How to Help Your Dog Cope With a Loss

One day she was here, and the next day she wasn’t…

This past weekend, my family lost Maui, our beautiful Spaniel Mix.

Maui

My parents woke up on Saturday morning and quickly discovered that Maui had passed overnight. Maui had epilepsy and was diagnosed with heart failure about a year ago.

She lived with my parents but spent a lot of time with me while I was in college. Sometimes she would stay with me in my apartment, and she always stayed in my room when I was home. One of my favorite things about her was that she LOVED belly rubs. If she liked you, she would roll on her back and wag her tail, almost like those cat clocks that count the seconds with their tail.

catclock

She was stubborn, like me. She wouldn’t just listen to you. She would decide whether or not it was time for pets, and whether or not she wanted to sit by you. You had to earn her affection, but that only made her affection more special.

My heart is grieving for Maui. I didn’t get to say goodbye, but I am comforted by the fact that she isn’t sick anymore. All week I have been walking around with a heavy heart, but I am not alone.

My parents, Jimmy, and Sasha are all grieving with me.

Jimmy was Maui’s buddy. They stuck together day in and day out, and now Jimmy isn’t eating and spends his days looking for her in every room of the house. Sasha and Maui only lived together for a year, but Sasha too isn’t eating and seems a bit confused.

Yesterday my mom asked me what she could do to make the dogs more comfortable, and truthfully, I didn’t know the answer. So as I am writing this post, I am learning right along with you. Turns out there is a lot of information available on this subject, so I picked out a few of my favorite suggestions. So here we go…

Firstly, it’s important to understand that animals do indeed grieve. In the wild, some animals even have elaborate rituals for members of their pack when they pass (Pet Angel Memorial Center).

According to a study conducted by the ASPCA in 1996 (Pet Angel Memorial Center):

36% of dogs ate less after the death of a canine companion

11% stopped eating completely

63% either become more or less vocal

Therefore, if you have a dog that is grieving, they are not alone.

Many dogs change the location and quantity of sleep after losing a companion. More than 50% of dogs become more affectionate, and 66% of dogs exhibit four or more behavioral changes (Pet Angel Memorial Center).

If your dog is experiencing grieving symptoms, here are a few things you can do to help them through the grieving process.

Keep Your Routine: It’s important that you stick to your schedule. Your dog will be dealing with a lot of changes, so you want to keep the rest of their life as consistent and familiar as possible.

Be Patient: Be patient as your pets are grieving. Try not to feed into the negative emotional process. It’s possible that your dog is picking up your emotions when you are trying to console them. Try your best not to hover. If your dog isn’t eating, you are potentially creating a picky eater by paying attention to them while they are by the bowl, but not eating. (Ceasar’s Way).

Add More Play Time: If your dog is struggling to recover, feel free to add additional play time to their day. Similar to humans, playing and interacting can increase their serotonin levels, which can positively impact their mood (Ceasar’s Way).

Try Not to Introduce a New Pet Right Away: Although this may be a coping mechanism (perhaps even denial) for some people, it may simply prolong the grieving process. If we don’t deal with our emotions, the other pets in the home may pick up on the negative energy associated with prolonged grieving. That being said, I am not one to tell others how to grieve, so I would take this piece of advice with a grain of salt (Pet Angel Memorial Center).

Don’t Give Into Human Food: Many pet parents feel that they are “treating” their pets by giving them pieces of human food. However, you will be upsetting their stomach and potentially creating a picky eater.

Try to Keep Their Environment as Stress Free as Possible: If your pet is grieving, they might find house guests, changing of the furniture, construction, or gatherings stressful. Give them a few weeks before you go introducing any of these things into your home. If your dog is feeling stressed, it is less likely they will recover quickly from their mourning symptoms (Prevention.com).

If you are concerned about your pet or the length of their grieving, please speak with your veterinarian.

As this is a learning process for me, please feel free to leave tips in the comments with how you helped your pets cope with a loss.

As I feel that this is important information, I put together the following infographic and slideshare.  Please feel free to share with anyone who could use the info.

Helping Your Dog Cope With a Loss

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7 Comment

  1. Reply
    Tom
    August 27, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Rachel. Thank you so much for your advice. I just so happened to change maui’s ,jimmy ,and Sasha’s food the day before. I’ve also notice that jimmy has become over protective of me as well towards Sasha I stopped that. He still is very clingy and sleeping a lot. Just like a human would do They are still not eating a lot,but I know that will come in time. Thank you.

  2. Reply
    Kismet
    August 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    They did in reverse. Kyla was old, sick and very loved. They brought in Kali before Kyla passed as her replacement. It help Kaci through the process (and the peeps also). It was a pre-emptory strike.
    Kismet recently posted…Update on BonnieMy Profile

  3. Reply
    Suzanne
    August 28, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Hi Rachel,

    So sorry to hear about the loss of a beloved pet.

    Great post on dealing with the pet that is still here. Having dealt with 3 deaths in the last few years, I have seen the effects it can take on the other pets. As difficult it is for humans, dogs have a different understanding of the world.

    Your infographic has wonderful advice.

    Thanks for sharing, this will help so many pet parents understand how to handle the pet(s) that is that is trying to cope with the loss.

    Paws & Wags
    Suzanne
    TheDogTrainingLady
    Suzanne recently posted…Are we killing our dogs and ourselves?My Profile

  4. Reply
    M. K. Clinton
    August 28, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    I am so sorry for your family. When we lost Tucker, it happened so quickly that we didn’t have time to come to terms with his departure. Bentley was as lost without him as we were. Pierre came to live with us about a month later and it brought joy back into all of our lives. You never get over the loss, you just learn how to love them in a different realm.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Rainbow Remembrance Day #FFHTMy Profile

  5. Reply
    Sharon Seltzer
    August 28, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about Maui. Your story hit a chord about one of my biggest fears. When I adopted my puppy last year she instantly fell in love with my 12 year-old dog. The two are best friends and Bailey learned everything she knows about being a family dog from Cody. Cody’s health is failing and I worry all the time how she will react when he is gone. Thanks for sharing these tips to help dogs cope with a loss.
    Sharon Seltzer recently posted…Yale Canine Cancer StudyMy Profile

  6. Reply
    Camille Schake | Good Pet Parent
    August 28, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Rachel, my deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of Maui. Having just lost my 14-year old cat Jasper last month, I can totally relate, as we are still grieving at my house too. Every pet I’ve ever had has grieved the loss of a sibling, though each in their own way. Some didn’t want to eat, others were very depressed and didn’t want to interact with anything or anyone, and others went methodically through the house searching every corner of every room looking for their missing sibling. It’s heartbreaking to watch, since you can’t explain to them what happened and that everything will be okay.

    The good thing is, it seemed like in all cases everyone (both dogs and cats) started to adjust after about 2 weeks. After their grieving period ended, my other 2 cats seemed to settle back into a routine; however, they both became more affectionate and now follow me around the house more. Your suggestions for helping our pets to cope are very helpful, and I know they work, since I have used several of them over the years. Now I just have to find a way to come to terms with my own loss… <3
    Camille Schake | Good Pet Parent recently posted…Dog Agility: Fun For You And Your Pup!My Profile

  7. Reply
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady
    August 29, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Oh no! I am so so very sorry for your loss 🙁
    This is great advice, and for that, I thank you.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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