Dogs Community
10.3k Members
Avatar universal

One of two dogs dies, how to tell other one?

We have two dogs and one is quite sick.  There is a chance she will have to be put down in a couple weeks, although we are hoping she will get better.  The question I have is, since these two dogs have been companions for more than ten years, if we have to let one go, is there some way to let the other dog know what happened?  Normally when we lose a dog, we have them put down at the vet's office, and then bring them home and bury them in the yard.  But we have the two dogs now, and I'm worried if he'll wonder where his companion went.  If anyone else has had experience with this, I'd really like some feedback.

She has pancreatitis, I began a thread recently concerning that, and she spent this past week in the vet hospital getting nutrients only by I.V. and nothing by mouth, in an effort to rest the pancreas, and she's coming home this afternoon.  She may get well and have no more problems, or there's this chance she may go downhill again and the end will be near.  Anyhow, while she's been out of the house this workweek at the hospital, the other dog sensed we were emotional the first day, on account of we don't like her being away at the vet hospital, so he stayed close to us.  But he has adjusted to her not being here very well.  We're thinking if we eventually have to put her down, he will adjust again the same way.

But there is some doubt in my mind about that, if she's put down at the vet office, and then brought home to be buried, normally we would just bury her fairly quickly without bringing her into the house.  But we're wondering if we should let our other dog see that she has passed before we bury her.  We could even bring her up on the porch and let the other dog see that she's died.  We're also considering the idea of having the vet put her down here at the house, so the other dog can see what happens.  Those alternatives sound rather gruesome, compared to just not bothering the other dog with the whole thing.  But for anyone who has indoor pets and has observed how the other dogs do when one goes like that, we'd like to know your thoughts.  We are leaning towards the usual way of doing things, having her put down and bury her when we get home, and not expose our other dog to anything relating to her death.

I'm just not sure, so I would so appreciate feedback from anyone else who has gone thru this, who keeps two or more dogs as pets in the home and has had a similar experience with one dying.  How did the other dog do, not knowing?  Or did you let them know somehow?  Thank you guys SO much.  GG
55 Responses
675347 tn?1365460645
Gosh, this is a hard question. I have not had the same experience. But when I was a child I did experience the deaths of close relatives first-hand  (age 5) and looking back I think it was healthy, for me, to witness that part of Nature, rather than it being hidden from me. I understood perfectly, and came to terms with the deaths much better I think than if it had all taken place without my knowing. However, everyone is different...(and dogs are different from humans) and I can't be certain what effect it would have on your other dog to witness the actual death.

My first instinct was to suggest what you already said. To bring the vet to your house (if or when that was needed) and let the other dog be present. However, dog-logic is not necessarily what we think it is. I can't say I know what your other dog would make of that.
I wish I could be some real help to you. I do hope someone else posts, who might have had the same experience.

Plus, I hope your dog (who is sick) makes a recovery. You never know. She might.
Avatar universal
hi there.  awww.  i hope your pet recovers.  i've always had one dog, but my friends who have raised dogs together bring their dogs to the vet and leave one in the car.  they then allow the remaining dog to come to the room after the other has passed (after everyone calms down a bit) to see & mostly smell.  in term of them watching....  i don't think it's the 'how' it happens that matters.  but, i think closure is a good idea.  when the pack gets smaller you might find the remaining dog to be insecure at first, especially if he/she is the submissive one.  if you have to leave him/her try doing it in small increments and building up to a substantial period of time.  all in all- they know. when my dog passed @ home the neighbor dog started howling and the other dogs started barking.  just my thoughts. take care.  kimpton
441382 tn?1452810569
There is really no way to tell the other dog what happened.  They will know, though, because they will sense your sadness and, of course, they will realize that the other dog is no longer there with them.

They grieve just like humans do.  Pay lots of attention to her and, while you do need to let her have her time to grieve, you also need to make sure that she doesn't become consumed with it.  Do fun things with her, take her on walks, groom her, bathe her, make her feel special.  Don't dwell on her sadness.  When you see her acting blue, allow her a little while to think about it, and then talk to her in a happy, "up" voice and try to get her to join you in a game of fetch or something.  

Make sure she doesn't lose her appetite.  Give her a couple more treats than usual if you see her being especially stressed.  Eventually she will adjust to the other dog not being there.

Avatar universal
Thanks for the feedback so far.  I liked the idea of bringing the other dog to the vet office.  And I especially appreciated the advice that Ghilly gave me, about how there's no way to really tell the other dog what happened, since that would be easier for us (we're older people).  Any other posts, I'll also take into consideration.  Thanks so much everyone for the condolences and advice.  By the way, we got her back from her week-long vet stay, and gosh does she seem to be doing a lot better, so we'll see.
112359 tn?1226867083
Here's my experience, we've had several dogs, and always have at least two at a time. One died naturally at home so our other witnessed that her companion was dead. Two other times we've taken the sick/elderly one to be euthanized at the vet's office, and both times we had the remains cremated. The living dogs never saw the remains, we just came home without the other dog.

I did not see any substantial difference in the reaction of any of the remaining dogs on each of these three occasions. Even when it happened away from home, the dogs sensed our sadness and mourned their loss. Honestly I thought each time that the other dog sensed before we did that the ill elderly dog was going to die. The most compelling behavior was that of our Dalmatian female, who actually started mourning before we ever took her companion to be euthanized. She seemed to know he was about to die (his liver had started failing years before) and she became lethargic a week or so before he stopped eating and we had him put down. I agree to watch the remaining dog carefully, because we kept expecting the Dalmatian to get over it eventually but she never really was herself again and she died less than a year later of heart failure. She was 12 years old so it may have happened anyway, but she'd always been healthy before that year.

I hope your dog recovers though and that you don't need any of this advise for a long time.
675347 tn?1365460645
If (and let's hope this doesn't have to happen for some time yet) -you have to take your dog to the vet's to be euthanized, I am wondering about whether it would be a good idea or not to take the other dog along with you after all. If you all go in there,  and your other dog witnesses her death, on the vet's table, it is just possible it might make HIM afraid in future of going to the vet. Dogs are no way stupid. They know going in there they smell sickness, and nervousness, which is bad enough. They can't put two-and-two together quite the way we can. They can't think "our loved one was sick, so we went to the vet for her suffering to be ended" All he will observe is her death while at the vet's.
You see where I'm coming from?
441382 tn?1452810569
What I would worry about, in terms of taking the other dog along to the vet's when their companion was being euthanized, is that it could make going to the vet extremely traumatic for the other dog on future occasions when THAT dog may have to go to the vet.  It could have in the back of its mind the time it went to the vet with its companion and the companion didn't come home, and could somehow associate going to the vet with not returning home.  I don't know if it would be such a good idea, since it's going to know that the other dog isn't there any more anyway, so why traumatize the poor thing any more than necessary over the death of its friend?

740456 tn?1260449809
I also think that even without seeing the body of the other dog, dogs can sense what has happened.
We recently had to put one of our dogs down, she was very sick before brigning her to the vet. I originally wanted to bring our other dogs to the vet to smell the body after, but seeing as they are already SO stressed when we go to the vet, she suggested against it.
When we walked back in the door, our 2 other dogs greeted us, both of them with their ears down, tails between the legs and very calm. We brought back her leash and collar and put them on the ground. Both other dogs smelled the collar, excessively... roamed around the house for quite a bit, checking especially closely the areas that the other dog used to favor.  After a few days of pretty intense mourning from both of the other dogs, I ended up throwing everything that belonged to the other dog into garbage bags, put them in the shed and cleaned every inch of the house to try to get her scent out. That seemed to help them move on.

We've also been doing a TON of fun things, long walks, tons of treats, brining them to lots of different dog parks and bringing them into friends houses, having friends bring their dogs over... all this seems to have helped them move on a bit. I think it's because they are out of their normal routine so their focus isn't all on the missing dog.

In my opinion no matter how you decide to try to "tell them", they already know just by our moods and the fact that dogs seem to know when another dog isn't doing well....

That being said, I hope that this is all a waste of breath and your dog continues to do better. This is never easy, keep your chin up =)
127124 tn?1326735435
We've experienced this.  Our dog sensed that the other one was very ill and watched over him closely.  When he wouldn't eat she would carry her food to him and drop in front of him to try and get him to eat.  She brought all their toys and surrounded him with them and would spend hours laying by his side.    Your dog will know whats going on.  You will need to watch her for depression when the other dog dies.   Our dog became severely depressed, wouldn't eat, play, and became covered in a rash.   After many visits to the vet it was decided it would be best to bring in another dog so she would have a companion again.   Within days she was back to being herself.  
Avatar universal
Thanks again everybody, and I was especially reassured by the comments that it will be okay if we simply put the dog down and bury her as usual, and not make a big deal of it for the other dog.  It's been five days since we brought her home from her vet treatment, and she's continuously doing better than we've seen in a couple months!  We've pretty much unstressed ourselves from that scare, and at least we are now fully prepared if either of them gets fatally ill in the future.  I appreciate so much the support I have received here at this forum during this difficult time, and I couldn't have gotten thru it without all the friendly advice and tips.  GG
Avatar universal
thanks, im in the same boat and your comments has helped me big time. Thank God for other pet owner like you guys
Avatar universal
We just has to put our dalmation to sleep yesterday and my minn pinn saw the whole thing happen.He's been acting weird. Like not eating his dog food he barely will eat treats we give him .If we say our Dalmations name Lacey he starts looking and whines  the whole time if we mention her name .Im having a hard time dealing with Lacey's death.I loved that dog.I took care of  her as much as I could when I was on my days off from work.It breaks my heart.I cry everytime I see her picture even the pictures I took on her last weekend with us losing a lotta sleep when she got sick. Making sure she knew that we were taking care of her she was just fading away she couldn't  walk we had slings to help her walk Lacey will always be in our hearts forever this is the  5th dog we've had to put to sleep in 20 years my 2 cats had to be put down too.Our pets aren't just pets there members of the family.
1519952 tn?1291093845
I am so sorry for your loss.  I am reading your comments and just can't hold back the tears.  You are so right, our pets are family members.  I have 2 very old dogs and my male has really had a hard time lately.  So I am trying to prepare myself for the day when he will need to be put down.  I will say a prayer for you and Lacey.  You have a little four legged friend waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.  Once again I am so sorry.  RIP Lacey
Avatar universal
I'm so sorry about your dog, its heartbreaking to try to get through it.  Your other dog will probably act strange for quite awhile, ours did.  She followed us aroung and had to be near us constantly, and even though she didn't particularly like our other dog, she seemed lost without her.  I guess all you can do is give him  more love and attention, while he is adjusting.  Lacey was a very lucky dog to be so well loved and taken care of.
Avatar universal
I have had two dogs well since they were born 11 + years ago.  They have always been together.  One died 2 weeks ago while we were on our way back home from Thanksgiving.  The other has gone downhill so fast despite us giving her more attention, special food etc.  I have never seen anything like this before.  She must be grieving the loss of companion and brother.  I fear I will soon lose her and will be taking her to the vet but I don't know what will happen.
Avatar universal
I have had two dogs well since they were born 11 + years ago.  They have always been together.  One died 2 weeks ago while we were on our way back home from Thanksgiving.  The other has gone downhill so fast despite us giving her more attention, special food etc.  I have never seen anything like this before.  She must be grieving the loss of companion and brother.  I fear I will soon lose her and will be taking her to the vet but I don't know what will happen.
1529238 tn?1324672658
It's been a few months since your last post, so hopefully all is going good and both dogs are in good health. I just wanted to share my experience with you. I had an 8 yr. old Rottweiler that I had to suddenly put down due to cancer. She grew up with her best bud, a chocolate lab. When I brought them together the Rott. was 3 months and the Lab was 1 yr old. They played, fought and protected each other like they were brother and sister. Putting Ari down was the hardest thing I ever had to do. She was my baby girl. Needless to say, Dexter (the lab.) took it very hard. The had their own bedroom, and shared a daybed for sleeping. Dexter would sulk in his room alot or come up on the couch by me and just lay. His arthritis seemed to be getting alot worse, and more medical problems kept coming up. He seemed to age 10 yrs. in 3 weeks.  All I could do for him was console him and let him know I was there for him (as he was for me). I cried on his shoulder (literally) and hugged him alot. After a year had gone by I was contemplating getting a new dog.  Long story short, I ended up adopting a 6 yr. old Rottweiler and it was the best thing I did for Dexter. I had my concerns. I didn't want Dexter to feel left out, or that this new dog was taking over. They are both males, so they had their squabbles in the beginning. Dexter had to show Romeo (the new Rott.) who was boss and how things were done around here. They've been together a little over a year now, and Dexter is fibrant and energetic and gets out and plays. He doesn't have the same chemistry he had with Ari (he seems to think Romeo should know when it's time to swap bones) but I didn't expect that. At first, Dexter would "smile" (not really) at Romeo, but now he actually grabs the other end of the rope that Romeo has and pulls.
So, I guess the moral of the story is....dogs need to grieve just like people do. Losing a member of the family is going to be hard on everyone, including the other dog. If you're thinking of getting another one, don't rush it. Let the dog tell you when he's ready to accept a new member of the family into the house.
Thanks for letting me share.

Avatar universal
I am currently struggling with the decision if my almost 12 year old female should be present when her little (big) brother moves on to his new life.  I found this forum and have read all the comments/suggestions.   It is nice to see I am not alone in my struggle.
Unfortunately my 4 year old male (just turned 4 first week in February) was diagnosed with kidney failure 10 months ago.  He has been a miracle in the eyes of his Vet and the Vet techs remaining active and happy for this amount of time.  He has been to specialist and had every test known to mankind completed to determine why at this young age he has this disease.  Nothing was determined he has been on prescription diet and several medications.   The past month gettiing him to eat has been a struggle he is now served whatever he will eat.  I prepare many different foods until I find the one that sparks his interest.   Unfortunately, he has taken a turn for the worse the past week.   It is time.....as difficult as it is to face when he is so young....today I scheduled his passing for next week.  
Now I am facing.....do I bring his sister to the appointment.  They are extremely close at each other side since the day I brought the male home as a 8 week old puppy.   As I write this they are cuddled up next to each other as tight as they possible can.  
The comment about bringing the dog in to the room after the procedure seems like it may be a reasonable way to handle this situation.  But the comments about the connection to loss at the Vet and future visits concerns me.  
If only I had a crystal ball to tell me this is definately the right time for my 4 year old to move on and what I should do for my 12 year old.  Extremely sad to loose a young dog  who is loved by everyone he meets even though he is a big boy with a big head that could scare you but he is such a love bug he wins hearts.  
Avatar universal
I'm so sorry about your dog, he is so young.  I know how hard it is to get a very sick dog to eat, after awhile you run out of options.  If it was me, I would not take my other dog with me to the vet.  It will make it harder on you, and the more upset your are your other dog will pick up on it, and she will be upset.  It will be a vicious circle. She is pretty old herself, and I wouldn't upset her anymore than necessary.  Afterwards, you will have to keep her constantly occupied for awhile.  She'll still know somethings wrong, but being busy will help.  This is just the way I would do it, Good Luck with whatever you decide, keep telling yourself you are making the right decision, because you are, you have tried EVERYTHING possible.  I hope you find some peace of mind knowing that you gave it your best shot.
675347 tn?1365460645
I am so sorry you are facing this. I agree with lindapalm. I think if it was me in this dilemma, I think I would instinctively choose to leave my other dog at home.
I don't know how you feel about this, but for your older dog's sake (perhaps even more than your own?)....taking on a young puppy soon after the passing of your younger dog might help her through this? It sounds rather as though she loved being a big Sis, and may grieve for the loss of companionship. See how you feel.

God bless. I know how hard and sad your decision is. I truly feel for you. Be strong, because under the circumstances he is better off not having to go through the final "end-stages" of kidney failure. The symptoms are very nasty.
462827 tn?1333168952
Hello & welcome....I'm sorry you found us under this condition.....I do want to reply with my last experience:

I too, had to make the decision (Not long ago), for one of mine...It was unusually hard as this little guy was my All Time Favorite..(Don't tell my other ones!)  ;)

I never thought about taking them all, as any Vet visit for any of them is stressful! Not only for them, but me, too.

I ask my Vet for a tranquilizer to give my "Chance" an hour before we left home.....What happened was he basically went to sleep here before I took him to the Vet.

Afterwards, I brought him home and laid him on a blanket (In the house) for his brothers & sister to see & smell.....Later, we buried him in the yard.....Two of the dogs laid on his grave for days...The other guy (Who is an "All About Me" type), never seemed to notice...

The reason I chose to do it this way was that I kept thinking; If I walk out with a dog and never came back with him, how would the others interpret this? I know, sounds crazy, but that bothered me....All my dogs have been abandoned by others in their past.....I have always told them all, that this was their forever home, no matter what happened.....To not come back w/one to let the others see, was not something I could do...

Since you will only have the one remaining, it will be harder for your older girl....Give her extra attention and make sure she is eating and drinking properly...She will be fine....If you find she is having more trouble than you expect her to, ask the Vet for an Anti-anxiety medication for her for just 1 month to help her adjust....Prozac would be my choice under the circumstances....

Take care of yourself too.  I'm sorry your faced with this terrible decision....My thoughts & prayers are with you and your guy this week......Come back and let us know how things are going.....Karla
Avatar universal
I have two dogs, one fifthteen years and the other four years old. They're are both Cocker spaniels and tempermental especially the younger one who's name is Henry and the older ones name is Princess. Princess did not like Henry when I first brought him home. She would snare and bark at him. He was only four months old at the time but determined to get into that invisible circle that she so protected from him coming close to her. One day I remember him rolling on his back to his stomack around in circles to get her to lossen up. Eventually she did, and Henry would and Princess became good friends. Henry is very loveable to look at, but by the time he turned almost one he started getting food aggressive, but princess would stand her ground and they would have short fights and i would reprimand him or her. Though this would happen occassionally he was very protective of her, I could tell especially when I'd take the two of them to the vets office. Well, this weekend my family and I decided to put Princess down, she had tumors in her lungs, blood count was very low. When we all decided not take her in to be euthanized, I mentioned that maybe we should take Henry to so that he could be there to see and smell. My mistake, I didn't take him. I know that he has sensed the lost of Princess by watching his moodiness. Snarling and bitting one of my kids has resurfaced, He' s is doing things of his nature that he hasn't done over two years. I'm not sure what do to, my wife thinks it might be better to get him a new home. Although he's showing his aggressive side, more than usual his being upset, not having closer, what and where's Princess is, is that he has to protect his turf or he's bothered. Maybe my children are beneath him and he fighting for rank in the household, they love him but he's somewhat unpredictable. Now that she's gone and he senses our sadness I believe that he is upset with us for not letting him be apart of that moment so that he would know like we know. The only thing that i can think of doing is calling the vet and asking the doctor to let Henry see Princess one final time before she is cremated. I hope that I'm not to late. My advice to you all is follow your instincts and your heart because your dog knows and like me, I knew that i should have brought him with the family. After all he is part of the family. Right. We all know what we should do, so let then do whats right. For the sake of a dear friend, a best friend. Thanks for letting me share.
1698711 tn?1306858540
its a sad story but im sure ur other dog will sense it cause its the same with horses i had two horses and one died i was so upset that i started crying infrount of Chit Chat (my fit and well horse, didnt call her that name, didnt want to change it) and i was talking to her telling her what happened, it might sound stuipid but i feel that she understands me and i can express my self and open up to her, anyway she gave me a look and i saw that she understands what happened to buddy (my old horse that passed away aprox 3 years ago)

so i think its the same with dogs n other pets. hope ur other dog gets better and recovers.
Avatar universal
I have the same experience. My older dog died the other day. He died infront of our younger dog. And I that time I was thinking that the younger dog understand what happened to his friend. But there was a time that day(until now) that the younger dog was still searching for the older one, like he went to the places where he used to see his friend, sometimes he was "crying".
It's his first time to be alone. And I know how he felt, I talked to him yesterday I was crying in front of him telling him what happened, He just stared at me that time.
The whole day he was so quite and doesn't want to play with me. But today, I played with him. I take him outside and we take a walk together.
I spent the whole day with him so he won't miss the older one.
And it worked. He is so active today.

And that's my suggestion, don't let your dog feel that's he's all alone.
Play with him, spend time with him.And don't let him see you sad.
That will make him sad too.Let him feel that he was not alone.
God Bless! :)
Have an Answer?
Top Dogs Answerers
675347 tn?1365460645
United Kingdom
974371 tn?1424653129
Central Valley, CA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Members of our Pet Communities share their Halloween pet photos.
Like to travel but hate to leave your pooch at home? Dr. Carol Osborne talks tips on how (and where!) to take a trip with your pampered pet
Ooh and aah your way through these too-cute photos of MedHelp members' best friends
A list of national and international resources and hotlines to help connect you to needed health and medical services.
Here’s how your baby’s growing in your body each week.
These common ADD/ADHD myths could already be hurting your child