The loss of a pet may be heartbreaking to more than just the human members of the family. While the human family deals with emotions of sadness, the family pets that have spent their days and nights socializing and playing with them may have the same feelings.
What signs to watch out for
You know your pet and their attitude when they're happy. When a pet is sad or depressed, emotions can be expressed in several ways. It's important to keep a watchful eye on behaviour so you can provide the support that may be necessary. Be aware of:
- Decreased activity
- Sleeping more
- Loss in appetite
- Weight loss
- Despondent and depressed demeanour
- Less frequent interaction with pet parents and other family pets
- Vocalization beyond the norm
- Overly attached clingy behaviours
How you can help
The signs and symptoms of mourning can be similar to those of illness, so a visit to the veterinarian would be advised. If it's determined your pet is not physically sick but sad due to the loss of a family pet, there are ways you can support them. You can help a pet navigate through the mourning period by following these suggestions:
- Maintain a normal routine as much as possible. This includes feeding, exercise, and play times.
- Keep your pet active with activities that support positive behaviour which can result in helping your pet move through the mourning process. Don't allow your pet to languish in their sadness.
- Provide attention when your pet is exhibiting positive behaviour. This can be anything from resting quietly by your side to leisurely walks.
- If your pet is being vocal with more than usual howling or meowing, as difficult as it may be, don't reinforce the behaviour by providing treats or toys as a distraction. Doing so could unintentionally promote the negative behaviour.
- Be patient and understanding. The grieving process takes as long as it takes. Just like humans, it's an individual experience and no one can determine for another when grieving should stop.
- Bringing a new pet into the home while your pet is in mourning can add to their stress. During this period, your pet needs a consistent and stable environment without the disruptions in routines and lifestyle that a new pet could create.