Speaking from experience, there are not many things more awful than the death of a sweet pet. How can we ever do without their innocence, their exuberance, their unconditional love or their commitment to always living purely in the moment? This may be a hard article to read—just as it was difficult to put together. But we do hope it will help you.
Note: this article is full of real talk, and we apologize if any of it is triggering. If you’ve lost a pet, we are so sorry. If you’ve never read the Rainbow Bridge poem, check it out here. It’s lovely and it may comfort you just a bit.
What to Do First When a Pet Dies
If your pet dies at home, take time to say goodbye to them. Gently close their eyes and fold their limbs inward. Cover them with a sheet or blanket, then call your veterinarian. They’ll help you decide next steps. Some will have a service that can come pick up your pet and help you arrange for cremation or burial. Others may require that you bring your pet to them directly.
If you are alone, call a friend or family member to come and be with you. Losing a pet can be just as difficult as losing any other dear one, and you shouldn’t be by yourself.
Can I Bury My Pet at Home?
This depends on where you live, so check with your vet or your local authorities. If you decide home burial is right for you, follow the steps below for wrapping up your pet. You’ll want to keep them somewhere cool and dry, such as a garage, while you make the preparations for burial. Do be mindful of time, as depending on temperature and other factors, decomposition and the things that accompany the process may sneak up quicker than you’d think.
When you’re ready, remove any non-biodegradable elements (plastic, etc.) and use an eco-friendly container or casket. Choose a spot that’s not likely to be disturbed. Allow at least three feet of depth.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Burying My Pet at Home?
- Your pet rests near you, which can be a comfort.
- A home burial is more economical.
- There may be local regulations that prohibit home burial.
- If you do choose home burial, you’ll need to handle the details. This can be messy and painful.
How Do I Transport My Pet’s Body?
There are all kinds of pets. Big and small, winged and furry, even slithery and smooth. Below we’ll give the best advice we can, but if you need more guidance, please call your veterinarian’s office. Start with these basic steps:
1. For smaller pets, you can place them in a small box or wrap them in a scarf or blanket and, if you plan to take them to a vet or a pet cemetery, put them into their carrier.
2. With medium- to large-size pets, you’ll want to create a comfy but leak-proof wrapping. We suggest first laying out a blanket on the floor, then topping the blanket with lawn-style garbage bags or a plastic drop cloth.
3. Move your pet onto the plastic and fold in the ends of the plastic/blanket, like the saddest but most well-loved burrito ever. You might secure the wrapping with some heavy tape for transport.
Online Resources for Pet Burial and Cremation
If you’d like to bury your pet somewhere other than home, contact your veterinarian or look here for some solid resources. You may even want to read an article on How to Personalize a Pet Farewelling/Funeral.
What if you want to cremate your pet? First, you’ll need to decide between two options: communal or private. In the case of communal cremation, your pet will be with others, so for obvious reasons you won’t receive ashes to keep afterwards.
With private cremation, your pet is cremated individually, and you can receive their ashes afterwards. This option is pricier—sometimes as much as three to four times the cost.
What Should I Do With My Pet’s Ashes?
There are more and more ways to honor your pet’s memory. Here are a few:
- Scatter or bury the ashes in a special place.
- Transfer the ashes into a keepsake vessel or urn.
- Have them turned into something special, like art or jewelry.
If your pet is ill and you have to make the difficult decision to put them to sleep, read here for more info.