Pet Vet: Dogs, too, can grieve death of a close friend

April 13, 2015

Allison from Modesto, Calif., has been recently saddened by the loss of her dog, Fanny, a 12-year-old golden retriever. Fanny had a form of cancer called lymphosarcoma, and after eight months of treatment and a good quality of life, Fanny had a recurrence of her cancer and Allison elected to let her go.

Allison has another dog named Cali, a mixed breed that, since Fannyís passing, is acting very depressed. She is not eating much, doesnít want to go for her walks, something she previously loved, and spends most of her time wandering around or lying around the house.

There are times when Allison could swear Cali was searching the house for Fanny. She wonders if Cali is truly depressed at the loss of Fanny or should she be concerned that Cali might be ill.

There is no definitive study of depression in dogs to my knowledge; in fact I am not aware of depression being a clinical entity at all in our canine companions. Having said this, I can tell you that I, without a doubt, believe that dogs grieve with the loss of a close companion.

Whether it is a person or another companion, dogs can develop close bonds and when severed, these dogs are saddened.

It has been my experience over the years that when a dog loses its caretaker it will become visibly depressed. Please understand I am not using the term depressed in its psychological context. I simply refer to the actions of these dogs when a caretaker is lost.

They often times stop eating and will cease all or most normal activity. They may become reclusive and avoid interaction with others, instead spending most of their time in relative seclusion.

In Caliís case I would certainly consider her change in behavior as possibly, even likely, being caused by the loss of Fanny.

Even though this is a strong possibility for Caliís state, I would not want to make this assumption and by doing so miss another possible problem. Cali should see her veterinarian to rule out any other possible causes for her symptoms.

The silver lining around the dark cloud of grief in dogs is that they seem to rebound fairly quickly. Within a month, these grieving companions often will be back to their normal routines.

I realize it may sound as if I am anthropomorphizing a bit here, but I truly believe that our companions are emotional creatures and in the human sense, do feel to some degree, the emotions we feel. They can be hurt in the emotional sense and they can and do grieve the loss of a companion be it a human or otherwise.



Associated Press