Dog Days of Grief: How to Help Your Pet During the Passing of an Animal Sibling

For those of us who have lost a companion and a best friend, we understand the feelings of loss, despair, and mourning. It’s an empty and lonely feeling; realizing just how much of a space your furry beloved took up in your heart and your home. And if you have a household with more than one pet, you are not alone in your grief. You see, our pets also feel sadness when they lose their partner in crime. Therefore, for this week’s blog, we’ll discuss how we can help them overcome their sadness in order to conquer bereavement together.

Behaviors to Look Out For:

Just like humans, dogs get depressed as well. And every dog—just like every person—deals with loss differently. Upon researching this topic, we came across a study, described in PsychologyToday, that examined what the most popular behaviors are in both cats and dogs that exhibit grief. Data consisted of questionnaires regarding pet behaviors once a companion passes on. The findings show that 60% of dogs and 63% of cats check, “the places where their lost housemate normally napped or rested” and it does not matter if their companion was a dog or cat. Furthermore, 61% of dogs and 62% of cats exhibited clinginess to their owners during bereavement. Sometimes whimpering or whining can occur, although this is not as common. Lastly, your pet may experience a loss or decrease in appetite and more time sleeping. However, these symptoms are more common in dogs, than in cats.

How to Help:

  1. Don’t Deviate from Routine: if your dogs have had a history of being walked together after lunchtime, it’s important to stick to it, even if your pup will be walking without his partner. Because your pet is sensing all the changes going on in the household and his owner’s mood, it’s important to alleviate any outstanding stress by sticking to what they know.
  2. More Exercise: it’s important to understand that your pet may have gotten a lot of exercise and/or stimulus from their partner. Now, your loved one still needs to expel mental and physical energy. According to TheSprucePets.com, it’s crucial to give your pet more exercise and stimulation in order to reduce depression and anxiety—symptoms that can arise out of loss and boredom.
  3. Exhibit Patience and Strength: this one is hard but just as important, as us owners are dealing with our own feelings of loss and sorrow. However, according to Cesar’sWay, it’s essential to not feed into negative emotions. For example, if your pup isn’t eating, it isn’t a good idea to try to console in that circumstance. “If the dog is reluctant to eat and then gets more attention for sitting at the bowl rather than eating, that’s a great way to create a picky eater”. Cesar also points out that animals in the wild that suffer loss do not have as much time to grieve because of the need to survive. It’s important to remember this fact, as frequently consoling your pet may make them associate “getting positive attention” with “unwanted behaviors”, such as not eating.
  4. Let Them Say Goodbye: As animals are in tune with each other, they sense when something is wrong and when their sibling falls ill. However, they can’t quite process how their sibling was once in the bed next to him and is now gone. Some say that by having your pup witness, “the death, eliminates any confusion the housemates might have about where their companion has gone, and propose that it may make the patient more comfortable”.

Thinking About Getting a Replacement Pet?

It’s important to think about these three factors before you decide to get a new addition.

  1. Are you emotionally and physically ready for another pet/commitment?
  2. Will your existing pet accept the new relationship, or feel neglected?
  3. Perhaps allow your existing pet to help you choose another companion. This may help ensure a strong bond from the start.

If you are currently experiencing a loss, please know your CCLA family validates and understands what you and your pet are going through. We hope this blog helps you navigate the struggles of grief and allows you to maintain a routine that helps both you and your darling. You are not alone!

Have more tips or thoughts on grieving or replacement pets? Share below!

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