pet right away may seem like an easy solution. However, bringing a new animal into a household that’s still grieving is not a wise thing to do. If we do this, our pets may become stuck in grief and depression. Once the grieving process has ended, you may want to consider adding a new member to the family, but keep in mind that most pets can adapt and live emotionally healthy lives without a companion of the same species.
Thank You for Reading
Diamond-Davis, K. The Canine Behavior Series. Grieving: When Your Dog Mourns the Loss of Another Dog. Retrieved on January 1, 2016 from: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?A=1400
Kuhn, S. Helping your dog grieve: What to do when he loses a buddy. Retrieved on January 1, 2016 from: http://www.sheknows.com/pets-and-animals/articles/966737/helping-your-dog-grieve.
Krieger, M. 7 Ways to Help Your Cat Through a Grieving Period. Retrieved on January 1, 2016 from: http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-tips-grieving-grief.
Pet Angel Memorial Center. Helping Your Pet Through the Grieving Process. Retrieved on January 1, 2016 from: http://www.petlosscare.com/download/PetGrief.pdf.
Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz, MVZ, MA www.stephanieflansburgcruz.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-flansburg-cruz-06828058