Grieving is a complex process for anyone, and dogs are no different. It can be hard watching your dog grieve the loss of a companion, especially if they go through emotional and behavioral changes. Unfortunately, you can’t bring their furry friend back — all you can do is love them through the transition. In this article, we will discuss what grieving looks like and how to help a dog through the grieving process.
There is no set way to grieve, and that goes for dogs as well as humans. Most dogs undergo some changes, but not all. Some dogs may not act differently after losing a loved one, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t grieving. Below are some signs a dog is grieving after a loss:
Here are a few things you can do to help your fur-baby through the grieving process.
Maintaining a routine will give your dog a sense of normalcy while transitioning after losing a loved one. Schedule walks, meals, and bedtimes at the same time as normal, but be prepared to troubleshoot if your dog isn’t feeling up to the activity. It’s not unusual for dogs to refuse meals and walks when they are grieving. If your dog isn’t eating their kibble, try serving them a special homecooked meal, or if your dog isn’t feeling a walk, try a car ride instead.
It’s easy to get lost in your own grief, but you can’t lose sight of caring for your remaining pets when you’re hurting. Set reminders on your phone for when you need to feed and walk your pup. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Surround yourself with loved ones and make sure you are eating and drinking enough.
Just being there for your dog is one of the best things you can do to help them through the grieving process. Spend quality time with your dog doing things they enjoy, like cuddling or playing fetch. Your dog needs the extra quality time, and you likely do too.
Dog puzzles and other interactive toys are a great way to provide your dog with the mental stimulation your dog needs to cope with their grief. Boredom can lead to depression, especially after the loss of a loved one. It’s a good idea to keep various toys and puzzles on hand to keep your fur-baby busy when you’re home and while you’re away.
Some pet parents have luck with dog calming sprays and diffusers to help combat anxiety and depression in grieving dogs. These products contain a chemical that mimics the scent of lactating dogs’ pheromones to help pets feel at ease. While there is no scientific data that proves dog-appeasing pheromone products are effective, there are anecdotal reports that it works for some dogs.
Missing companionship is a big part of grief in dogs. Some scientists believe that dogs don’t understand the concept of death, so their grief stems from their friend’s absence rather than the acceptance of their death. Taking your pup to dog parks is a good way for dogs to offer your dog companionship without jumping into getting a new pet. What’s more, exercise releases feel-good endorphins that help keep depression at bay.
Getting closure is an essential part of the grieving process, but for most pets, that closure never comes. Some experts recommend letting the dog see the late pet’s remains. Seeing the body may, on some level, help pets understand what happened and eliminate feelings of abandonment. However, be aware that this may upset your dog, so use your best judgment.
Many pet parents' first instinct after losing a companion is to get another pet, though this isn’t always a good solution. A new dog won’t replace your lost companion, for you or Fido. There’s always a chance that your old dog won’t like your new fur-baby. It’s best to wait until after the grieving process is over to look for a new pet.
When it’s time, take Spot with you to browse shelters and rescues. Many shelters allow supervised playtime between pets and shelter dogs to see how they respond to one another. What’s more, this will allow your dog to have a “say” in which dog you decide to adopt.
Schedule a vet appointment if your dog is still grieving weeks after the loss of a loved one. Your dog may need antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to help them cope with their feelings.
Be patient with your dog through the grieving process. Grieving takes time, and there are many stages your dog may have to work through. Know your pup will have good days and bad ones — all you can do is love them through it and try to be as supportive as possible.
Remember to keep your pup busy during the day, and be prepared to try something new. You may have to rethink your daily routine to get your pup excited about life again. Try new walking paths and homecooked recipes to get your dog up to eating and exercising again. Talk to your vet if your dog isn’t getting better or if they refuse to eat for long periods since they may need some extra help to get them feeling like themselves again.
Don’t forget to let yourself heal in the process of trying to make things better for your dog. Stay hydrated and do things you enjoy too. The beautiful thing about pets is they will love you through your pain, even if they are hurting too.