Margaret C. Saiki, D.V.M.,
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Former Medical Director
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Home Pet Euthanasia Pet Loss and Grief Pets Bereaving Pets

Saiki Veterinary Mobile Care in San Jose article about pets bereaving pets

Pet Euthanasia: Pet Bereaving Pets

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Margaret Saiki


Studies have shown that surviving pets are affected by the death of a companion or other significant loss.

In a 1996 survey "Companion Animal Mourning Project", conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

They found:

  • 36% of dogs ate less after the loss of another canine companion
  • 11% Stopped eating
  • 65% became more vocal or became more quiet
  • 50% of surviving pets became more affectionate with their caregivers
  • 66% of dogs exhibited four or more behavioral changes after losing a pet companion

Owners in the survey also noted that surviving dogs changed the quality and location of sleep.

Should dogs be shown the deceased companion after euthanasia?

Cognitive scientists are still undecided on the concept that animals have self-awareness of death. Currently the weight of opinion is that a pets "viewing" is not likely to help them understand the death of a companion.

Recommendations: How to help your pet grieve

  • Keep routines as normal as possible
  • If a pet is depressed, engaged them in their favorite activity
  • Allow surviving animals to work out the new dominance hierarchy. (esp. dogs)
  • Try not to reinforce certain negative behavioral changes such as increased vocalization. i.e. don't reward howling with increased attention.
  • Give attention at a time when they are engaging in behaviors that you like.
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