Just like humans, dogs sometimes grieve when a beloved animal or human companion dies. This sadness can manifest in both behavioral and physical changes. It can take weeks or even months for a dog to adjust to the loss. During this time symptoms might worsen before the dog returns to his former self.
How Dogs Grieve
Each dog grieves differently, owing in part to the animal’s personality, his environment and his relationship with the person or pet who died. This can make it difficult to spot the signs and determine whether they’re due to grief, a physical problem or simply a change in the animal’s routine due to the loss of a human or animal family member. Some dogs, for example, might withdraw while others might act out. To rule out a physical ailment, take your dog to the vet for an examination.
Canine grief can manifest in how the dog interacts with his human and animal companions. For example, your dog might become clingy and insist on being on or near you at all times. He might not respond to you or to other animals in the house and might lose interest in playing or other physical activity. Some dogs vocalize, perhaps whining, howling, barking or crying out. In extreme cases, a dog might even urinate in inappropriate places.
If your dog lost an animal companion, he might be listless and might search the house for his missing friend or go to places where they played or spent time together. He also might act confused. If your dog's companion died and he did not see the body, he might wait for his family member to return, possibly even looking out the window in anticipation.
Changes in Habit
Dogs are pack animals, so losing a human or animal housemate changes the pack structure or leaves the dog without a pack. It also can leave the dog without an outlet for his extra energy, which he normally would release by playing with the person or animal he lost. This can prompt dogs to behave out of character. For example, some dogs sleep more than usual. Some lose their appetite and drink less than normal. Others might abandon their normal household hangouts and sleep in different places. Distract your dog from his loss by taking him for more walks or devoting extra time to playing fetch. Give him as much time and attention as you can while maintaining his normal routine to provide a sense of stability. If your dog is grieving for an animal companion, wait a few months before introducing a new pet, to avoid adding stress to an already strained psyche.
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