4 Ways to Help a Dog or Cat That Is Depressed: What To Do When Your Pet Is Feeling Loss

October 22nd 2020

By Dr. Olivia Schmidtz

Losing a furry family member is very difficult for us humans, but what should we do when we think our pet may be experiencing loss as well? Many pet owners notice a change in their surviving pet’s behaviour following the death of another pet in the home. While we can never know for sure whether our pets process grief in the same way as us, it is hard to ignore their change in demeanor when they lose a companion.

There are plenty of reasons why a surviving pet may act differently. They also may show their feelings  in different ways such as, a decreased appetite, forgetting their housetraining, becoming lethargic or depressed, or even becoming aggressive.

What Can Trigger Grief in Pets

The list below outlines potential behavioural triggers other than grief itself:

Change in routine

If daily family walks, grooming sessions, feeding times, or other activities change, your pet will notice. Trying to maintain your pet’s routine, which can help them feel secure and confident.

Owner change in demeanor

We know that our pets pick up on our body language, tone of voice and activity. If the owner starts interacting with their pet(s) differently, the change may be difficult for the pet.

Underlying medical conditions

After the loss of one pet, the condition of the surviving pet may become more apparent to the owner. This is completely normal. When one sick pet is gone, signs of illness that may have been progressing while your other pet was ill may become more apparent. This can be a good time to visit the vet with your surviving pet to address their health and screen for underlying disease with regular bloodwork.

What can I do to help my grieving pet?

  1. Keep a routine
  2. Provide additional enrichment such as feeding toys, playing classical music, or training
  3. Make time for calm interactions including gentle physical touch and grooming
  4. Ask for help! If you are grieving, ask a friend or trainer for help. It can be extremely helpful to have someone else walk your dog, clean your cat’s litter box, or play with your pet so you can have quiet time to heal.
Remember that your veterinary clinic team empathizes with your situation and is there to help. If you have any additional questions on how to prepare for or recover from the loss of your pet, or if you have concerns about a surviving pet please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our veterinarians by calling (403) 615-8016.

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