Emotional support for dogs?
June 6, 2005 1:49 PM   Subscribe

How can you help a dog deal with the loneliness after the death of a sibling?

My parents have two black labs. They are brother and sister from the same litter and have been together since birth (Spring of 1997). Just about every minute of their life has been spent together.

Recently the female dog started growing a tumor. They took her to the vet to have it inspected. While the female was at the vet (a few hours) the male dog howled and whimpered the entire time because he was without her. Once she was returned they both ran laps in the yard and seamed so happy to be reunited.

Unfortunately the tumor is inoperable and is growing at an alarming rate. The vet says that she isn't in pain at this time, but that within the next 4-6 weeks she will have to be put to sleep. Obviously this is going to have a great impact on the male dog if he howled for being without her for an afternoon. Do dogs get depressed the same as humans do? And how can help the male dog deal with the sudden loss of his sister?

My Mother half-heartedly thought about putting both dogs to sleep at the same time to save the male dog the pain, but knows she can't very well put down a completely healthy dog!
posted by monsta coty scott to Pets & Animals (7 answers total)
Search around a bit because this was discussed very recently I think.
posted by fire&wings at 2:19 PM on June 6, 2005

Yes, dogs do get depressed just like humans. However, just like humans, they can get over bereavement. In some ways I'd say it's harder for dogs, because they don't know what's happened.

First off, just give him time to get used to it. Give him lots of attention, lots of playing, lots of nice long walks.

And then (just a suggestion) maybe consider buying a puppy? I know it sounds crazy but if your parents could cope with two black labs from puppyhood, they could probably handle one puppy and an older black lab. Although the puppy wouldn't be a replacement for his sister, the male would appreciate the companionship I'm sure.

I know I'm anthropomorphising a lot here, but given your question I feel it's appropriate.
posted by Lotto at 2:31 PM on June 6, 2005

Here's the thread fire&wings was referring to.

In addition to the suggestions folks had, I'd like to add that since you have a few weeks, you might be able to gradually have longer and longer periods where they're apart, sort of wean them off each other's company.

Good luck.
posted by Specklet at 2:53 PM on June 6, 2005

On the bright side, I was told SIX YEARS AGO that our golden retriever had six to ten weeks to live. She's still snoring away by my feet tonight. Don't have the poor thing killed prematurely, please!
posted by wzcx at 6:49 PM on June 6, 2005

Oh, and I should have mentioned that she's been covered with tumors that whole six years. One of them is larger than a grapefruit. She has a hard time getting up and rolling over, but is still happy and playful at age twelve.
posted by wzcx at 6:55 PM on June 6, 2005

labs are prone to fatty tumors (my yellow just had two removed) which are in not life threatening (we had his removed because one was pressing on a groin muscle. because he had to be anesthetized for the removal anyway, the vet removed both), so perhaps a second vet opinion is in order?

as for the other issue, it took my yellow lab some time to adjuct to the loss of our older lab. mostly, he'd panic when left alone and revert to destructive puppy behavior. we countered that by establishing a leave-taking ritual, which--for whatever reason--reassured him. because you have some time, i think you could easily adjust the dogs' routines so they have some alone time. use crates or babygates to contain the dog so he doesn't destroy things when left alone. i'd suggest enrolling him in an older dog's obedience course, talking him for walks alone; that kind of thing.

try not to project your emotions on the dog (i know--it's almost impossible not to) and fall into a trap of wanting the dogs "maximize" their remaining time together (because they're not going to and the dog won't have especially fond memories of their last months together). if you're trying to condition the male to be a solo dog, that's going to be seriously counterproductive.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:52 AM on June 7, 2005

I second the 'second opinion' option. I know a few Labs who've had fatty tumors and been fine for years and years. Possibly the tumors could be removed? Seems to me, unless she's in pain, there's no reason to put her down.

My sympathies to everyone.
posted by dejah420 at 11:46 AM on June 7, 2005

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