Although scientists say they do not know if pets grieve, many pet owners swear their pet has mourned the loss of a loved one. Pets can become extremely attached to each other. Even when it seems as if the animals don’t get along, when one dies the other may exhibit symptoms of stress. Pets may also grieve when their human friends die or go away. Symptoms may include :
- Loss of appetite – A grieving pet will often lose its appetite and become lethargic.
- Sleep problems
- Restlessness – S/He may not want to lose sight of you and will follow you closely wherever you go. Some pets will adopt a favorite toy of the lost pet or choose to sleep in the furpal’s bed or favorite spot in the home. Sometimes pets will search the house and garden looking for the lost pal.
While it’s difficult to cope with your own feelings of loss, it’s even harder to watch your surviving pet suffering so.
How can pets be helped along with the grieving process?
- You can help your grieving pet by giving her/him extra attention and affection. Try exercising your pet with long walks and extra playtime. Don’t lavish too much attention on him though, or you could cause separation anxiety.
- You can arrange playdates with other friends, human and/or animal.
- Keep his routine as normal as possible. If the routine must be changed, try to stick to the new one as consistently as possible.
- Let the remaining animals work out a new social order by themselves.
- Add another pet to the family only when you are ready for it.
- Pets may be picking up on your sadness and reacting to that, rather than grieving themselves. Try not to project your sadness to your pet.
- Sometimes pets show no signs of grief. This is not cause for worry or unhealthy.
There is no time frame for when a pet no longer grieves. It can sometimes go on for weeks. However, after 3-4 weeks, it’s a good idea to take your pet for a checkup at your veterinarian to rule out any illness. A consult with an animal behaviorist may also help you help your pet overcome grief.
My German Shepherd, Quanah and my rottie mix Timo were best friends. When Timo succumbed to cancer, Quanah was almost inconsolable. After weeks of watching Quanah grieve and not being able to help, my solution was to adopt another pal from a shelter. Murphy, a loving and lovable pitbull mix, brought Quanah out of her depression and they have become good friends. This may not be a solution for everyone, but it worked for us. While we will always miss our Angel Timo, Murphy has brought joy back to the house.