Losing a pet affects everyone in the family, including your other animals. The loss can be devasting for everyone in the household, and although it’s difficult to understand exactly how pets grieve, it’s important to take this into consideration as you come to terms with your loss.
A common aspect of pet grief which is typically reported is a change in your other pet’s behaviour. Pets form relationships with other members of their family – human or animal – and so a change or disruption to this dynamic undoubtedly has an effect. This can be particularly true for pack animals, such as dogs. Household pets can form strong bonds with one another, especially when they spend lots of time together, creating a sense of safety and well-being. When a member of the group is no longer there, significant stress and anxiety can follow, and you may even see your pet trying to actively search for their friend.
Normally grief in pets is likely to display as separation anxiety – you might see them distressed when you leave the home, barking or howling when left at night or chewing toys or other household items from time to time. There may be more issues if your pet already struggles with anxiety, or enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the animal you’ve lost.
Helping your pet come to terms with the loss
If your pet is struggling, there are some things you can do to help:
- Use your shared loss as a chance to carve out extra time with your remaining pet – it can help you both come to terms with your grief.
- If it’s practical and possible, it may help your pet to see and spend time near the body of your deceased pet – they may then be better able to process what’s happened. This can be easier if your pet died at home, although some pet crematoria have viewing rooms available where you can spend time with your pets.
- Reassure your pet with as much normality as possible including following your usual routines of walks, cuddles and food times.
- Carefully consider when to add another pet to your family; replacing a pet can create some behaviour issues or stress in other pets.
- Make sure you have time to grieve and use pet loss resources and support to help you through your loss.
Do keep a close eye on your pet and if they are losing weight, have other new health issues or are just not themselves then do get in touch with your vet.
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