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How Do Pets Cope with Loss?

Losing a pet can be an extremely difficult and emotional situation for pet owners. While humans go through a grieving process, do other pets in the household do the same? What happens when one pet loses their other pet companion?

Animals can, in fact, display signs of grieving when another household pet dies. A recent study collected data pertaining to 159 dogs and 152 cats. The data included questionnaire responses from pet owners in New Zealand and Australia who owned multiple pets at the same time and had lost one within the past five years. More specifically, the pet owners were asked to recollect how the surviving pet responded to the loss of their companion.

One of the most common responses and observations collected by the pet owners was that the surviving animal would continually check the places where their lost companion normally napped or rested. Dogs were reported to decrease the amount and speed at which they ate while increasing the amount of time spent sleeping. Cats were reported to increase the frequency and volume of their vocalizations.

Now that we know some pets do go through a grieving process when they lose a companion, is there a way to help them cope?

PsychologyToday.com suggests a few tips:

· Keep your routine simple. This includes waking up, going to sleep, eating, walking, etc.

· Expect a change in social order. Losing a pet might mean that the “alpha” status has changed if there are more than one surviving pet. Pay attention to all behaviors and seek veterinary advice when needed.

· Keep your pet busy. Especially if you have a dog that is now home alone, try to keep them busy with stimulating toys, walks, outings, etc.

· Watch out for health issues. Much like humans, pets can react to grief with physical symptoms. While it can be common for the surviving pet to eat less than usual, be more tired or less playful than usual, always seek professional advice from your vet.