Pet Grief

Pets. There are many reasons why we love them.  They are our companions, sons, daughters, friends, siblings, confidants, counselors, comedians, psychiatrists, nurses, and much more.  Essentially, there is only one day when our hearts get broken—the day they must make their journey to the rainbow bridge. – By Elizabeth Parker

While the loss is difficult for us humans to accept, other pets in the home do experience their version of loss.  Pets depend on each other in both obvious and subtle ways.  They have a language all of their own and share a unique relationship that bonds them as family.

Animals have an amazing ability to sense when things are amiss. However, they still might not fully understand where their best friend has gone after their death.  Of course, they notice their absence, but as the days go by and their scent slowly disappears, the remaining pet might undergo a depression, still looking for their partner.

It’s a difficult transition for everyone, and as humans, we openly grieve, but it’s important not to ignore the signs of grieving in our pets as well.  You may notice they sleep a little more or pace the house in search of their departed buddy.  They may stop playing with their toys or lack enthusiasm in activities they once anticipated with excitement.  Some may even stop eating, especially if they were used to sharing mealtime with their pal.

So what can we do to alleviate their sorrow?  I’ve found that positive reinforcement works for not only training purposes but for also helping pets cope with these types of situations.  Dogs sense our moods, so if we are sad, they can very well pick up on that and demonstrate sadness.  If we approach them with positive activities, we can help them overcome their loss, and ultimately our loss as well.

If your dog once loved walks, try taking them for a walk and rewarding them with things they love such as treats and/ or toys. Keep in mind, while you might be spoiling them with treats during this transition, you may want to split them in half, so your pet doesn’t put on any unnecessary weight!  In addition, keep them busy.  If they love company, have people over.  If they love car rides, spoil them with car rides.  As difficult as it may be to put on a happy face, realize that they need you now more than ever and showing them that they can still enjoy life without their friend by their side will help them through it.  Now is the time when it’s okay to spoil them just a little bit more than usual!

Lastly, don’t get discouraged.  Some animals may not show signs of grieving at all, but some may take a few weeks or months before they are back to their happy selves.  Be patient, and with time,  you and your pet will begin healing.

And if the day comes when you want to expand your heart and your home to another animal, there is nothing wrong with that! No pet ever replaces another, but if the timing is right and there is love to give, then it is an option. Remember, people grieve in different ways, as do our pets.  Showing them love, attention, and a little extra TLC will go a long way in helping them say goodbye to their departed friend.

Elizabeth Parker – Author of Finally Home, Final Journey, My Dog Does That!, Bark Out Loud!, Paw Prints in the Sand,Paw Prints in the Sand: Mission Accomplished, Unwanted Dreams, Phobia, Evil’s Door and Faces of Deception.  Available on!