We meet with Milwaukeeans every day whose lives have been upended after the death of a friend or family member. At the request of many who come to Krause Funeral Homes, our grief therapy dog, Bennie, will join us as we make funeral arrangements, and he’s also available to be part of the serve itself. We like to say that Bennie is the most popular member of our staff and it’s true in part because so many people take comfort in his presence.
Having Bennie around often spurs discussion on how family pets react to loss. After all, as any pet owner can attest, animals grieve in their own way. They may not grasp the significance of a death, but they too create bonds with others that are the center of their universe. When a bond is broken – be it with a human or another animal – their stability is shaken. Add to it noticing their owner’s stress, sadness, or tears and it can feel overwhelming.
Your pet’s grief may play out in any number of ways. From an increase or decrease in appetite to disrupted sleep to a change in vocal patterns, it’s common for a pet to suffer from a broken heart and exhibit distressing behaviors after a loss. The question is, how can you help your pet through the grief? Here are our suggestions:
- Stay tuned to their needs. Some people tell us their pet wouldn’t leave them alone in the days and weeks following a death. Others say their pet withdrew and hid or moped around looking for their owner who died. When a routine is disrupted, when life changes, pets adjust in their own ways. It’s important to respect what your pet is trying to communicate. If they’re seeking attention, give it. If they want to spend time alone, allow that to happen.
- Maintain your daily routine as much as possible. From mealtime to playtime, from taking walks at your usual time to keeping up with your regular bedtime, consistency and stability is important.
- If you’re able to let your pet see the person or animal who died, it may be helpful. This way, they can understand the absence more than just having their companion “disappear.”
- Know when to contact your veterinarian. If a pet develops the following symptoms, they should be evaluated by a professional, as the stress of the loss can bring about serious health issues.
- Persistent loss of appetite
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Exhibiting aggressive behaviors
- Take time to adjust before introducing a new pet into the family. If your pet is grieving due to the death of another pet, give them time to adjust to the loss. The significant changes that come with adding another pet may add undue stress during an already difficult time.
Our caring team at Krause Funeral Homes is filled with animal-lovers and we understand firsthand how difficult it is to see a beloved pet suffer a loss. If you’re having a hard time and could use a listening ear or would like to meet our therapy dog, Bennie, who we mentioned earlier, reach out to us anytime. We’re here to support our neighbors in Milwaukee, Brookfield, and New Berlin however we can.