The Pet Healing Question
During my interview on the Twisted Nether Blogcast (which I'm sure all of you have listened to by now... right?!), Brigwyn asked a question that has plagued healers for 80 levels.

Should healers heal pets?

You'll find people with opinions on both sides of the spectrum. Of course, I'm assuming the hunter in question is neither a jerk, nor a "classic huntard" who allows his pet to pull everything. One of my best friends is a Beast Mastery hunter and runs ICC with us, so I'm quite used to running with good hunters.

A few weeks after I switched from Holy to Disc, another hunter I run with a lot pouted at me and asked why I no longer healed his pet. I was rather confused, since I had never really gone out of my way to heal people's pets. He told me that before, his pet always survived through all the fights. I sat down and thought about this for awhile, and finally figured out why he had noticed the difference - Holy Priests have Circle of Healing which is a smart heal, and therefore WILL heal pets. Disc Priests focus more on using Penance and Power Word: Shield. Neither of these will heal or protect a pet unless the healer makes a concerted effort to do so.

AoE Smart Heals

So let's take a look at some AoE Smart Heals that will heal pets without a concerted effort made on the healer's part:
Wonky spells that may require a bit of testing before I'm sure how they affect pets:
  • Chain Heal - (Resto Shaman) - this is a little wonky, depending on who it's cast on first - note the tooltip.
  • Holy Light (Holy Paladin) - note that this will only happen if glyphed for the splash effect. This is not actually a "smart heal" as it seems to randomly select 5 targets within range to benefit with the splash heal effect.

Divine Hymn is on a very long cooldown, so I wouldn't expect for pets to get healed from that very often. But essentially, if pets are among those with the lowest amount of health and greatest need for healing, they will be one of the targets chosen for healing by the smart heal.

Group Heals

So what about the not-so-smart group heals? These are heals that will heal all members in a particular group within a certain range.
I tested Prayer of Healing and Holy Nova last night. As long as the pet's owner (i.e. the commanding Warlock or Hunter) is in the party that is being targetted by the group heal, the pet will be healed as well.


Okay so we've talked about the passive ways in which a healer can heal pets. The next question is, how much healing do hunters' pets really need? In reality, as long as the hunter is doing their job and keeping their pet from being aggressive when not needed, and making sure the pet is attacking the right target... not much!

In patch 3.3, Blizz buffed the passive ability known as Avoidance. There is both a Hunter version and a Warlock version. Priests may have noted that even our Shadowfiends were given a similar ability to increase their survivability. In fact, the only class that didn't get a similar passive ability for their pet was the Death Knight, who needs to spec into Night of the Dead in order to get the same thing.

The stock UI and even most unit frame add-ons do not make it particularly easy to heal pets. If you use Healbot, you can set it up to show pets, and I have X-Perl configured to show them as well, but standard formats are not always amenable to pet-healing.

Raid versus Dungeon

However, due to the way AoE and group heals work, coupled with the changes to Avoidance, in a raid, healers should rarely, if ever, find it necessary to directly heal pets. Single target healers (Paladins, and to a lesser degree, Disc Priests) are least able to do much healing to pets. In a raid, this usually doesn't matter anyway, as they will likely be focusing on the tank. But, if your raid healer is a Disc Priest in charge of shield-spamming, or an extra Pally, keep this in mind.

The problem comes in 5 man dungeons. Depending on the type of healer the 5 man has, and the amount of AoE healing they do, pets may get little, if any, indirect healing at all. The first priority to keeping a pet alive is for the hunter to take care in how they manage their pet. Pets will nearly always be the lowest priority target for the healer.

Why did my hunter friend notice that his pet was no longer getting heals from me once I switched to Discipline? In 5 mans, I rarely need to use any group heals, because I focus more on bubbling everyone - except that I never remember to bubble pets. The unit frame for pets is much smaller and easier to overlook. Usually Prayer of Mending will hit them enough to keep them up... but sometimes it's not enough.

Should Healers Even Care?

Maybe not. Maybe it isn't our responsibility, since hunters do have the ability to heal their pets, as do warlocks. Pets and minions certainly are very rarely a priority.

However, the purpose of a healer is to help keep others alive long enough to perform their role properly. Particularly for Demonology Warlocks and Beast Mastery Hunters, pets make up a significant portion of their DPS. Losing their pet or minion renders them very impotent damage wise, and can make or break a fight if it's a DPS check.

In the end, after examining the passive avoidance ability, and the effects of AoE and group heals, I don't think it's necessary for healers to specifically make an effort to heal pets, except in certain fights (for instance, our hunter's pet is a significant portion of our physical DPS on the adds for the Lady Deathwhisper fight, so I do keep an eye out on her pet).

But as a healer, if you have some extra mana, and an extra GCD to throw around, consider putting a bubble on the kitty. Your hunters will love you. And who wouldn't want the love of someone like Pike or Brigwyn? Except those 'locks...

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29 Responses
  1. Vok Says:

    I think Chain Heal only heals pets if its the initial target, but don't quote me.

    Personally, I'm a pet healers. I've added them to healbot and while they are the lowest heal priority I pride myself on keeping them up. Every little bit helps...

  2. @Vok

    Okay, I don't have a shammy, but I *think*, from reading the tooltip, that the pet would get healed if your initial target was in another party. I.e. i don't think it will heal a pet if your intial target is in your own party. I'm going to see if I can get someone to test this, and then I may do an ETA.

  3. Chirri Says:

    I tend to miss pets almost solely because they're so far off to the side on my ui. Well, they're not cast adrift out there on their own. I'm using VuhDo and just prop them beside the 5th group. But for whatever reason, I've got a blind spot for that small list of pets right beside the healer group.

    It's not so much that I don't want to heal the suckers, because I do, really I do! I understand how helpful they are to the pet classes.

    Part of it is also that they take no damage for so long, and when they finally DO start taking damage they just seem to take a ton very quickly! (Bubbles help)

    That's the main reason they die on me - I don't notice their health, or they're just taking a ton of damage all of a sudden and I don't react quickly enough. Or I have to choose between the pet and an actual player character. Pet owners can re-summon or rez their own pets with relative ease, but bringing another player back is more problematic. So the pet gets to hit the floor.

  4. Vok Says:

    Running a Heroic atm, definitely heals if it's the same party, will check it out in raid.

  5. Jen Says:

    I don't have pets in my UI simply because of screen space. I play on a laptop and Grid already takes up a lot of my screen in raids, so oh well, their masters can take care of their pets. When I'm doing heroics... well, I guess my WG heals them and no one complained. At lower levels, I hated people who just said "heal my pet". Learn to be polite!!

    I'm leveling a priest now, and I sometimes put pets on the interface because... well, you know low level tanks. Sometimes the pets tank better, and they need to be kept alive for all our sake.

  6. Kurn Says:

    Just a quick note:

    The Holy Light splash from the Glyph of Holy Light is EMPHATICALLY not a smart heal. It randomly heals up to 5 people within 8 yards of the target that was hit with a Holy Light with 10% of the amount the HL hit for (overheal included).

    That means that pets will occasionally benefit from it, but it won't go out of their way to heal them -- or anyone who actually needs healing, either. I've seen my Glyph of Holy Light hit fully topped-off melee and ignore another tank standing on top of the tank I tossed the HL to.

    As to healing pets specifically, I rarely heal them intentionally in a raid, but I do ensure that I heal them in 5-mans and sometimes 10s. I WILL cleanse them, though, ever since one of my first Sarth runs where NO ONE dispelled the curse off the pets and thus the mobs kept healing. :)

  7. Doug Says:

    From a warlock perspective:
    The only time healing a pet could be REQUIRED is when your locktank on Blood Princes uses Soul Link to redirect 20% of the damage they take to their pet. In this specific case, maintaining that damage redirection could be the difference between success and failure.

    Aside from that specific case, the passive healing that locks have should be more than enough to keep the pet up.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Great post.

    I rediscovered pets recently (I hadn't been displaying them in Grid) and I am still trying to figure out if I should heal them or not.

    As a Disc priest my answer seems to be mostly no, because as you sadi they seem to survive quite well by themselves.

    Interesting read.

    Gobble gobble.

  9. Grimmtooth Says:

    There is a lot to be said on either side, but my feeling has always been that we don't bring locks and hunters in to heal, we bring them in for the pew pew pew. Hunters get it easy with a HoT, but warlocks will be out of circulation for a few seconds every time they stop - STOP, that is - to heal the demon.

    Ergo, the DPSers bring the most to the table by (a) killing shit and (b) not standing in stuff. Healers bring the most to the table by keeping all players alive and fighting.

    This is not to say that heroic healing of mah laser kitteh is a must-have - if it's a choice between the pet and a player, then the pet dies, it's that simple.

    The important thing, though, is to understand before starting what is going to happen. Some real 3 stooges action can take place if nobody's clear on who's healing the stompasaurus. As a hunter, if I know the healer isn't going to heal my pet, then I'll take the time to HoT him up and so be it. I don't so much mind doing it as not knowing.

    As a healer, I don't mind healing the buggers, but I don't want to waste mana on them if the owner is healing, too. So, I ask, if I get the chance.

    Even so, once we get rolling, if there's a pet on the boss I tend to make it my vector for the Frisbee. Sure, I lose a bling, but it's a small thing that does help.

  10. Charles Says:

    10-man raiding puts more importance on keeping pets alive, as losing a single pet can cost a pretty large part of your raid's DPS... especially if that pet is providing Demonic Pact or Ferocious Inspiration buffs.

    But that's fine, because 10 players take up much less raidframe space than 25, so there's room for pet frames both in terms of screen space and mental space. I use a 2-columns/groups Grid layout that places pets in a "third group/column", and try to keep an eye on whether they're taking damage. Most fights at least give me the opportunity to RT or bounce a chain heal off them, and sometimes I'm able to save their fluffy little lives when something goes wrong and their owners are distracted.

    However, I did actually have to stop myself focusing quite as much on pets after one unfortunate incident where I absentmindedly prioritised finishing a heal I was casting on a pet over swapping to a suddenly near-death tank :D

  11. Tiex Says:

    Wow, I don't EVER remember to heal pets. But when I was listening to the podcast, I immediately checked vuhdo to get their bar in my UI, it really makes sense.

    I'm always shielding people that do not necessarily need a bubble at the moment, just to get the 25% haste bonus to throw a hasted penance or GH (or both) at a tank already under the effect of weakened soul, so I might as well shield the poor pet =P

    I wonder if it'll take too much space in 25's, in my already crowded screen...

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I have splash heals that usually get the pets (wild growth) so I almost never heal them directly anymore.

    I show pet frames in 5's and 10's, but not in 25's, so I will NEVER heal pets in 25's directly.

    In 5's and 10's I might throw a hot if I have spare time and mana and I'm really really bored, but it's not even close to a priority.

  13. Askevar Says:

    As a disc priest, I have healbot set up to show pet bars. Long as I have the mana, I'll throw them heals. In an emergency, they're the first ones triaged though :) But I have a hunter and a lock myself and my dk tank's offspec has the permaghoul... so I understand :)

  14. @Chirri

    I think that in a 25 man, they are likely getting enough splash heals from raid healers, that you don't really need to worry about them. Your heart's in the right place!


    Okay, I'm going to try and figure out how to ETA my post then to clarify the difference. Chain Heal is weird.


    Yeah sometimes it's a matter of screen space. But WG will definitely get them from time to time if they need it, and they really shouldn't need it that often anyay.


    Gah. I wasn't sure where to put the Holy Light splash. It's not a smart heal, but it's not a standard group heal either, is it? I mean, will it only splash heals onto people who are in the party of your original HL target? It can't be depended upon to heal the pets, but if the Pally in question is spamming the tank, surely the pets will occasionally get some indirect splash healing from it.


    Right, isn't there a demo warlock talent where half of your damage ticks have a chance to heal the pet?


    Glad you liked it! I keep them on my raid frames because i like to have all the info in front of me, but yes, sometimes it is a bit TMI, since they usually don't need direct heals anyway.


    After thinking about it a lot, that was the same conclusion I came to. If the hunter or lock has to stop to heal the pet, then that's DPS they aren't doing. Perhaps I should communicate better with my groups about whether or not I should be healing the pets... though honestly, it just doesn't seem very necessary in raids.


    >.< I have done this before. I stopped healing pets for a little while after that.


    That's one thing I do as well... I'll use a random pet to shield so I can get a quickie 25% speed bonus if I've already shielded up everyone else XD


    The more healers in the group, the less anyone needs to worry about directly healing pets anyway, so it's not generally needed in 25s.

  15. bhorg Says:

    Are you guys finding a lot of demonology or BM hunters in raids? All of our hunters are MM or Survive, and all of our warlocks are affliction or destruction. It's been so long since I've had BM or Demo that I have not really thought of it.

    Overall, I'm with Kurn on this one. I rarely heal pets actively, but if I have a spare GCD, I've been known to PW:S them from my disc priest.

  16. @Askevar

    I have a strange affinity for all those pets, even though I don't play any classes that have any. But I leveled with folks who had pets that tanked for us, so I have 80 levels of debt to some of them!


    My pet warlock in Fulguralis, and he's affliction all the way. However, my favorite hunter players all chose Beast Mastery (I can't bring myself to just say BM), so I have a soft spot for their pets.

  17. Hinenuitepo Says:

    Since I didn't see it for sure here, I'll confirm that Chain Heal will bounce to pets.

    I don't think I've ever targetted a pet with any heals as resto shammy, but I almost never see a pet dying or being rezzed since Chain heal does a great job actually.

    Now, I haven't paid enough attention to see if Healing Stream totem does the same - heal pets that is. I usually run 5-mans with Healing Stream down and allow earth shield, riptide, and Healing Stream do most of the healing while I dps. ;)

    As far as DKs go, we CAN heal our pets, but it's a pretty big pain - we have to use runic power to Death Coil our pet. We can't feed them, mend them, or anything else. Still, as unholy I almost never lose mine, especially in heroics.

  18. Calli Says:

    I'll heal pets if I have a spare cooldown, definitely won't go out of my way to NOT heal them. However I do draw the line in certain circumstances. From even a cursory glance at health bars it rapidly becomes obvious which hunter/warlock has put points into avoidance and who hasn't. The same applies to those who bother to move their pets out of avoidable shitstorms and those who don't. If they care so little about their pets' survivability that they can't be bothered to invest in them themselves, I don't see why it suddenly becomes my responsibility. You've got to meet me halfway. Show that you care about your pets healthpool and I'll throw it heals when I can.

  19. @Hinen

    Thanks for the Chain Heal confirmation!


    In 3.3 they changed it so that it is passive and locks and hunters no longer have to spec or train into the 90% decrease in AoE damage.

  20. Jasyla Says:

    When I raid on my hunter I find that my pet never needs heals. The splash healing he takes from things like CoH and Wild Growth is sufficient. Plus, with the passive AOE damage mitigation, they really dont take much damage. The only time my pet dies is when I let it stand in fires or attack the wrong target, which is my problem, not the healers. So as a healer I rarely heal pets. I do not have Grid set up to display pet health bars.

  21. Eversor Says:

    Chain heal does hit pets. And they often get a little heal if I'm hitting the melee people in a 5 man. I do not go out of my way to heal pets though. If things are going well I have no problem throwing a little healing their way though. But generally speaking no.

  22. Kae Says:

    We had a hunter in our guild who asked EVERY applicant what they thought about healing pets. Particularly if they were capable of healing. If they said anything to the negative about healing her kitty, she went on a (humorous) rampage.

    It was awesome.

    (I have pet frames up on Grid, so I see them catching my Wild Growths pretty frequently). If I have no one else to heal, I drop a hot or two on them if they need it.)

  23. Kurn Says:

    I mean, will it only splash heals onto people who are in the party of your original HL target?

    No, it's not party-specific. :) I'm generally in group two, Holy Light spamming tanks in group 1, and yet on a fight like Festergut or Rotface (when I'm up with the melee), I'll benefit from my own splash heal.

    It can't be depended upon to heal the pets, but if the Pally in question is spamming the tank, surely the pets will occasionally get some indirect splash healing from it.

    That's basically the size of it. It's not deliberate, but pets WILL get SOME healing, whether they need it or not.

    I like the clarification you made in your post; that sums it up nicely. :)

  24. Shintar Says:

    I don't generally heal pets in raids because there's usually enough other stuff going on, but in a reasonably smooth five-man I always heal them. In fact, with heroics being so easy these days you can make it a fun extra challenge for yourself to not let an oblivious pet owner's companion die, even if they park it underneath Svala's ritual of the sword or leave it standing in Gal'darah's whirlwind.

    My only pure dps character at 80 is a hunter and I definitely appreciate it when her pet gets healed, in fact I've even been thinking about making a "thank you" macro when it's very noticeable. She may be survival, but the pet still contributes. I won't complain if my wolf or kitty doesn't get healed, but in some instances where trash mobs have focused random attacks that can hit quite hard (like heroic FoS) it can get very tedious having to res my pet after every other pull because it didn't get heals and mend pet wasn't enough to keep it up.

  25. Breevok Says:

    I heal pets. Saves me rebuffing them :)

  26. Zan Says:

    I have my grid configured to show me pets after all of the players. I've been known to heal pets, but only when everyone else is topped off and I have a spare GCD.

    I haven't kept up with the viability of BM, so I'm not sure how much more important a pet is for a BM hunter or if it's actually viable at all these days.

    I usually run survival for the nice DPS and the raid utilities (replenishment). My hunter's pet makes up about 400 dps or so.

  27. Heather Says:

    This is a bit of a tricky subject, because on the one hand yep some pets are a requirement for specs (as you listed) but on the other hand I don't believe in healing pets in 5 mans. Raids are about maxing your dps, helping your fellow guild members work at their max, but a 5 man? Sorry but no.

  28. ithilyn Says:

    In 5 mans as a pally, I'll make an effort to keep pets up. Last priority of course. Healing a pet *does* work with Beacon, so since I'm usually looking for someone other than the tank to heal spam anyway, might as well keep that pet alive.

  29. @Heather

    With avoidance and AoE heals, actually, the only place you'd probably ever need to be concerned about healing a pet IS a five man.

    5 mans are about maximizing DPS as well.

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