Our compassionate team of veterinarians are asked this question many times each week. The short answer is, it varies. While pet’s reactions to loss do vary, there are some common experiences which are good to know when helping your own pets.
Recognizing the Loss
It usually appears that our pets recognize that other pets in the home have died. They may examine their deceased housemate in a close manner with sniffing and pawing or they may quietly acknowledge from a distance. We don’t know for sure what pets think but it does appear to help them understand that the other pet has passed when offered the chance to see their friend.
Taking the Other Pets Items Away
The recently deceased pet’s food and treats, particularly if we were supplementing calories, should be removed once the ailing pet has passed. Many pets put on additional ounces and pounds when eating what an ailing pet does not. Continuing such increases in food and treats can be harmful to our surviving pets, in the long run. Other items that our pets have used likely don’t need to be removed as quickly. Bedding, ramps, and fans may be as comfortable to our younger pets as they were for our older pets.
Develop a Healthy Routine
Though grief is not ended by a healthy routine, healthy habits can help us cope with grief. Many dog owners report curtailed walks when older pets are no longer capable of vigorous exercise. Restarting walks or increasing the length of walks can be a welcome change for you and your surviving dogs. Similarly, habits that were established which no longer serve you well can be stopped such as early morning meals for an ill pet or late night trips to the yard.
Just as you are unlikely to want another pet soon after a loss, your pet is likely to think similarly. Some pets enjoy providing comfort to their grieving owners. Some pets like having more attention or getting to decide its time to sleep or play without following another pet’s lead. Let your surviving pets show you what they need from you. If you see any lasting changes in behavior or appetite that concern you talk to your pets’ veterinarian.
Written by: Dr. Kerry Muhovich, Caring Pathways Veterinarian
Dr. Muhovich is a graduate of Colorado State University veterinary school. She has worked in various areas of veterinary medicine, including shelter medicine, animal behavior, general practice, teaching techs, and end of life care. She has found her career home in end of life care. Dr. Muhovich is certified in canine rehabilitation, fear free, and low stress handling.
Dr. Muhovich loves serving her clients and patients in the comfort of their homes. She loves all cats and dogs, and is honored to help pets in need.