Woman Suffers “Broken-Heart Syndrome” After Beloved Pet Dies

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Pets are family, there’s no question about it. And losing them to death can be so traumatic, doctors claim that we can suffer what is commonly known as ‘broken heart syndrome.’

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is often referred to as ‘broken-heart syndrome’ because it is typically heart attack or failure due to extreme sorrow and/or heartbreak. I first learned about this when my son died, as it is a very common heart event for people to suffer after they’ve lost children.

Related: Losing A Pet: Dealing With The Death Of Your Dog

A new report from the New England Journal of Medicine now includes the case of a 61-year-old woman who is believed to have suffered a heart event as the result of the loss of her dog. She was treated with heart medications after a diagnosis of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and has since recovered.

Joanie Simpson said she was nearly inconsolable when her Yorkshire terrier Meha died last year. An empty-nester, Meha was like her ‘little girl’ and she was devastated when Meha died. She’d been sick, and even had an appointment for euthanasia, but Simpson canceled it as Meha seemed to rally.

Sadly, Meha died the next day and Simpson said it was a horrible thing to witness.

Dr. Steven Nissen is with the Cleveland Clinic and says that broken-heart syndrome is not that uncommon after all. It’s often related to the death of a loved one or something horribly stress-related, and essentially a part of the heart muscle just stops contracting some. When Carrie Fisher died, her mother Debbie Reynolds died days after, and many suggested that she too suffered from a broken heart.

Related: How To Prepare For Your Dog’s Journey Across The Rainbow Bridge

He says that in Simpson’s case, it’s interesting because the loss is of a pet, but goes to show that to many, a pet is a family member. Most recover from it, and in Simpson’s case, that was what happened. She has a cat named Buster at home right now, but says she plans to get another dog soon.

Speaking personally as someone who has lost both a child and family dogs, it sometimes seems callous to compare the loss of a pet to the loss of a human. That said, I can say without hesitation that while losing your pet and losing your child are obviously not in the same league, there is a pain so deep and so unique that comes with losing a cherished family pet, I don’t ever begrudge anyone the comparison.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis