Helping Your Pet Deal With Grief: Signs and Strategies

Bev Saunders
December 17, 2023

Helping Your Pet Deal With Grief: Signs and Strategies

Understanding Pet Grief:

The loss of a beloved companion affects not only pet owners but also other animals in the household. While quantifying whether pets grieve like humans is challenging, behavioral changes are noticeable after the passing of another animal companion. In a survey involving 159 dogs and 152 cats, pet owners reported shifts in their pets’ behaviors, indicating signs of stress and grief.

Signs of Pet Grief:

Dogs and cats exhibit various signs of stress and grief when a companion pet dies. Common behaviors include increased demand for attention, territorial behaviors, changes in eating habits, increased vocalizations, seeking out the deceased pet’s favorite spot, and alterations in sleep patterns. These signs suggest that the remaining animal is impacted by the loss.

Dogs Show Characteristic Signs:

A separate study involving 426 adults with at least two dogs revealed that dogs display characteristic signs of grief after the loss of a canine companion. Approximately 66% of dogs sought more attention, 57% played less often, and 46% experienced a decrease in overall activity. The study emphasized the importance of the relationship between the surviving and deceased dogs in determining grief-related behaviors.

Helping Your Grieving Pet:

  1. Maintain Routine: One of the best ways to ease grief is to maintain your pet’s daily routine. Stick to regular mealtimes, continue with usual walks, and allocate extra time for affection and play.
  2. Monitor Food Intake: Keep a close eye on your pet’s food intake. Changes in appetite can be indicative of stress. If there’s a significant decrease in appetite, consult your veterinarian.
  3. Positive Reinforcement: Avoid punishment if negative behaviors emerge. Instead, use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior.
  4. New Social Structure: In a multi-pet household, surviving pets are establishing a new social structure. If conflicts arise, seek guidance from your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
  5. Avoid Hasty Additions: While you may be tempted to add a new pet immediately, consider that it won’t replace the lost companion. Allow time for grieving and adapting before introducing a new furry member.
  6. Time and Patience: Grieving is a process that takes time for both pets and humans. Allow yourself and your pets the necessary time to work through the loss.


Recognizing and addressing signs of grief in pets is essential for their well-being. By providing support, maintaining routines, and understanding the grieving process, you can help your pet navigate through the challenging time of losing a companion.