Pets and Pet Loss
Although not always the case, many pets, regardless of species, develop a very close bond with each other, sometimes over many years; they may have eaten, slept and played together their entire lives. It is important to remember that other pets may suffer bereavement and grief just as we do when we lose a companion, and just like us they may display this grief to varying degrees.
Grief in other pets may manifest in a number of ways including actively looking for the departed companion, loss of appetite, unexplained vocalisation, change in behaviour and temperament, and change in toileting habits. Clearly it is important to be sure that there isn’t a medical reason for any changes observed.
The most important thing is to make sure that you do not neglect the remaining pets; in fact, you should try and give them as much additional attention as possible. Grieve together, give them comfort and get comfort from them – but try not to reward unhealthy behaviours. In time their grief should pass and their behaviour should normalise just as it will for you. You can help them further in this process by maintaining their normal routine with respect to feeding, exercise and so on. That said, some people find that for a while at least they have to try a different routine, walk dogs in different places or tempt their remaining pet to eat with different foods before then gradually returning to the normal routine. Try maintaining a normal routine to start with but if this does not seem to be working then don't be afraid to try a change and see whether there is any improvement. It is also important to try and minimise any sources of distress or stress to other pets that appear to be grieving - for example by trying to avoid leaving them alone for extended periods or taking a holiday at this time.
It is also possible that other pets will pick up on the grief, distress and possible change in routine of the humans in the home and that this will cause or at least contribute to some of their abnormal behaviour during this period.
Should I let my remaining pets see the deceased one?
This question is obviously more or less applicable depending on where euthanasia is performed and the practical implications of allowing your remaining pets to see their deceased companion. It is generally accepted that dogs and probably cats and other friends like rabbits and guinea pigs do benefit from being able to see and smell the body of the deceased pet; by recognising the other animal to be dead it provides an explanation for the sudden disappearance. Allowing surviving pets to see the deceased one can help to minimise the severity and duration of their grief; even if it doesn’t, it is unlikely to worsen the situation. One thing to be careful about is that if you are burying your departed friend's body in the garden, it is probably best not to let a dog see where as this may lead to him/her trying to dig the body up.PDF Page Download