Just like people, dogs react to death in different ways, and while one dog may not be affected emotionally by the death of a newborn puppy, another may sink into a noticeable depression. You can’t predict whether your dog will mourn the death of a puppy, but you can help your pet cope and move on.
Do Dogs Mourn?
Every dog is different, and that includes their mourning behaviors -- or lack thereof. A dog that experiences a loss, like that of an owner, canine companion or newborn puppy, may exhibit signs of depression or grief. Some dogs may experience loss without showing any signs of emotional distress at all. Ultimately, your dog’s reaction to the death of a puppy depends on her personality, and you can’t know what to expect unless it happens.
Signs of Depression
If your dog has lost a puppy, even a newborn, you should monitor her behavior for signs of grief or depression. Your dog’s sadness may manifest in different ways, like a lack of interest in food and water, increased sleep and general lethargy. Typically, symptoms of mourning like these are more common in dogs who have lost someone to whom they were closely bonded, but the loss of even a newborn puppy can leave a sensitive dog feeling despondent.
The apparent manifestations of your dog’s emotional distress may be more than just a sign of mourning -- they could indicate a medical problem. Symptoms, like loss of appetite and lethargy, are associated with dog depression, but they also can indicate postpartum complications, like an infected uterus or infected mammary glands. If your dog appears to be depressed after the death of a newborn puppy, don’t assume that she’s grieving. Have her checked out by a veterinarian, so you can rule out any physical complications.
Helping Your Dog
Though human instinct may tell you to be patient and comforting in the wake of your dog’s loss, this actually can enable and encourage bad habits, like lethargy, making your dog’s mourning symptoms more severe over time, not less. Instead, help your dog move on by maintaining a consistent routine. This gives her a sense of direction and can help guide her out of a grieving period. You can even increase her exercise and playtime, which naturally boosts her serotonin levels and improves her mood.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.