When we experience the loss of a pet we sometimes forget that our other furred loved ones are
also mourning the loss. As we feel the pain and sorrow of grief, they are confused and lonely
when they no longer have the shared bond of the pet that has passed. Humans understand what
has happened, but even as we go through the motions of a pet memorial, we need to set the time
aside to devote extra love and attention to our other pets. It’s important that at each step, whether
a pet cremation, dog funeral or even a pet burial, that all family members know that the other
pets in the home are feeling grief as well.
Science may not know exactly how our pets mourn but they do know that they experience a
complex variation of emotions. Just as people grieve or mourn in different ways, so do our
beloved pets. This means that not all pets are going to display reactions in the same way. Our
pets base their lives on security, safety and love and when these situations change, they can
experience anxiety and stress. When we lose a pet that they have felt bonded to they may
demonstrate behaviors that run a gamut from unacceptable actions all the way to running around
the house in search of the pet that is gone. They will often exhibit similar symptoms that are
described as “separation anxiety” and as a pet parent, you need to be aware of and educate all
members of the family to look out and try to soothe your pets.
An important thing to note is that your pet may lose their appetite. If this continues, and they
begin to lose weight, contact your Vet. Our furred family members experience depression and
you don’t want this to cascade into other health issues.
Some additional steps that you can take to help your pet with your shared loss includes ensuring
that they don’t spend a majority of their time alone. You can bring in additional family members,
friends or even a dog walker to get them out and allow them interaction with others. Try to
devote at least 30-60 minutes each day for personal attention including cuddling time to help to reassure them. Don’t bring in a new pet into the family too soon as this can cause behavioral
problems and stress to increase. Recognize that you are going through the loss and grief process
and reach out to support groups for yourself and other family members to assist in getting
through this incredibly rough time. When you are doing better, your pet will begin to improve,
feeling more secure and having less stress. Try to maintain the daily routines that you have
always had. This will help your pet in maintaining a concept of security. It’s also important to
recognize one of the most difficult processes: don’t reward bad behavior thinking that you are
being compassionate. If a pet acts out due to anxiety, don’t fall prey to the emotional reward, as
it will simply cause that behavior to continue.
When you have multiple pets in the home they have an established social structure. Give your
pet(s) the time that they need to realign the structure to the new “normal”. If you have more than
one pet remaining in the home, understand that there may be conflicts that occur in this change.
Consult with your Vet or a pet therapist on the best methods to use to sooth and calm and allow
all to become accustomed to the new environment.