picture of someones late pet posted on a wall

Science shows that losing a dog can be just as painful as losing a loved one

Anyone who’s ever had their beloved pet pass away knows that losing a dog is one of the hardest things you can go through. Research shows that saying goodbye to your favorite furball is just as hard – if not sometimes more difficult – than the death of a human. (1)

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Science Says Losing a Dog can be Just as Hard as Losing a Person

People who have never had a pet just don’t seem to understand how important that pet is in your home. They aren’t just a pet; they are part of the family. This bond can be powerful between humans and dogs. This is why losing a dog is excruciatingly painful.

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The Grieving Process is Different

One of the hardest parts about losing a dog, and why it can often be more difficult than the death of a person, is that it is not viewed in the same way. You may be given the afternoon you have to put your dog down off, but then you’re expected back into work the next day as if nothing happened. There’s no funeral, no grieving period given, no obituary in the newspaper. Even your friends and family expect you to crack on with regular routines and get-togethers as if nothing happened.

The issue is that while not much changed in their lives, you’ve had a huge change in yours. Your entire daily routine, which involved feeding, walking, and playing with your dog, has changed. You’re no longer greeted with a happy, wagging tail every morning when you wake up and every afternoon when you’re home from work. Your dog’s warm and comforting presence is just gone.

Read: Vet explains what pets do in their final moments just before they’re put down

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Research Confirms the Human-Dog Bond

Though some people debate whether dogs actually love their owners, one thing is for sure: Owners love their dogs. Research has confirmed that there is a powerful bond between humans and dogs. The love we have for our canine family members actually releases the same hormones in our brains as are released when we bond with humans. (2)

What’s more, our relationship with our dog brings us love and satisfaction that we just can’t get with people. Dogs give us unconditional love. Their entire life revolves around us, and they are always happy to see us. Humans, even the ones closest to us, disappoint us sometimes. They can do or say things that hurt us emotionally. Our dogs don’t – they love us no matter what. 

Dogs don’t care what we do for work, how many followers we have on Instagram, or what we look like, or anything like that. All they know is that you are their person and they love being with you.

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How to Grieve Losing a Dog

The important thing when grieving the loss of your beloved pet is to give yourself time and grace. If you feel guilt (perhaps because you had to euthanize your pet, or you feel their death was somehow your fault), remind yourself that you did the best you could for your pet. However long their life, you filled it with love. (3)

As already mentioned, one of the hardest parts about losing a pet is the lack of rituals (funerals, etc.) surrounding their deaths. This is where you can take some action. You can journal and write down all the memories you have from your pet’s life. Make a social media post about it. Actually, have some of your pet’s photos printed and hang them in your house. It doesn’t matter how you choose to acknowledge their life, just so long as it is a way that suits you best – you can even hold a ceremony at your dog’s favorite park or in your home if you want.

Finally, find someone with who you can share your grief. It can be another member of your family who is also grieving or a friend who knew and loved your pet well. Again, it doesn’t matter who you choose, so long as that person supports you and doesn’t ever make you feel silly for grieving the loss of your dog. Our pets may only be a part of our lives for a short time, but they bring a lot of joy while they are here. It is normal and perfectly okay to grieve, and therefore it is perfectly acceptable to take whatever time and care you need.

Keep Reading: Losing A Pet Is More Painful Than Most People Think

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  1. Why losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend.” The Conversation. Frank T. McAndrew. March 10, 2017.
  2. Why do people love their pets?Science Direct. JohnArcher. July 1997.
  3. Grieving the Loss of a Pet.” Psych Central. Julie Axelrod. May 17, 2016

This article originally appeared on Tiffy Taffy and has been republished here with permission.

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Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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