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A dog grieving for a pet companion needs extra attention

Try more exercise, the dog park and some puzzles and more to occupy him.

Dogs can grieve after losing an animal companion.

Dogs can grieve after losing an animal companion. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q We recently lost one of our dogs. My remaining pet is a playful, happy Havanese, or at least he was. He has become very nervous and anxious without her. Whenever we go out and leave him alone, he howls, cries, barks and runs all around the house. We have tried everything from medication and day camp to a cuddle pup with a heartbeat wearing a T-shirt of my deceased dog. When I brought him home from the day camp, he had diarrhea for days. We brought him to our vet. She explained he wasn't sick but stressed. We know what he's going through, because we installed a video cam to keep an eye on him. My sweet Lhasa apso has been gone since November and we are at a loss as to how to help the Havanese. We are at a stage in our life where we can't consider adopting another dog. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

— Jerri, Syosset 

A I am sorry for your loss. It's never easy losing an animal companion. It's also never easy comforting a pet left behind that is grieving over a lost friend. While it sounds like your dog would definitely benefit from having a new canine companion in the home, I understand that's not an option for some people.

He is definitely grieving as well as suffering from separation anxiety. Are you able to walk him more frequently? Exercise can help him rest better when you're not at home. Can you buy him some puzzle toys to play with for when you're away from the house? Mental activity can take his mind off his loneliness. If the day camp was a no-go (good idea, by the way), is he a good candidate for the dog park? He might just need you to be with him when he is meeting other dogs.

Your vet may be able to prescribe some anxiety medication for some temporary relief, but I suggest first trying canine pheromones, which have a calming effect on dogs. They are available at the pet store as a spray, wipe, plug-in or collar. Try the collar for him and use the spray on his bed and other areas in the home where he hangs out.

There is also a CD called "Through a Dog's Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Canine Companion," which you can leave on when you leave home. According to the creators of this music, clinical trials showed this specially curated soundtrack helped calm dogs up to 85 percent of the time.

Finally, get an Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt for him to wear all the time. It feels like a big hug and may help him feel more secure during this transition period.

Q We are moving from Bridgehampton to Wisconsin and want to take our three feral cats, who now live in our barn. They have been neutered and vaccinated ever since they appeared on our doorstep two years ago. They show up promptly at night for dinner but are extremely wary of people. They will come close but resist contact. We have a large secure shed to contain them temporarily after we move, but other than capturing them and driving them out there, I am at a loss as to how to make this as easy as possible for them, and us. Our local animal shelter was not very useful, so I am hoping you will be able to recommend a cat transition expert who can help.

— Nancy, Bridgehampton

A Relocating feral cats can be challenging, and because it's not often done, there is not a lot of information on it. I don't know of a cat transition expert for feral cats, but I can offer you some suggestions.

Recognize this may be somewhat stressful for all of you. If they don't allow you to touch them, you may find it difficult to get them into cat carriers for the trip. A few weeks before, start feeding them in the cat carriers so they get used to them.

While your vet may prescribe a sedative that you can crush in their food for the drive, the routine at the hotel room may be challenging. Use a feline pheromone spray in the car and the hotel room to calm them. Also, make sure the cats can't escape under the bed or behind a dresser before letting them out in the room.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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