Grief is a difficult time for the entire family. For your pets it can be particularly confusing and heartbreaking, as they may not understand the reasons behind the loss. Everybody copes with grief in different ways. Whilst some need space, others will crave company and comfort, and the same goes for your pets too. The best thing you can do to help your pet is to recognise the signs and act accordingly to their needs. So, what are the most common signs of stress to look out for?
- A change in sleeping habits
- A change in appetite
- Being demanding, wanting more attention
- Being withdrawn, wanting space
- Howling or crying
- Searching for the deceased
- Laying in the deceased’s spot
As with any changes in behaviour, your pet is trying to communicate with you and it’s important to respect what they need whilst also encouraging healthy behaviour.
Give them space
If your pet is withdrawn and needing their own space, it’s important not to force yourself on them or crowd them. It may feel natural to gravitate towards them for comfort, but if they need space it’s best to give them that freedom.
Watch what they eat
If your pet is eating less, make sure food is always available for when they’re ready. Waiting until they’re hungry is a good idea, as this can feel more natural for them. Make sure you’re paying attention to portion sizes if your routine is disrupted.
Stick to a routine
Routines are comforting to pets and can help them feel less on edge when regular situations and environments change. They may want to sleep more and eat less and that’s fine, but try to keep as much of your home routine in place as possible.
Do things that make them happy
If they enjoy playing or walks in certain places, that can certainly help to take their mind off their loss. Encourage them to walk and play regularly if they have the energy to.
Time rewards carefully
Be careful not to reinforce negative behaviour. This can be easily done if your pet is howling, crying or being too clingy and reliant on you. Whilst it may seem harsh to ignore a pet who is demanding attention, this is the best way to avoid regular problematic behaviour.
Most importantly, don’t rush the healing process. Research shows that it takes, on average, six months for a pet to progress from this kind of grieving behaviour, but it can also take much longer.
Wait before introducing another pet
If it is another pet that has passed away, it can be tempting to get another quickly. But we recommend waiting at least 3 months before disrupting your usual routine any further. Every animal is unique, and a replacement mindset isn’t a factual one, this new pet will simply become a new addition to make room for in the pack.
Ask your vet for help
If your pet is suffering particularly badly or acting painfully stressed, speak to your vet for help. Pheromones may help to calm dogs that are stressed, as well as other natural supplements and remedies.