How Can I Help My Grieving Dog Feel Better?

Just until recently, you had two happy, playful pups. They had their own pack dynamic, playing together, eating at the same time, cuddling up at night, and rushing to the door to greet you whenever you got home.

Image Credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Moment/GettyImages

However, sadly, one of your dogs in the household just died, and the other is going through the grieving process...or at least that's what you think is going on. You're wondering if your dog knows that his canine friend passed away, and, if so, what you can do about your dog's grieving.

Can dogs feel grief?

Unfortunately, we can't communicate with dogs in the same way they communicate with each other. However, we can tell what kind of mood they're in. When they go outside, they pant and smile, meaning they're happy. When you're sad, they're sad. And when one of their canine friends dies, it does seem that they feel grief. They may even be experiencing similar emotions to humans when they lose a beloved person in their life.

What dog grief looks like

When one dog in the household passes away, the other dog is mourning the loss of a fellow pack member, as well as his former pack role. For example, maybe your dog that died was the leader of the pack, and now your other dog doesn't know what to do. It's up to you to show him his new position in your home.

Image Credit: Janie Airey/DigitalVision/GettyImages

During this time, your dog may show a number of different symptoms of grief. They may withdraw from you, as well as other people and pets in your household, call out for their canine friend who died, be destructive or aggressive, not want to eat, sleep more often, experience lethargy, poop or pee inside the house, search for their canine friend in places where the dog usually hung out, and cling to the owner, following them around the house.

In other words, grieving dogs may lose their spark and suffer from depression. The closer your dog was to your one who passed away, the more he will grieve and show that he's sad. Just like humans, dogs grieve for a varying period of time. It could last weeks or even months depending on your dog.

How to help a grieving dog

Right now, your dog really needs you, so try to be there for him as much as possible. You'll never replace his canine friend, but you can be helpful. Bond with him by cuddling, playing, taking him on walks, or doing whatever he loves. If he enjoys playing fletch or going to the dog park, do it. Whatever made him happy before the death occurred should continue to make him happy now.

Keep him in his routine, and don't be overly dramatic. Just be there for him, and give him space to grieve, because it's totally normal. Also, make sure his physical needs are met. If he's not eating, feed him his favorite foods that he'll definitely eat. And, if he's up for it, exercise more with him. That should stimulate him and lift his spirits.

You could also invite over friends and family members to play with him, have doggy play dates, get him a new toy, and feed him his favorite treats (just don't give him too many unhealthy things). You can also make sure he has a crate with comfy bedding to burrow into, where he'll feel cozy and protected.

Image Credit: mlorenzphotography/Moment/GettyImages

Even if he's old, he can learn new tricks. Teaching him something new may stimulate his mind and get him excited about life again, especially if you pair your training with yummy treats.

If nothing works, you can always ask your vet for help. There are medicines for grieving dogs that just aren't themselves, even after a long period of time. Your vet may put your dog on antidepressants like Fluoxetine, Doxepin, and Amitriptyline, which could help your dog with his depression and anxiety over losing his canine friend.

Deciding to get another dog

You might think that the answer to helping your grieving dog is to get another dog right away. While this may seem like a good idea, you don't want to rush into anything. Your dog that died was unique, and the relationship she had with your dog that is still alive was special. You really can't replace her with a brand new dog, because your grieving dog is just not going to have the same relationship with another one.

However, if your dog's mood starts to lift, you feel like you adequately grieved your dog who died, and you are equipped to raise another pup, then you can start looking into a new canine friend. When going to meet your potential new dog, take your pup with you to help you make the decision. You want to ensure that they get along and will fit nicely into your household together.

Conclusion

Dogs do grieve, and there are a number of ways to help them, such as comforting them, keeping them in their routine, making sure they're physically healthy, and cuddling them. With some time, your dog should start to feel better, and then you can figure out if you want to bring a new dog into your home.