A pet dog is suffering horrible physical symptoms following the death of his four-legged best friend in what vets say could be a side-effect of extreme grief.
Linda Raff and her family said goodbye to one of their five cavalier dogs, Jaxon, 4, after he died of heat exhaustion on February 11, but his best friend Toby, 6, had taken the loss the hardest.
“Toby and Jaxon have always been close, they liked to sleep together and play together and chase the vacuum together,” Ms Raff, from central western NSW, told Yahoo News Australia.
After burying Jaxon in the yard and allowing the dogs to say a final farewell, Ms Raff said she noticed Toby beginning to chew at the fur on the tops of his paws, and later the development of painful sores on his back.
“As Toby laid on my lap for comfort I felt little bumps all over his body, by the next morning he was red raw with massive patches of missing fur and literally thousands of bumps covering his entire body,” she said.
“Our wonderful vet put him on antibiotics, steroids, antibiotic cream and medicated shampoo for him to be bathed in daily but he just kept getting worse.”
The vet said a combination of recent humid weather and the emotional toll of losing his closest companion could have caused such a rapid decline in health, she said.
Dr Simon Ilkin from Kirrawee Veterinary Hospital told Yahoo News Australia it was plausible that the stress of the death could have weakened Toby’s immune system and thus exacerbated his physical condition.
Bushfire smoke and humidity affecting skin conditions
Chronic licking and obsessive compulsive behaviours from anxiety or depression could cause dermatitis Dr Ilkin said, but it was not likely for the stress alone to cause the physical symptom.
“With stress and grief, the immune system will reduce. Any pre-existing conditions are more likely to flare up. It’s not too unusual to see it,” Dr Ilkin said.
The high count of airborne allergens during summer combined with bushfire smoke and humidity made it more likely that animals would suffer skin conditions due to environmental factors, according to the vet.
“Certainly dogs that are going through stress, anxiety and grief can show stereotypic behaviour which can be exacerbated by an environmental change,” he said.
Ms Raff was confident Toby’s grief had “played a huge part in his dermatitis-type outbreak”, as “he just hasn’t been the same dog since his little buddy died”.
“He is finally starting to improve slowly, he is still moping around though and he quite often during the day sniffs at Jaxon’s collar, which we have it sitting on the coffee table.
“Our vet believes that his grief played a small part in his skin flaring up like this and I agree.”
When Ms Raff rescued Toby four years ago he was “grossly overweight” and had a matted coat and severe food aggression, but she said Jaxon took him “under his wing” and taught him the way of the pack.
“I miss that little dog so much, I know people think ‘oh it’s just a dog’ but to me these dogs are my babies.”
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