Pets Grieve Too
The rich emotional lives of cats and dogs are very much like those of humans, including the need for time to grieve a loss, especially another furry family member who was a close pal. In fact, while each companion animal is unique, pets tend to show many of the same signs of grief that we do. Even those that outwardly struggled to get along with each other will exhibit intense stress reactions when one of them dies and these symptoms can last for a long time.
Grieving pets may have changes in appetite and sleep, become anxious, irritable, or depressed, withdraw or become clingy or restless, behave inappropriately, or become more vocal. Some will even develop physical symptoms of grief such as skin conditions. The steps you can take to comfort a grieving pet are much the same as a child, especially keeping routines as consistent as possible during this period of transition. Avoid disciplining your pet for challenging changes in their behavior at this time or unintentionally reinforcing them; instead, reward positive behaviors. Provide them with an item that still has the scent of their friend who's gone. Give them a new toy or special treats. Be sure they have a familiar refuge where they can retreat for quiet time alone and come and go freely.
Whether or not the surviving pet is present for the final moments of their friend, they may have no obvious reaction to their deceased friend’s body. Nevertheless, it may help them to see or smell it in order to comprehend there is no need to search the house or yard for the animal that has passed. You may choose to allow them to say goodbye in this way.
Some grieving pets will crave more attention from their owners, so it’s natural to respond by increasing the amount of playtime, petting, and grooming as reassurance; however, be mindful if they begin to show signs of separation anxiety following the increased attention. This may need expert advice.
There are calming homeopathic and natural remedies that can be easily administered to your grieving pet until you see an emotional shift for the better. Consult your veterinarian first to determine if one of these interventions or another treatment is advisable.
Give the surviving animals a chance to work out the revised social structure themselves. Dogs are especially inclined toward aggressive competition for dominance.
And finally, even if you believe your bereaved pet would benefit from a new companion and that it will help you move forward, such a significant commitment should be made when the entire family is ready. Consider whether you’re acting on momentary impulse to avoid your grief, and instead give yourselves enough time to heal. If and when you do choose to bring a new animal into your life, be patient and supportive as you all adjust to your new companion.
Book Regarding Grieving Pets:
From Sad to Glad: Helping Your Dog Survive a Loss, by Phoebe Lauren
Grief is a normal and natural process; however, the loss of a loved one can cause such emotional distress that warrants professional help, which is beyond the scope of RemembeRing. While our product is designed as a compassionate intervention, our materials and website content are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to replace professional mental health evaluation, counseling or care, especially in a crisis and if severe grief persists.
Also, please be aware that people who provide pet loss support vary greatly in their education, training, experience, and expertise; explore your options carefully and consult your healthcare provider as needed.
If you are looking for resources to address thoughts about suicide, self-harming, or harming others, contact 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Call 911 or your local emergency services for help if you are experiencing a mental health emergency.