How To Help A Grieving Dog
June 09, 2022 | 3 min read
Updated June 09, 2022
By Sarah Milton
Published: June 9, 2022
Updated: September 15, 2022
Summary: In this blog, we learn if dogs grieve and all about how to help a grieving dog. We’ll discuss the grieving dog symptoms, how long dogs grieve for, and even whether cats grieve the loss of a dog…
Do Dogs Grieve?
Despite a lack of scientific evidence, it is a general opinion that dogs do go through a period of “grief” after the loss of an owner or a close household relative (and this can include other pets dependent on the closeness of their relationship). Signs associated with grief can actually be witnessed across many species
Dogs are creatures of habit and their happiness is closely linked with regular, upheld routine. When an owner dies, this is likely to change quite suddenly. This disruption can cause them to become sad and upset. And, if you are grieving too, they can pick up on this energy which fuels their emotions and can confuse them further.
How A Dog Grieves
The signs considered to be grieving dog symptoms, whether for a fellow pet or an owner, include:
- A loss of appetite
- An increased need for attention/Clinginess
- Withdrawing socially
- Difficulty sleeping or a disturbed sleeping pattern
- Unusual aggression/Destructive behavior
Every creature’s grieving process will be different and, as with humans, there is no “right way” for a dog to grieve. Any of the above behaviors shouldn’t be punished. If they’re engaging in destructive behaviors, gentle discouragement is always better than scolding.
How To Help A Grieving Dog
The best thing you can do for a dog after the loss of an owner or close furry pal is to keep them in their routine as much as possible. This includes the same length of walks at the same time of day and feeding them the same food at the same intervals.
If their owner, or a close member of the household, is the one that’s passed and that person isn’t coming home at the same time of day or coming down the stairs at the same time in the morning, then this can be distressing and confusing for your pup. Make sure to pet them and cuddle them if they seem sad at this element of routine changing.
If they wait at the window for someone to return or engage in a behavior that isn’t desirable due to the routine change, the best thing to do is ignore them. Any attention you give them will just prolong the behavior, or the waiting, and encourage them to keep doing it. You can, however, attempt to distract them with something like play time.
Ultimately, upping the attention you give a grieving dog will enhance their bond with you - their new master - and help them recover from their grief more swiftly. More cuddles, more walks, a couple of extra special treats here and there, and more naps together can be a great way of helping you and your dog through the loss.
If you’ve lost a furry friend in the household and your grieving pet was particularly close with them, your instinct may be to get another dog to cheer them up. This should always be handled with care and only if you’re confident this will serve your grieving dog and you and your home can cope with bringing another animal into the house. Introductions should be made slowly between the two pets, and any decision shouldn’t feel rushed.
If your dog is really struggling to adapt, particularly if they’re not eating or seem very lethargic, chat to their vet who may want to talk to you about pheromones that may help soothe them or suggest a calming aid to help relax your stressed, grieving dog.
How Long Do Dogs Grieve?
There is no normal grieving process for any human or creature. Typically, anywhere between 2-6 months is about average for a pup to adapt to their new normal, but this will all depend on a number of factors: how close your pup was with the deceased, their age and their overall health. Patience is key with anyone (human or animal) that is grieving.
Do Cats Grieve The Loss Of A Dog?
If you have a cat and they were particularly close with your dog as a companion, yes they can grieve them. They may seem sad and listless, lose their appetite and socially withdraw. A cat may also sleep more, move slower, or hide themselves away whilst they recover from the loss and adapt to the change in their home. As with dogs, extra attention and affection can help soothe our grieving feline friends.
Recently lost a dog? Please head on over to our blog for advice and support: How To Cope When Your Dog Dies.
"How To Help A Grieving Dog" Sep 10. 2019, Blue Cross https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/how-help-grieving-dog
Author Parretts, Susan "Do Dogs Grieve Other Dogs?" Jul 15. 2019, American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/do-dogs-grieve-other-dogs/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CTypically,%20their%20behavior%20returned%20to,t%20normalize%20the%20grieving%20process.
Author Buzhardt, Lynn DVM "Do Cats Mourn?" VCA Hospitals https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/do-cats-mourn
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!