Losing a beloved canine family member is never easy, but it is not just the humans in the household who suffer; dogs also mourn the loss in their own way. Dogs may not display emotions identical to their human counterparts, but they do process grief and need extra support during this difficult time.
The degree to which the remaining dogs in the household suffer is largely based on how close they were to the deceased. Similar to human grief, dogs are most affected when they lose a companion they are closely bonded with. For example, dogs who frequently played and slept together are more likely to be impacted by a loss than those who avoided one another. Littermates may also feel a stronger connection than dogs from different litters, since they have been together since birth.
Physical effects are the most obvious signs of grief in other dogs. Many dogs will stop eating or show a reduced interest in food after a loss. They may show little interest in even the tastiest treats. A grieving dog may also sleep much more than she did while the other dog was still alive. The remaining dogs may look around the house for their deceased companion, and may appear lost and confused in the weeks following euthanasia. Grieving dogs may also whine, cry or bark out of frustration or confusion.
Emotional changes after a loss are more difficult to pinpoint than physical changes. Lack of interest is one of the most common emotional cues displayed by a grieving dog. She will not want to play or engage with other family members, and may spend time away by herself. She may choose to lie in the deceased dog’s bed or sniff his toys to catch a whiff of his comforting, familiar scent. A grieving dog may also become clingy or anxious, seeking out her owner for reassurance. Previously calm dogs may suffer from bouts of separation anxiety when left alone, and may become destructive in their attempts to escape and find their owners.
One of the most important things you can do following euthanasia is to maintain a normal routine. While it may be difficult to complete normal tasks without one of your furry friends, normalcy will help your remaining dogs stay calm and focused. Feed your dogs on a set schedule, take them for walks, and enjoy trips to the dog park just as you did before. Stay calm when your dog displays strange behavior; she is unable to tell you how she feels and needs comfort, not discipline. Add an extra play session or a new toy to the routine to stimulate your dogs and take their minds off their lost companion.
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