When a family member dies, you always celebrate his or her life. But what about your pet family member? Planning and executing a pet funeral can be one of the important ways you can pay homage to your best friend. Here’s what you need to know about planning a funeral for your dog.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Plan in Advance
- Step 2: Choose Between Burial and Cremation
- Step 3: Choose Your Guest List
- Step 4: Select a Funeral Location
- Step 5: Plan a Memorial Service
- Dog Funeral FAQs
Step 1: Plan in Advance
You can still prepare for the future as your pet ages. Make an emergency pet care plan in advance of any crisis.
You might want to save money in a pet care fund to pay for expensive veterinary care in case of an accident or illness. You might also want to get pet insurance. You’ll appreciate having a safety net if your pet is injured or becomes seriously ill.
Tip: If you're planning a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still partake in the steps below. Brainstorm with your friends and family to see what rituals you can adapt for a live stream.
Share your final wishes, just in case.
Create a free Cake end-of-life planning profile and instantly share your health, legal, funeral, and legacy decisions with a loved one.
Step 2: Choose Between Burial and Cremation
Even if you plan and save money and do everything you’re supposed to do to care for your pet, sometimes dogs don’t survive — or they simply die of old age. When that sad day comes, you’ll have to decide how to dispose of your dog’s body. There are two main choices:
- You can have your dog cremated.
- You can choose to bury your pet.
Your veterinarian’s office should be able to guide you through the process of contacting a pet funeral home. But first, let’s break down those options even further.
If you decide to bury your pet, you have a few options. First, depending on where you live, you can do a home burial. Not every jurisdiction allows you to bury animals at home on your own land, so you’ll need to look up the relevant bylaws for your area to see if it’s legal and if any permits are required. The other option is to have your pet interred in a pet cemetery.
If home burial is an option where you live, it is definitely more affordable than burial in a pet cemetery. Home burials can be done very inexpensively, or even for free. You can use a cardboard or wooden casket that will biodegrade, but it’s not required. You could use a biodegradable funeral shroud instead, or bury your pet without any cover at all. You might also want to include a headstone or use a naturally occurring feature like a tree to mark the grave.
Burying your pet in a pet cemetery is significantly more expensive than choosing a home burial. The burial plot, casket, and headstone can set you back $1,500 to $2,000. However, the cost is often worth it if you know you may move eventually. If you have a home burial but later sell your house, you will no longer be able to visit your pet’s grave. Interring your pet at a cemetery means you’ll always have a place to visit.
The cost of cremation depends on the size of the animal — the bigger the dog, the higher the price. An individual cremation can cost approximately $200 for small breeds and $700 for large breeds.
Prices can vary depending on where you live, particularly for an individual pet cremation when your pet’s ashes are returned to you. A mass cremation, where several animals are cremated at once, is a lower-priced option. It’ll be $25 to $150, but your pet’s ashes are not returned to you.
Step 3: Choose Your Guest List
Invite your friends and family to mourn with you — they’ll offer you the support you need.
You can also invite the professionals who helped you care for your dog. It’s easy to forget that other people are also invested in your pet. Do you have a dog walker or take your pet to doggy daycare? If so, these people also cared for your pet on a daily basis. They will also grieve for your pet. Help them through that process by inviting them to your dog’s funeral.
Veterinarians and their staff also get emotionally invested in our pets — they choose their profession because they care about animals and want to heal them and ease their pain. Invite your veterinarian and vet assistants in your vet’s practice to a weekend memorial service. Doing this also ensures that they know how much you valued their quality care. It may also help them get some closure of their own.
Step 4: Select a Funeral Location
The location of your dog’s funeral will depend almost entirely on the burial option you select. You can hold a graveside service if you inter your dog in a pet cemetery or bury your pet at home. You can hold a memorial service if you opt for cremation.
You might decide to scatter your dog’s ashes. In that case, you can choose a place that was special to you and your dog. This could be a dog park, a dog beach, or a hiking trail you liked to explore together. Be sure to check any state and local laws acquire any necessary permits before you scatter your dog’s ashes.
Step 5: Plan a Memorial Service
You might prefer to keep your dog’s burial private or scatter his or her ashes on your own. Even if you don’t invite people to the burial itself, you can still have a memorial service in honor of your pet. Here are some ideas for themes and activities for a dog memorial service:
- Butterfly release: Butterflies hold a lot of significance as a symbol in many cultures. In some cultures, butterflies are thought to represent a person’s soul. In Christianity, butterflies can represent resurrection. In other cultures, butterflies symbolize endurance, hope, and change.
- Share memories with loved ones: Invite your friends and family to tell stories about your dog. Friends from the dog park might share stories about how your giant dog was sweet and gentle with puppies. Your dog walker can talk about how she called your dog the “Social Director” because he seemed to know everyone in the neighborhood. Your neighbors might tell stories about how your dog was a notorious escape artist as a puppy. These stories can help everyone who’s grieving.
- Create a slideshow: You can pay homage to your dog by compiling some of your favorite photos into a digital slideshow. You can also make a playlist of songs that remind you of happy times with your dog and play it as the slideshow runs. Check out our guide for the best funeral songs if you need inspiration.
Dog Funeral FAQs
Have any lingering questions about planning a dog funeral? Here are some of the questions you might ask.
How much does a dog funeral usually cost?
There is a wide range of costs associated with a pet burial. Ultimately, how much you spend will come down to personal preference. Inexpensive burials usually involve mass cremation or a home burial.
These options can be as low as $25 for cremation and burial permits. An individual cremation can range between $200 and $700, depending on the size of your dog, but you will be able to get your dog’s ashes back.
A private burial at a pet cemetery starts around $1,500 and can cost up to several thousand dollars, depending on how much you want to invest in a casket or personalized headstone.
What should you say at a dog funeral?
When we lay people to rest, we deliver eulogies, give prayers, and share meaningful poems and prose. You can do the same thing for your dog. You can look through pet loss books to get inspiration, look up poems about dogs, or find prayers specifically for pets. You can also write something special to eulogize your dog in your own words.
How long should you wait to have the service?
If you’re having a graveside burial service, you’ll need to have a quick turnaround time for your dog’s funeral. Unlike funeral homes for humans, pet funeral homes do not embalm animals. You may be able to keep the body in a freezer for a while but it’s best to inter the body sooner rather than later.
You can take more time to plan out a funeral if you have a memorial service. Many people don’t feel ready to plan a service right away, but remember that it’s important for closure. Dragging it out too long can protract your grieving process. A few weeks to a month from the time of your pet’s death is the ideal timeframe for a memorial service or scattering ashes.
Do you have to dress your dog for the service?
If you aren’t someone who dressed your dog when your pet was alive, there’s no need to find special burial clothing. Funerals are about honoring your pets the way they were when they were alive. You could bury your dog with his or her favorite collar and tags, however.
If you did dress your dog, consider burying him or her in a favorite sweater or bow tie. Keep in mind that it’s best to choose clothing made of natural fibers that will naturally biodegrade.