What To Do When Your Dog Is Grieving A Loss

As humans, we all know how it feels to grieve the loss of someone special in our lives. Death, divorce, a beloved family member with a prolonged hospitalization or having to move into a nursing home, children growing up to go off to college or get married. All of our lives have these types of disruptions, and we naturally feel grief, sadness and yes, even depression.

But what about our dogs? 

Our canine companions are sensitive creatures. They seem to know when someone is “missing” from the family, whether that’s a human or another family dog or cat, and they also pick up and mirror our own feelings of sadness and grief.

Signs that your dog may be feeling sad are excessive clinginess, following you from room to room, excessive sleeping and unwillingness to play. Your dog’s appetite may be down as well.

Here are some ways to get your dog, and you, feeling back to normal:

Dogs mirror our human feelings. They readily pick up on our moods and reflect them back to us. Research has shown that one of the best ways we, as humans, can feel better, is to smile, even if we don’t feel like it. This activates part of our brains associated with happiness and makes us feel better in spite of ourselves. 

Exercise is a great antidote to depression. Taking your dog for a walk will do both of you a world of good. 

Many times, which there has been an upsetting event within a family, the daily routine gets out of whack. Dogs thrive on a regular schedule. So try your best to go back to his usual feeding, exercise and play time.

If your dog does well with other dogs, a trip to a local dog park to socialize can be helpful for both of you, as well as taking a day trip to a new area, perhaps to hike or walk.

So in your sadness, please don’t forget your canine companion’s mental health needs as well. Together, you’ll get through this!

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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