sad jack russell death of owner grief

How to Help Dogs Overcome the Trauma of a Family Death

Our dogs are loving, compassionate, friendly and fun creatures. They have their own personalities, and they also have a range of emotions. Our dogs are just as attached to us as we are to them, possibly even more so, because they depend on us to meet their basic needs.

Just as we are devastated when a beloved pet dies, the reverse is also true. If a dog experiences the loss of its owner or other close family member, he is likely to feel grief and sadness. This can be heartbreaking to witness. If your dog or a dog you know has experienced the trauma of a family death, there are some ways you can help them cope and get through their pain.

Signs of Grief

If your dog is experiencing grief, there will likely be some noticeable signs. For example, your dog may actually seem depressed. He may be withdrawn, lethargic, or uninterested in activities he previously enjoyed. He may also experience a loss of appetite. Don’t ignore these signs – begin helping your dog overcome the trauma immediately.

Giving Affection

It is important to offer your grieving dog comfort. You are also likely to be experiencing a lot of grief due to the passing of your loved one, so comfort will be beneficial to both of you. You can lean on each other. Be affectionate with your dog, and give him some extra special attention. Pet him more, and speak lovingly and kindly to him. Hold him in your lap, and do your best to physically express you care for him. This will lift both of your spirits. However, if your dog doesn’t seem to be responding well, he may also just want to spend some time alone, so grant him his space when he needs it.

Creating Routine

A routine is important for anyone who is grieving, because we often feel like our lives have been turned upside down, and we are looking for something to hold onto and depend on. A routine gives us a sense of reassurance. Try not to alter your dog’s routine much. Keep it as close to what it previously was as possible. This is especially important if a dog is relocated to a new home due to the death of his owner. You will want to give the grieving dog stability in a new routine.

Providing Joy

Try to do things that will bring some happiness and joy into the life of your grieving dog. If he loves to go for walks or run around outside, give him more opportunities to do so and in new environments. Perhaps give him a new special toy to help occupy him, or allow him some of his favorite treats a little more often. These unexpected delights will help improve the mood of your dog.

Alternative Therapy

If your dog is experiencing severe grief and you feel he may be very depressed, speak with your veterinarian about possible solutions. If you’re open to it, there are herbal remedies that may help reduce anxiety and allow your dog to feel better. You can also look into therapeutic dog massage. Massages help relieve tension, and they will do the same for a stressed out dog.

Susan Wright DVM is an experienced Vet who writes for DogFenceDiy the most reliable source for invisible fence alternatives.

Your Thoughts

It can be a difficult subject to think or talk about, but if you have recently gone through experienced this type of situation PetSci and the PetSci community are here to talk. Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with us.

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This article was written by one of our guest contributors.

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  1. My 7 year old son passed away on christmas morning it’s was very sudden when we returned home our pitt bull smelled us all over and ever since then he just lays around won’t unless we coax won’t drink water unless we coax him to and also he has been having what looks like is seizures he lays on his side and stretches his legs out and drools alot and pees. He has only had 2 of these episodes but this last one he started growling at my husband who is his main owner if that makes sense. I don’t know what to do in worried and we don’t have the kind of money the vet wants, just to do blood work. Help me help my puppy. He is almost 3 years old.

  2. Hi there,
    I’m the owner of a 10year old border collie. I have worked hard to get him to the loving dog he is.
    My mum’s cousin recently passed away and left an 8 year old West Highland terrier. It was just the 2 of them in the house. As her health deteriorated, the dog was passed from pillar to post…dog walkers, neighbour’s, home alone.
    I have now had him over a week and he’s a wee Barker. He growls because he’s used to getting his own way.
    I was bitten superficially on the face the first night when he woke from sleep (nothing obvious had occurred or no strange noise was heard….it seemed to be waking from a dream).
    A week later, again he woke from sleep and this time bit my right hand which required medical attention. Again it seemed linked to dreaming.
    Now I am a bit unsure of his temperament…
    I want the best for him but I need the best for me and my dog too.
    He’s not been home since his mum last left home in an ambulance. He stayed for a short time with a family relative near his own house for a week. Then nice meaning family brought him to me some hundred miles away.
    I’ve tried Spot On valerian compound but really need help and support to do what’s best for him and everyone.

    I hope you can help.
    Kind Regards,

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