12th Nov, 2023

Written by Scotty Valadao – Animal Communicator, Canine Behaviourist

Not all dogs will feel the loss of a companion dog (or cat). However, if the dogs were closely bonded and one of them passes, the surviving dog may have what is often referred to as “distress reaction”, which really is just like grief in us humans. Dogs can suffer from this in varying degrees, from just acting a bit “out of sorts” to full-blown depression in some cases.

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Dog may eat less or go off its food altogether.

  • Sleeping patterns may change – some dogs will sleep more, whilst other dogs battle to sleep or settle down, and wander around more than usual, especially at night.

  • The dog may seem to lose total interest in normal activities.

  • Some dogs will separate themselves from the family and want to lie by themselves, and other dogs will become more dependent on their human family, constantly wanting attention or to be more around the family than normal – it all depends on the individual dog.

  • What can also occur is that the dog may wander from room to room or outside as if looking for its friend.

Some tips to help your dog get through the loss

  • Although it may be tempting to give your dog much more attention than usual, please refrain from this. The reason is that, although it may make us feel better, it’s actually detrimental to your dog, as excessive petting and more attention than usual are the biggest contributing factors of separation anxiety and a dog that becomes very pushy. Try to keep the attention you do give your dog as normal as possible. In general, you want to keep life as normal as possible, especially routines.

  • Increase daily walks, even if only for 15 minutes a day during the week. A daily walk will take the dog's mind off the loss, help to balance serotonin levels, and give the dog something to look forward to – this is the dog’s walk, allow him to sniff and scent as much as possible, and don’t rush him. This will also improve your existing bond, and being out in the fresh air with a loved companion may help your own grief as well. Try to walk somewhere in nature where you can look at the wonder of nature, especially near water. It’s the negative ions around water that tend to make us feel more relaxed.

  • Engage in whatever games the dog normally likes. Don’t go too overboard with this, but do a bit more than usual. One suggestion is a game of ball twice a day, if this is what the dog enjoys. Often, it’s a good idea to keep the time playing short and sweet – this tends to leave the dog wanting to do more.

  • Increase mental stimulation by way of offering a special treat such as a Kong or Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude, stuffed with some favourite treats – just make sure this doesn’t take the place of standard meals.

  • Where feeding is concerned, keep mealtimes the same. If the dog doesn’t eat all its food, leave it for about 10 minutes and then put it into the fridge and offer at the next meal – this way you’re using his hunger to assist in getting his appetite back. Don’t make the mistake of trying to get your dog to eat by hand-feeding or offering special treats – this is just the start of a bad habit where the dog gets more attention, and your dog trains you!

  • If there are other dogs in the family, changes in the hierarchy between dogs often take place when one leaves. Try to leave the dogs to sort the new status out for themselves without interference from humans, unless the situation is serious. If this is the case, then do consider professional assistance.

  • If you do want to give extra attention, then do consider TTouch®. If you’ve never had the opportunity of attending a TTouch® workshop or session, just doing regular Ear Work on your dog will help to reduce the stress levels.

  • Being a TTouch® practitioner, I can honestly state that it can make a dramatic difference, especially where stress and fear are concerned. You’ll find a video on how to do the simple Ear Work here:

The ear contains over 200 acupressure points; massaging the tip of the ear can prevent a dog (human or any other animal) going into shock and helps to release stress. If you’d like to learn more about this amazing modality, just google it and you’ll find practitioners worldwide.

  • Of course, you’ll be feeling grief yourself. However, the more you upset yourself and cry, the more the dog is going to pick up on this, as they definitely tune into our emotions. You need to mourn, but do try to do as much of your mourning in private away from the dog as possible. And remember: there’s no timeline to grief.

  • Consider the use of an alternative remedy such as Rescue Remedy or similar. If you feel that your dog needs veterinary assistance, don’t hesitate to take the dog in for a consult.

  • It’s better not to consider another dog at this stage. Wait until your dog’s back to being himself, and then, if necessary, you can think about this option.

Our animals can feel the loss of a loved companion just as much as we do. It’s up to us to give them what they need to overcome this period.

Note: The above applies to cats, horses, birds, rats and other pets as they all can experience grief.

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