Pet Grief

Do pets grieve?

Most of us would answer yes.  When we experience the loss of a pet, we go through a grieving process, with the 5 stages including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Our furbabies have a very similar pet grief process, although the outward signs may be different for them than they are for us humans. 

How do you test animals for emotions? We can’t show them pictures and ask how they feel.

Despite the lack of scientific research, many experts in the field believe in pet grief. They look at how animals act when a companion dies. Skeptics may say that the "pet grieving" is nothing more than acting depressed because of a change in routine, or they are responding to the pet parent’s grief because of the loss of a pet. This may be true in some cases. 

However, experts point out some pets will display unique behaviors when they are grieving. For instance, some pets will go searching for the missing companion. 

Many people have had pets exhibit signs of depression and pet grieving when a family member (either human or another pet) dies. The pet will become listless, may not eat well, may whine or meow and may not play as much. Some will become clingy and stay closer to their human family. It can persist for weeks or months.

What To Do About Pet Grief

Dealing with Pet Grief

Here are suggestions to help your furbaby deal with the loss of a pet and pet grieving. If possible, allow your pet to see and sniff the body of the one who has died. Pets understand death and this helps them understand why their friend is gone. They won’t go searching in the house for them. 

If your pet is willing to play, activity can help. Exercise improves depression and playing will help your pet focus on pleasurable things. On the other hand, don’t push your pet to play if he clearly wants to be left alone.

Changing up the routine can be helpful for some pets.  For example, add an extra walk at the beginning or end of the day.  This could help take both of your minds off the loss.  Plenty of extra attention and cuddles are good for both of you, too!

Pheromones (substances pets secrete that have calming effects) can reduce anxiety for some pets and may help. Use D.A.P. or Adaptil for dogs and Feliway (facial pheromone) for cats.

Pet Grief, or Something More?

Pet Grief

Not all pets grieve, and they may do it in different ways. If you notice a pet grieving, It will help both of you to try things to make it easier for your pet.

If your pet is lethargic, or stops eating, it would be best to have him examined by a vet.  Your vet can determine if there is anything more serious going on, and if not, there are medications that can help your pet. 

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