Separation Anxiety and Mourning in Dogs
This subject is not meant to make you sad but to deepen our understanding of dogs. It’s important to know how to respond to them when they lose a loved one.
Pets grieve too!
Because our dogs have tremendous attachment to us, and other household companions, they experience distress during periods of both short-term separation and the sudden absence of an owner or furry friend.
According to Justine Lee, DVM and author of It’s a Dog’s Life…But It’s Your Carpet: “a study from the ASPCA found that two-thirds of dogs show recognizable signs of grieving, such as a decrease in appetite, clinginess, and lethargy. I’ve also found that some dogs whine and bark more or sleep in unusual places—this type of attention-seeking behavior may happen because the dog has pent-up “play energy” that he’s not able to release with a friend.”
Good news: the ASPCA study also found that most dogs were able to heal within a few short weeks to six months.
What can you do to assuage your dog’s depression?
(1). Maintain similar routines wherever possible. Removing reminders may help also (store or donate the other pet’s beds, food bowls and toys)
(2). Maintain a positive, happy attitude (as hard as it is for you). Your dog will always respond to your emotions regardless of changes in household circumstances.
(3). Increase activity (take more walks and play more games of fetch). Seratonin, that “feel good” hormone, is activated with exercise in dogs as well as humans.
(4). Provide interactive or “entertainment” toys and/or hide treat-filled toys around the house to create a treasure hunt for your dog (and promote mental distraction).
(5). Step up the affection! It’s o.k. to smother your dog with more attention during this difficult transition. NOTE: If your dog is howling more, refrain from affection to avoid reinforcing the added vocalization.
(6). If you have planned for the peaceful passing of another pet, allow the surviving dog to attend the event.
(7). Consider waiting to acquire another dog until you are comfortable that your surviving dog has moved on. And you too!
(8). For more serious cases of depression, you may want to consult with your Vet for specific medications.
To our beloved pets and clients, remember that “those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day”.