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Dealing with a pet’s grief

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June 07, 2017

A good friend of mine recently lost their 13-year-old dog Buddy. This left 12-year-old Lizzie without her mate.

A good friend of mine recently lost their 13-year-old dog Buddy. This left 12-year-old Lizzie without her mate.

The effect it had on Lizzie was devastating and in only three short months the family also said goodbye to her. Grieving for a loved one is a feeling we all dread.

It is a natural emotion and one that is different from individual to individual. It is no different in our pets when they lose a close companion.

Sometimes it can be hard to read, other times the behavioural changes can be stark. Human grief is still not completely understood and perhaps it never will be, since we all cope differently.

So how are you supposed to know how to help your pet?

Time may be the only cure. It might be days for some, months for others. Acknowledging your pet may be experiencing grief is obviously an important step.

While we may seek comfort from our remaining pets to help deal with our own grief, it is important to not overdo it.

Reinforcing positive behaviour and ignoring bad behaviour is important. While a grieving pet may be pining and seeking additional attention, it is important not to encourage any unwanted over-vocalisation.

Keeping up the routine as much as possible is helpful — go for a walk at the same time each day, keep meal times consistent, even if their appetite changes, and keep bed times the same.

Routine is important for all pets, not just grieving ones. If you had two pets and then suddenly you have one, environmental stimulation may be important.

This may come in the form of stimulating toys or treats, having a TV or radio on while they are home alone, or having access to a window or a fence where they can watch passers-by. Getting a new pet is something I would consider with caution.

Some pet owners prefer to wait a while, others may go looking for a new pet soon. I have seen getting a replacement pet have positive effects, but I have also seen it have detrimental effects. My best advice is to go with your gut.

I think your gut will also be the best judge when it comes to having your surviving pets being with their friend when they pass or seeing them or smelling them one last time once they have passed.

Some will consider this morbid and unthinkable, others may see it as necessary. Do what you think is best. There may be ways to help your pet deal with grief.

There are some natural calming remedies. Adaptil is another synthetic calming pheromone that I would consider. Talk to your vet about these.

Acknowledge your pet may experience grief in some way, do your best to reinforce positive behaviours and ignore the negative, give it time and go with your gut. If in doubt, talk to your vet.

Thanks to Shepparton Vet, Dr Brett Davis for sharing his expertise.

Do you have a similar experience? Share it with others in the comments below.

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