, May 22, 2024

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Dogs in Mourning: Helping Your Pet Cope

  •   4 min reads
Dogs in Mourning: Helping Your Pet Cope
via Flickr
By Niko Gabriel Salgado

Dogs, like humans, respond uniquely to death and loss. This may vary in physical and behavioral expressions. Some may exhibit signs of physical sadness, others may display negative behaviors, and some may not show signs of emotional distress at all.

Losing a human or another pet can be traumatic for dogs. Recognizing and understanding their grief is crucial, and knowing how to support them is important for their well-being.

“It is difficult to assess what those mournful eyes mean because our canine friends cannot tell us what they are feeling. Even though dogs do not verbalize that they are happy or sad, astute pet owners interpret their pets’ emotions based on behavior,” says Dr. Ryan Llera in “Do Dogs Mourn?” published in the VCA Hospitals website.

Dogs facing loss may exhibit confusion, fear, or depression. When losing an owner, dogs may show signs of trying to understand the person’s absence. In the case of another pet’s death, dogs may spend more time in their preferred areas, possibly expecting the departed friend to return.

Interact with your pet. Take them on a car ride or a walk. Certain distractions can divert their attention from grieving. (Photo by NDD | Pexels)

What are the signs your dog is grieving?

Some of the signs that will indicate a change in your pet’s behaviour include:

• Loss of appetite

• Crying or howling or searching in areas where the deceased family member used to stay

• Wanting attention more than usual

• Sleeping more often

• Changes in appetite

• Loss of interest in going for walks or activities

How can I help my dog cope with grief?

When dogs display signs of grief after the loss of a family member, concerned owners can assist them by providing support and understanding. According to Llera, here are a few ways to help them with their grief:

1. Spend extra time with your dog. To help a grieving dog, divert their attention by engaging in their favorite activities, such as going for a walk, playing games, or taking a car ride. These distractions can provide comfort and help alleviate the impact of loss.

Spend extra time with them. Playing with them often during mourning will help alleviate the stress of loss. It will be helpful to you and your dog. (Photo by Anna Alena | Shutterstock)

2. Be more affectionate. Pet, hug, and kiss your dog more often.

3. If your dog enjoys company, invite friends over who will interact with your dog. Interaction will be a healthy distraction for them.

4. Provide entertainment while you are gone. Hide treats in familiar household spots for your dog to discover throughout the day or use a toy filled with food to keep them occupied when you’re away. This engages their senses and provides mental stimulation during your absence.

5. Reinforce good behavior and ignore inappropriate behavior. If your grieving dog vocalizes or howls, resist the urge to give treats, as this can reinforce the behavior. Instead, firmly tell them to hush and reward compliance with non-food rewards, such as a hug. Avoid approaching the dog directly; instead, call them to you, praise their response, and distract them with activities like a walk or a game to break the howling cycle.

6. Consider medical therapy. If your dog struggles extensively with grief after a loss, consult your veterinarian regarding the potential use of behavior modification drugs.

7. Think carefully about replacing a lost pet. If your dog is grieving the loss of a canine companion, avoid rushing to find a replacement. Allow your dog time to grieve and adapt to the loss, as introducing a new dog too quickly may increase stress during an already challenging period.

Creating a new and comfortable social structure at home is crucial for both humans and dogs after the loss of a family member. While people have external outlets and distractions to cope with grief, it is even more essential for dogs to establish a supportive environment as their interactions are centered around the family unit.

When a family member is lost, dogs may experience a significant void in their lives, requiring assistance in coping with grief. Be mindful of how your pet would react and engage them in activities that provide comfort and help them cope with the loss.

“Time will also contribute to the healing process of both pet and pet owner. Loss will become easier to bear and fond memories will replace sorrow. And the relationship between the survivors, canine and human, may evolve into something even more beautiful as loving, grateful glances are shared between the two,” says Llera.

About the Author: Niko Gabriel Salgado is a graduate of consular and diplomatic affairs from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, and worked at the House of Representatives. He is now an entrepreneur and a volunteer of the animal welfare group Save Animals of Love and Light- Save ALL.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

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