How Dogs React to the Loss of Their Brotherby Holly McGurgan
Grief isn’t just a human emotion. Dogs also experience grief when a person or animal dies. The death of a littermate can be difficult to handle, particularly when the dogs have lived together for years. Recognizing the signs of grief can help you assist your dog in adjusting to the loss of a loved one and enjoy life again.
While every dog reacts differently to grief, you may notice several common signs. Your dog might appear depressed and uninterested in any of the activities he previously enjoyed, such as going for a walk or playing fetch. You might notice that he isn’t interested in eating or drinking and might want to rest near a spot linked to his brother, such as the brother’s dog bed or favorite spot on the floor. A grieving dog also might have trouble sleeping or sleep even more than usual. He might bark or howl to express grief. If your pet is feeling lonely, he might want to spend more time with you, and might seem to need extra attention.
Helping Your Dog
It takes time for grief to subside, whether you’re a human or a dog. While your dog grieves, you can take steps to make his life more enjoyable. Spend more time grooming him, petting him and giving him more attention. This is particularly important if your dog is now an only pet. Find ways to help your pet focus on other things than his grief. Take him outside. If he isn’t interested in playing, take him for a walk. The activity and change of scenery can revive interest in pursuing normal activities. Be creative in finding activities to help your dog remain active. The Veterinary Partner website suggests putting some of your dog’s food in a food-dispensing toy to help him become more active; it also recommends hiding food or treats in the house or yard for your pet to find.
Learning New Skills
When your dog learns new skills, he has less time to focus on grief. If your dog has never participated in an obedience class, enroll him in one now. The class will provide plenty of opportunity to learn new skills in a positive, fun environment. If he has taken a class, find out if there is a more advanced class available. Specialty training, such as agility classes, also can provide a fun way for your dog to learn something new while spending time with you. If you can’t attend classes, try teaching your dog a few tricks at home.
If your dog is still depressed and having trouble eating and sleeping weeks after the loss of a littermate, it’s time to seek professional help. Start with your dog’s veterinarian. The veterinarian will conduct a complete examination to ensure that any health issues aren’t causing or contributing to the problem. Your veterinarian might provide suggestions to help your pet handle the loss or might suggest that you consult an animal behaviorist. Animal behaviorists evaluate pet behavior and develop a treatment plan to help the pet overcome a particular problem.
- Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images