How to Help your Pet Handle Grief

When we experience a life altering event, we may seek out loved ones, friends, or even counselors to help us navigate the changes. However, we don’t often realize that there are certain life events that cause pets to grieve too.

You can help! Here are a few tips on what to watch for and how to help your pet navigate the changes in their lives!

The death of a beloved companion leaves most pets feeling very sad. This is especially true if that person was their primary caregiver. They may also experience a loss due to the death of another animal in the household. It is important to recognize that the changes in your pet’s behavior may be due to grief.

Watch for these signs of grief-related trauma: changes in eating habits, lethargy, loss of interest in play or taking walks, or potty accidents in pets who are housetrained.

When pets live in a home where their beloved kids leave for college, owners get divorced, or additional people move into the home – as in the case with remarriage or a new child – pets are often confused with the resulting change. They may exhibit signs of grief as noted above, or they may show signs of stress until they get used to the new household dynamics.

Watch for these additional signs of stress-related change: anxiousness, lingering near the front door, or near the room of the person who has moved, anxiously pacing when they are not taken for their regular walk, or laying around all day.

How you can help

You can help by acknowledging the loss or change. Sit down and allow your pet to come to you. Pet him calmly, and talk to him in a low and soothing voice. Try to keep his routine as normal as possible; feed him as usual, even if his appetite is low and take him on walks even if he does not seem interested. If your pet has lost another family pet, don’t add another animal into the mix too soon.

Pets are extremely intuitive and they can sense when you care. That is the best medicine you can offer to help your pet navigate changes.

If your pet’s behavior includes aggression or poor habits that are affecting his health, call your vet.

Remember, grief manifests itself differently for each pet. Different types of pets such as dogs, cats, and birds express grieve differently as well. But despite these differences, shared grief can help you both!

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