As many of you are aware, caring for a terminally ill or dying dog is a heart-wrenching labour of love.
However, many people don’t realize is just how big a toll it can take on the caregiver’s emotional health. Studies show that people caring for a very sick pet can suffer stress, anxiety, depression and diminished quality of life.
So, how can you help ease the emotional weight of caring for a dying dog?
- Recognising the dying signs
- Saying goodbye
- Dog euthanasia
- Dog burial and cremation
- Dog grief
- Dog owner grief
How to cope with your dying dog
#1 – Stay present
If your mind is elsewhere whilst you’re with your dog, take some slow, deep breaths and refocus on your furry companion. Use your senses of sight, smell, hearing, and touch to bring yourself back to the present, appreciate what’s happening right now and reconnect on an emotional level with your furry friend.
#2 – Remind yourself that you’ve always done the best for your pooch
In addition to reminding yourself about the good deeds, practice daily affirmations. You can use affirmations to strengthen positive thinking and improve how you feel.
#3 – Take time each day for meditation and deep breathing
There are guided meditation apps you can download, Youtube videos you can watch and classes that you can join.
#4 – Reach out
Moreover, if you’re feeling isolated or confused, reach out for information and support. You are not alone.
#5 – Express your thoughts and feelings
Finally, you could write down your painful thoughts and feelings in a personal journal, or share them with a trusted family member, friend or support group.
It’s natural to feel sorrow for your dying dog, so don’t suffer by yourself.
#6 – Keep a treasurable memory of your furry friend
For some people is photographs, but for others, they may want something more tactile.
Is there a way to bring some pleasantness to cope with the loss? That’s the question I sort out to answer. You can see my favourite dog gifts.
How to help your grieving dog deal with a loss
Now we reverse roles by analyzing how dogs feel after they lose a parent or an animal companion.
Signs of grief in a dog include changes in attention-seeking behaviour, eating habits and increased vocalizing.
Here are some steps that you can follow to aid your furry friend:
#1 – Closely monitor your grieving dog
The process of grieving isn’t well understood in either humans or companion animals, so it’s best to pay special attention to the pet for signs of distress.
#2 – Keep daily routines as consistent as possible
Pets do best when they know what to expect from one day to the next. Try to keep mealtimes, exercise, walks, playtime, grooming, bedtime and other daily activities on a consistent schedule.
#3 – Keep your dog’s diet and mealtimes the same
Your pet may not have much of an appetite in the days following the death, but continue to offer him the same food he’s used to, at the same time each day.
Store what he doesn’t eat in the fridge, and offer it to him again at his next regularly scheduled mealtime.
Use his hunger to help him get his appetite back by resisting the urge to entice him with treats. If his appetite doesn’t pick up after several days or he’s refusing to eat anything at all, make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out a health problem.
#4 – Take care not to inadvertently reward your dog’s grief
This is a tough one since giving attention to a pet who is displaying an undesirable behaviour can reinforce the behaviour.
You can try distracting her with health-giving activities that provide opportunities for positive behaviour reinforcement. This can be a walk, a game of fetch or engaging in exercise together.
#5 – In multi-pet households, allow surviving pets to establish their own revised social structure
Unless one of your pets is becoming a danger to the others, it’s best to let them re-establish group dynamics on their own.
#6 – Think twice before quickly adding a new pet to the family
Don’t assume that acquiring a new pet to “replace” the lost pet is the answer. Some grieving time should be allowed for the whole household. Moreover, adopting a new puppy or kitten may not be the best idea since a hyperactive animal can be physically and emotionally stressful on your grieving pet.
However, after giving your pet some time, another companion might be the right choice for your family.
#7 – Give it time
Dogs, in particular, do remember companions for some time. Your pet’s grieving process may take a few days, weeks or even months, but eventually, most pets return to their normal lively selves.
#8 – Consider having your pet present at his companion’s death
Some pet guardians feel it helps to have the surviving pet present during or after euthanasia or allow them to see and smell their friend’s body once death has occurred. Most pets sniff and walk away, but it may help him to comprehend there is no need to search the house for the animal that has passed.
#9 – Let your dog have something from his playmate
Sometimes your dog can take comfort on your late dog’s toy, blanket or bed.
Best wishes on this difficult situation that you are living in.
Finally, if you want to know more about dog care, check out our The 5 pillars to a happy and healthy dog blog post.