By Lauren Cassady, DVM
When our dogs lose another pet, a friend, or family member, whether it’s from parting ways or going over the rainbow bridge, the effect can be profound.
They grieve, because they form such strong bonds. They will feel our grief or sadness, too, and will worry about us. Their family is their ‘pack’ and now the hierarchy has been disturbed, so they may not know what to do. Notice whether your dog is sleeping more, not hungry, or not interested in playing. Your dog may whimper or howl, and may want to stay even closer to you to feel comforted, or may chew on things to relieve tension. Some dogs will mourn, while others may act out with negative behavior. You can raise your dog’s spirits by taking part in his favorite things, like going for exercise, especially if it is a sunny day.
When a pet moves away with another family member, or is euthanized outside of the home, it helps to provide time for the fur family to say their goodbyes to each other. Let your dog watch them get into the car and leave so he will know that his friend is going away.
If the pet dies at home, let your dog see him so he knows what happened to his friend. Give him one of the other pet’s favorite toys or a blanket with their smell on it to help comfort him.
If your dog is missing a family member that has moved away, you can sometimes help your dog by connecting them visually with Zoom or cell phone apps, so your pet will know that they are alright.
The next few weeks after a loss, your pet may need some extra cuddling, but don’t overdo it and inadvertently ‘teach’ him that he gets more attention if he acts sad. Take him for car rides, walks or visits to the dog park to break up the day. Spending time in nature helps him to get some fresh air and enjoy life again. If your dog remains listless or refuses food for more than a couple of days, especially if he is refusing to drink, it is important to consult with your vet. Your pet may need a little help with medication, or he may also have an underlying problem.
Thanks to our friends at Heron’s Crossing for this guest post!