How do dogs react to the death of another dog?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – when you have more than one dog and you lose your 10-year-old sheltie, will your 8-year-old boxer, that has grown up with the sheltie, go into a depression? And if so how long will it last?

Lori Poe

Answer

Hi Lori – thanks for your email and question. Every dog is so different that there is no general rule of thumb on how they will react to the death of another dog.

I have seen some dogs go on as if nothing ever happen, some dogs that actually seem to enjoy the attention of being alone and other dogs that do go into a depression.

Dogs that go into a depression will often eat less and be less playful. Sometimes they will actually seem to "look" for the other dog. This can go on for days to months, again depending on the dog.

In this case, the best thing you can do is distract your dog with plenty of activity and playtime. Ensure he has some good quality toys and work to engage him to play. Keep you routine as normal as possible. Ensure that he also gets enough exercise. You can always consider another dog if you think that he would enjoy that distraction.

If your dog seems "depressed" – is less active and maybe eating less- don't assume it is just depression. I can't tell you how many dogs I've seen that the owners thought were depressed because of another dog that eventually came in for a medical examination to find that they had a medical problem making them feel bad (not just the depression).

An article that might be helpful to you is Do Dogs Mourn?

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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