Dealing with the Loss of a Pet

a brown and tan labradoodleToday these adorable Labradoodles visited Winding Hill Vets for the first time. They are two years old and brother and sister. They have been together since the beginning.

Chances are they do everything together – go out together – eat together – play together, etc. My thoughts turned to friends of mine that have two adorable mixed terriers that have been soul mates for years. One was just diagnosed with Lymphoma. My friends could not help but wonder how the one left behind was going to fare when the other took the journey across the Rainbow Bridge.

They asked “do pets mourn? – “do they grieve”? I do not know if they grieve as we do. What I do know is that they display many behaviors that make me think they do. The change in routine, the change in the pack and in structure can be powerful. Pets feed off of our emotions as well. I have seen dogs and cats go off their food, become restless, agitated, depressed or aloof. Changes in bladder and bowel habits are often noted. Searching behavior for the lost pet can be exhibited.

To my friends, I offer this advice. Today, while they are still together, they allow them plenty of time to enjoy each other. At the same time start some separate “just you” activity with each dog. This will give you some special moments with your special boy while he is still here with us. Most importantly it will be the basis of your little girl’s life without him. A walk around the block with you, special playtime with you or grooming and massage will be most appreciated.

When a pet is experiencing the loss of another pet try to keep routine as normal as possible. Resist the urge to allow bad behavior if it begins. The structure is important at this time. Add to the normal routine some additional exercise. Exercise is, in my opinion, the universal answer to many “pet issues”. Increased walks for dogs with varying venues can be mentally, physically and emotionally beneficial. Tailor the length of the walk to the dog’s physical condition. Dogs that socialize well with others may enjoy playdates. Interactive toys for dogs and cats are brimming over at pet shops everywhere. Some cats learn to walk outside with their owners as well. There are many indoor games that one can enjoy with our feline friends. Chasing beams of light is a favorite. Flavored and safe for pets bubbles are a huge hit.

In summation: Losing a pet is very difficult for us and for other pets in the family. Keeping a routine supplemented by some new activity can so assist in healing for us and for them. Start from the beginning of doing some activities with the pets individually. Increased human-animal bonding is very likely to happen and this can make the loss of a pet down the road less traumatic for all.