Dr. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, says there is now solid evidence from brain imaging studies that similar areas of dogs’ brains light up when they’re feeling parallel emotions to those of humans.
No two dogs are alike, so the way in which they grieve — and for how long — can differ. In order to decipher a dog’s emotional state after losing a loved one, it’s important to keep an eye out for certain signs, as they can affect a dog’s health. Although there is no concrete way of knowing exactly how a dog processes grief, there’s no denying the sadness expressed through behavioral changes. Anxiety and stress can present themselves in a variety of ways. Signs to be aware of include:
Jme Thomas, executive director at Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, explains that dogs need to figure things out on their own and work through feelings when experiencing loss or grief. Other indicators of grief include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Lack of energy
- Listlessness or clinginess
- Loss of interest in physical activity
“Dogs are highly intuitive and sensitive, more than people give them credit for,” says Thomas.
In June 2014, Constable Dave Ross, a Canadian general duty officer and police dog handler, lost his life in the line of duty. His service dog, a German Shepherd Dog named Danny, stood alongside him during his time on the force. Throughout Ross’ funeral, the loyal canine whimpered next to his master’s casket. This is just one example of many that speaks volumes to the feelings a dog experiences after losing his owner.