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Episode Info: By Jennifer Coates, DVM   Grief is a natural response when a family member or friend dies. We know this for ourselves, but is the same true for our pets? The answer is “yes.” Pets can grieve, but just like us, each responds in his or her own way. The behaviors that you might observe vary based on how close the relationship between the individuals was and the pet’s temperament. But regardless of how grief is displayed, pet parents can do a lot to help. Here are five tips for helping pets deal with their grief.   1.  Recognize the Signs   Think of all the ways that you’ve seen people deal with loss. Some want to be left alone while others crave company. Some cry inconsolably while others are stoic. All of these reactions can be normal.   A recent study showed just how varied pets’ reactions to loss can be. Researchers in New Zealand and Australia surveyed pet owners regarding how their surviving pets reacted to the loss of an animal companion. The research involved 159 dogs and 152 cats. Take a look at this table that reveals some of the study’s more fascinating findings.   Behavioral Change Percentage of Dogs Involved Percentage of Cats Involved More demanding of attention 35 40 Being clingy or needy 26 22 Seeking less affection from owners 10 15 Seeking out the deceased’s favorite spot 30 36 Increased duration sleep 34 20 Decreased amount eaten 35 21 Slower eating 31 12 Increased frequency of vocalizations 27 43 Increased volume of vocalizations 19 32   Other behavioral changes that were observed included avoidance of regular sleeping locations, aggression toward people and other animals, and changes in elimination behaviors (e.g., litter box use).   2. Give Them What They Need   When dealing with a grief, owners should respect what the pet is trying to communicate. For example, if a pet seeks out more attention, give it to her, but don’t force yourself on a pet who wants to spend some quiet time alone in her friend’s favorite spot.   That said, trying to encourage a grieving and withdrawn pet to engage in some favorite activities is a good idea, just respect an answer of “not right now” if that’s what you get. Try taking your dog out for a walk around the neighborhood or break out your cat’s laser pointer. If your pet usually enjoys spending time with particular human or animal friends, invite them over for a visit. Food treats can also be used to encourage grieving pets to get involved with family activities once again.   3. Time Your Attention Appropriately   On the other hand, if your pet’s grief is causing him to act in ways that are problematical (howling, for example), make sure that your attempts to console him aren’t inadvertently reinforcing that behavior. If possible, ignore the behavior while it is occurring. Only give your pet attention, treats, or anything else that he might be seeking when he is acting i...
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