Two dogs running with one stick

Loss of a Companion

The death of a four-legged member of the family is a traumatic and emotional time. It is certainly upsetting for us humans but it can also be upsetting for other dogs who are now missing their best friend too.

I am so upset – are my feelings normal?

All of us react to the death of a loved pet in different ways. Some people cry uncontrollably while others internalise their emotions and show nothing. All these reactions are normal and neither is the correct or incorrect way to grieve. It is not uncommon for people to be as overcome by grief at the loss of a furry companion as a human companion. This is because we can be so dependent on them and they provide us with unconditional love.

How long does it take to heal?

It's a very individual thing. For some it can take a long time, and for others, much less. Grief can be a rollercoaster of emotions and does not follow a specific timetable on a straight line. Be kind to yourself and know that one day you will be able to think about your dog with smiles instead of tears.

What can I do to help myself?

Chatting with others can help a lot in the healing process. Drop into your local vet clinic and talk with the staff about your loss. Veterinary staff discuss these situations with owners regularly and can be a great source of comfort. This website has a question and answer section where you can discuss via email your loss with a qualified veterinarian. See http://pawclub.com.au/Community/QandA.aspx to connect with a vet.

Planting a tree in the garden to remember your dog or making a scrap book can assist you to remember the fun times with your dog. It can also help you to remember those times that they were naughty!

Do dogs mourn?

Dogs often mourn the loss of a companion dog. The length of time a dog mourns varies, as it does with humans. Some dogs seem more reliant on their lost friend and take longer to return to normal behaviour. Mourning can last a few days or sometimes even weeks. Your dog may become depressed and quiet and be less likely to interact with you. In some cases they may stop eating and not move from their bed.

How can I help them?

Do not remove the bedding, food bowls or other items that belonged to the deceased dog immediately. They will contain some of the smells of the other dog that can assist during this period. Wait a period of time before gradually removing one item at a time.

Encouraging your dog to interact with you can also help. Take them on their favourite walks. Offer them their favourite foods, treats or chews. Encourage them to play with their toys.

Will another (new) dog help?

This varies for each individual, but do not rush to get another dog unless YOU, the owner, feel you are ready. You are the only one who will know when you are ready and if it is right for you. If you get another dog too soon it may feel like this new dog is a replacement. This may create comparisons between the two dogs when in fact the new dog has a totally different (but delightful!) personality and temperament. Your remaining dog is not just missing ANY dog – they are missing the deceased dog. This is why a new unknown dog may not assist them at this stage.

My dog is very depressed. What should I do?

There are medications and pheromone products available that can assist greatly. These are available from your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviourist.

If you do not have a local veterinarian, why not use our handy 'Connect with a Vet' feature at http://www.pawclub.com.au/Community/VetFinder/Default.aspx

Alternatively, seek the assistance of a qualified veterinary behaviourist at http://www.deltasociety.com.au/behaviourists