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My Pet World: How to help a grieving dog cope with the loss of a canine friend

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

We just had to put our 15-year-old mini poodle mix down as he was unwell and suffering. His half-sister is one month apart in age, and they have never been separated. We adopted them together. They slept on top of each other, ate out of the same food bowl (although we always provided two) and drank out of same water bowl. She is getting sick over this now. She waits at the door for him, doesn't sleep at night, jumps up at every sound and wanders around looking for him. We don’t know what to do. We can't get another dog at this point to keep her company. Do we remove his beds from next to hers? What can we do for her? – Annette, Glendale, New York

Dear Annette,

I am sorry for your loss. I know how heartbreaking this is for you and your family. Please know that grief, both yours and your other dog’s, is normal, expected and different for every person and pet.

Even so, if the dog who passed had a separate dog bed that sits next to hers, then yes, it’s time to remove it as it will help you both begin to heal from this loss.

I was happy to hear you say you weren’t getting another dog. Very often, dog owners get another dog right away because they think it helps a grieving dog. While another dog might be a diversion for your remaining dog, one should hold off on adopting another pet right away for several reasons. First, there is always some stress when introducing a new pet into the household, which your older dog doesn’t need right now. Secondly, your attention will be focused on the new dog and not on the dog who is grieving.

Whenever there is a sick dog or cat in the house, it means the other pets in the home probably haven’t been getting much attention. So give you dog lots of attention and affection right now. Spend time with her. Cuddle with her. Distract her with puzzle toys or walks or whatever activity or treats you know she enjoys. Time together will help you both cope with the loss.

Dear Cathy,

I have a gray tabby that meows so much. I have had at least four cats in my lifetime, but none meow like Willie. He was a rescue who we got when he was about 5 weeks old. He cries, especially at night when we are asleep or getting ready to sleep. It is constant. He will meow on occasion during the day when he sees us, but nothing like at night. I have come to putting him in the downstairs room and closing the door to get some sleep. He doesn’t seem to mind. The room has his food, litter, windows , chairs, etc., but we feel bad doing this. He has plenty of food and water, so what is it? Is he lonely? Nervous? He doesn’t want to be petted, so what could it be? – Susan, Westbury, New York

 

Dear Susan,

There are numerous reasons why a cat may meow at you, including hunger and thirst, pain, boredom, loneliness or simply being a breed of cat that likes to “talk.” Certain illnesses, like an overactive thyroid or kidney disease, also can result in excessive vocalizations.

If your cat has a clean bill of health from the vet and his other physical needs are being met, then the meowing may be because he is lonely or wants attention. Play with your cat in the morning, then in the late afternoon/early evening (before the meowing starts, not in response to it) and finally close to bedtime for 10 minutes each time. Also, make time in the evening to cuddle or stroke your cat. Because cats are a little less demanding than dogs, they often don’t get as much exercise and affection as they need. Finally, get a pheromone collar for your feline to wear as this may help reduce vocalization resulting from anxiety.

If your cat meows after all this effort, it is alright to ignore the behavior. (Never yell at or punish your cat in any way for meowing.) Sometimes, cats can get louder and more persistent when you ignore them, but you don’t want to reward this behavior. Instead, maintain the exercise/affection routine and the pheromone collar since these things, over time, should help diminish any attention-seeking behavior.

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(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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