Help Your Grieving Pet: 8 Top Tips

Discover 8 helpful tips to support your companion dog that is grieving the loss of their furry friend. Learn how to help your grieving pet cope with the passing of another dog.

Katie Abendroth

5/19/20244 min read

Signs of Grief in Pets

When your pet passes away, other family pets can experience grief. Here are some top tips for helping your dog grieve after the loss of a furry friend.

Animals throughout the world have documented grief. Elephants are known for long, deep periods of grief when a member of their herd dies.

Dogs are such social animals, it is no surprise this companion animal can also experience awareness and grief when another pet in your family passes away.

Dogs express emotions and grief in their behavior. They may:

  • Be listless (lack energy)

  • Sleep more

  • Eat less

  • Be clingy with their owners

  • Bark more or less than usual

  • Play less than usual

1. Spend extra time with your pet

Your surviving dog will likely feel unsettled when a family pet passes, even, anxious. If they act clingy, try to be patient and give extra time and attention to your dog.

Dogs are also highly intuitive and will pick up on your grief. It is healthy to grieve, but realize this may increase your dog's feelings of uncertainty and increase clingy behavior.

Enjoy the special time together to snuggle, cuddle, and process your emotions as you spend extra time with your pet.

2. Maintain consistent routines

Dogs are creatures of habit; they love routine. Changing routines will also increase anxiety for some pups.

Try to maintain consistent routines and lots of walks with your dog. Feed at regular times, even if they are not eating much. Instead of leaving food out all day, feed them at regular times each day.

If your dog wants to sleep in a different place, let them, but get up at the same time each day.

3. Offer extra treats

Your puppy deserves a little extra love right now. They also may not be eating much so offer extra treats.

Purchase some fresh, high quality treats that will tempt your dog to eat something. Work in training or basic commands reinforcement to keep their brain active and add energy to their day.

4. Be extra patient

Despite your own grief, be extra patient with your surviving dog.

When we feel grief, our own emotions may be scattered and we may have a short fuse.

Understand that your dog's grief behaviors, that may be frustrating, such as insomnia, more barking, and being extra clingy, are temporary.

With time and patience, your dog will settle into their life without a companion animal.

5. Decrease anxiety

Just like with people, grief can trigger anxiety. With dogs however, this is amplified by their uncertainty over the events.

Using tools like a thunder jacket, letting your pet sleep in your bed, and calming chews, can help decrease their anxiety.

During the immediate aftermath of your pet passing, your dog may whimper or cry more than usual. Try not to leave them alone for extended lengths of time, if possible.

6. Allow them to wait

It is common for surviving pets to wait for their friend to return, sometimes for years. They may sit at the door, or sniff areas where their companion used to sleep or eat.

It is okay to encourage them to move from the door, but if they prefer to sit and wait let them. You can use tempting, high value treats, to distract them and lead them back to you.

However, most vets say that it is normal and okay for your pet to wait for the pet to return until they become used to the new normal.

7. Allow them to attend euthanasia appointment

This is controversial, but professionals increasingly encourage owners to let their surviving dog attend euthanasia of a family pet.

The idea is that being present when a pet passes helps your dog understand what has happened and decrease their uncertainty. If the pet was aged or sick, your dog probably knew that already.

Since euthanasia appointments are often done in the family home, this is easily accomplished if you are comfortable with it. Many vets will also allow you to bring your dog to their office if another pet is being put to sleep.

8. Offer new adventures

Once the immediate shock has passed from the loss of your pet, offer your surviving dog a chance to have new adventures and experiences with you.

This may include taking them to dog-friendly stores, hiking new trails, or just riding in the car. Explore local parks and gardens to enjoy fresh air.

Should you get another pet?

This is a common question that pet owners ask. Should you get another pet to replace the companion your dog just lost? How long should you wait before getting another pet?

There is no one right answer, but here are some things to consider.

Wait 6 months

I personally recommend waiting at least 6 months before getting another pet. This gives you time to grief and start to process trauma that may have occurred.

Consider your dog's personality

Just like people, dog's have their own personalities. Consider your surviving pet and how they respond to other animals.

I have a dog right now who does much better as an only pet. He loves the people in our family, but was traumatized by another dog attacking him. As a result, we made the decision not to get another dog.

Look for signs

I deeply believe your passed pet, or humans, can send you signs of their peace from beyond. Check out this article for the most common signs people report seeing after their pet passes.

Sometimes a new pet comes into your life and feels like a sign from your departed pet, or sent from above. Trust your gut and be willing to open your heart to an animal if they arrive unexpectedly.

Take Care of Yourself

During this difficult time, it is crucial to prioritize self-care, but this is usually the first thing we let go.

You can't support a new pet, or your surviving pet, or your own grief, if you don't take care of your own mental health. But give time, time.

Honor your Pet's Life

Regardless of when, or if, you get another pet, honor your departed pet's life.

This helps you and family members heal, and is especially valuable if you have kids in your home. They will watch you to learn healthy coping strategies, and pet loss may be their first experience with death.

Create a memorial. Volunteer. Donate in your pet's name. Plant a garden. Get a tattoo. Celebrate the joy your pet brought to your life

Whatever new path unfolds, keep your surviving pet in mind as you move through this journey. You are not alone.

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