The Ultimate Guide To Broken Heart Syndrome. Can Dogs Really Die From Sadness?
Stacy Reed
Author: Stacy Reed
Stacy is a freelance writer who has always shared her life with dogs, especially German Shepherds.
Published date: June 4, 2022
Updated date: July 2, 2022
This article was reviewed and fact checked If you have found any errors, please contact us!

The Ultimate Guide To Broken Heart Syndrome. Can Dogs Really Die From Sadness?

We’ve all heard the stories. Two dogs who grew up together, were inseparable and did everything together are suddenly torn apart, as one of them crosses over the rainbow bridge.

The other dog is left to survive by itself without its best friend and lifelong companion. The remaining dog can often be diagnosed with a broken heart, or will die of a broken heart. 

But, is there any truth behind this saying, and can dogs actually die from a broken heart? That’s what we are here to find out. 


Dying of a broken heart is often considered the widowhood effect.

Some old couples who have been married for decades, and are completely devoted to each other have been known to die just hours apart, as one cannot bear to live without the other.

Take Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds for example. Debbie Reynolds mourned her daughter so much that she died just the very next day. 

Pets too have been known to die within a short space of one another, particularly if they were very close and bonded to one another. The term for this is often referred to as dying of a broken heart.

However, this is not really the case, whilst the heart is not actually affected, it is more of a metaphor, as we consider the heart the birthplace of love and affection.

Can Dogs Die Of A Broken Heart?

Dogs cannot actually die from a broken heart, as there is often no correlation between the heart itself and the cause of death of the dog.

What the term brokenhearted actually means is that the dog can grieve and be so depressed, that eventually it will pass away too, like its companion.

When dogs are depressed, they may decline rapidly, until they eventually die.

This is because of stress or anxiety related issues.

For instance, when dogs feel extreme sadness such as the loss of a mate, they may refuse to eat, refuse to drink, become lethargic and refuse to get up and out of their beds

They may no longer want to interact with anyone, or play or be active at all. Whilst this is termed as having a broken heart, it is not usually the heart that is affected.

Instead, they may starve to death, or see a dramatic decline in health until they eventually pass away. 


Signs Your Dog Has A Broken Heart

Your dog may have a ‘broken heart’ after the loss of someone if they cling to you like glue. Some dogs may develop separation anxiety and may need the extra support of a loved one or owner. 

They may also become fearful of things that they were not before.

They may cower more, be wary of strangers, or even become aggressive with people they do not know, and other animals as a defense mechanism because of that fear. 

A common sign is loss of appetite. Some dogs will completely refuse food and fast.

You will need to offer different food, and good, exciting food rather than the usual to entice them to eat, or they will wither away. 

An upset or depressed dog may also become very destructive and will misbehave. They may chew furniture, destroy things or develop a tendency for obsessive licking.

These are all signs that your dog is upset, stressed or anxious. 

A broken heart is not always about a loss. Dogs can change their behavior after a big alteration in their life, or after something has changed drastically.

Be wary of what is triggering them to help them get better and feel better. 

Can Dogs Die Of Sadness?

Sadness is not a physical cause of death, but the repercussions of sadness can lead to death in dogs.

For instance, being depressed itself will not result in your dog dying.

What could result in this is if the dog refuses food and water for a long period of time, which could make them very unwell, and lead to their death. 

Are Dogs Affected By Death? 

Yes, dogs can be affected by death. Dogs are very family orientated, and can become very attached to certain family members, or other pets in the household.

As a result, they build close bonds with many members of the family and can even become particularly attached to one person. 

When that person dies, or another dog in the household passes away, the remaining dog can become very upset and their behavior can change.

Just like humans, dogs are affected by death, and will alter their behavior.


For instance, they may not feel like going out for walks, being active, or eating, and you may notice a decline in their demeanor. 

So, why does this happen? Well, dogs are pack animals.

This means that just like wolves, they survive with a pack mentality. Pack animals sleep, eat, play, hunt, travel and socialize as part of a pack, where everything is done together.

This is why many dogs are prone to separation anxiety, as they can grow too attached to their human companions, and will not want to be without them. 

As pack animals, when a member of the family suddenly leaves, dies, or does not interact with them anymore, they may pine and mourn the loss of that pack member.

This is often why many dogs seemingly suffer from a broken heart, where they will decline in activity, excitedness and seem depressed if they lose someone close to them. 

In addition, the worst part about it for a dog is that they do not know why that person or animal is no longer in their lives.

They may assume that they have been abandoned or rejected by them, which is also why they can seem so sad and lonely after something like that happens, or after an owner passes away. 


To summarize, dogs can get broken hearts. A big change in their lives, or the loss of a bonded family member can lead to sadness and depression in dogs.

Whilst this cannot kill them, your dog’s reaction to this sadness can. 

If your dog refuses to get up, eat food or exercise, then their health could decline rapidly.

You have to support them, be affectionate with them and keep them active, to ensure that they get better and live a long and happy life. 

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