Dogs are deeply affected by the deaths of their friends, a new study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports said Thursday. They eat and play less and seek attention more after losing a loved one.
The study involved a survey completed by 426 adults who owned two dogs, one of whom had died while the other was alive. Negative changes were reported by 86 percent of owners. Dogs needed more attention (67 percent), were less playful (57 percent), and less active (46 percent).
Surviving dogs also slept more, ate less, became more fearful, and whined or barked more. Sometimes, the symptoms of grief lasted longer than six months.
The study found that the length of time the two dogs had lived together was not an essential factor in determining grief; what mattered was the quality of the relationship the pair had shared.
Researchers said that how much the owner felt the loss also played an important role, suggesting that the surviving dog was also responding to the human’s emotional state.
“This is potentially a major welfare issue that has been overlooked,” the authors said, adding that the findings will help to better understand behavior patterns vital to meeting the dogs’ emotional needs.
Great apes, whales, dolphins, elephants and birds also show signs of grief when they lose a loved one.
The Animal Reader is a small independent animal news platform based in the Netherlands. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.