Grief touches all hearts, not just human ones. When a pet loses a fellow furry companion or a beloved human, their world changes dramatically. As pet parents, recognizing and supporting this grief is crucial for their healing process. Here’s how to understand and help your grieving pet navigate their loss.

Recognizing the Signs of Grief in Pets

Pets express grief in various ways, reflecting their unique personalities and bonds. Look for changes such as:

  • Behavioral shifts: Insomnia, lethargy, restlessness, changes in appetite, vocalizations, social withdrawal or clinginess, loss of interest in favorite activities.
  • Physical signs: Rashes, hair loss, digestive issues, tremors.
  • Emotional distress: Moodiness, despair, confusion, anxiety.

Understanding these signs is the first step in providing the compassionate care they need.

How to Help Your Grieving Pet

  1. Maintain Routines: Keep walks, feeding times, and other daily activities as consistent as possible to provide a sense of normalcy.
  2. Consult a Veterinarian: Reach out to veterinarians, especially those specializing in hospice and palliative care, for guidance. They can help differentiate between grief and medical issues.
  3. Offer Comfort: Provide comforting items like a deceased companion’s belongings that carry their scent. This can offer some solace to your pet.
  4. Monitor Relationships: The dynamics among remaining pets may change. Be vigilant and seek professional advice to navigate these shifts smoothly.
  5. Create a Ritual: A memorial can help with closure, for both pets and pet parents. This shared moment acknowledges the loss and celebrates the life of the departed.
  6. Be Kind to Yourself: Recognize your own grief and allow yourself to mourn. Healing is a journey that you and your pet can take together.

When to Consider a New Pet

Introducing a new pet after a loss is a significant decision. It’s essential to wait until the acute phase of grief has passed for you and your surviving pets. This patience ensures that when the time is right, you can welcome a new family member without unfair comparisons, allowing everyone to adjust and accept the new relationship with open hearts.


Grief in pets is real and profound. By understanding and supporting them through their loss with patience and compassion, we foster a healing environment for the entire household. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey—veterinary professionals, especially those in animal hospice and palliative care, are valuable allies in navigating these challenging times.

IAAHPC Members: Log into your member portal for this information as a downloadable PDF to share with your clients.

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