Your Dog Died: What Should You Do Now?

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Losing a pet is never easy. Pets are a part of the family. When they pass on, this is an emotional time. When you combine this with the challenge of planning for your dog’s death and what comes after, it’s downright intimidating. 

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Do you know what to do if your dog dies? While this is a question nobody wants to ask, it’s essential to prepare for the inevitable. In this guide, we’ll share exactly what you should do if your dog dies and how to make proper arrangements. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed during this difficult time. 

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What You Should Do If Your Dog Died at Home

If your dog dies under your veterinarian's care, they take care of what comes next. However, if your dog dies at home, you’ll need to know what steps to take. A pet passing away at home is always challenging. It can be a comfort to remember that your beloved pet passed away where he or she was most comfortable, amongst family.

It’s important to take action as soon as possible after your pet passes. You have several options for handling the body and honoring your pet’s memory. Follow these steps below if your dog passes away at home. 

1. Check on your pet

If the death was sudden, it’s important to start by assessing your dog. Feel for your pet’s heartbeat and contact your veterinarian right away if you have any doubts. You might need to perform CPR or other first aid. 

2. Call your vet

Once you’ve assessed the situation, call your vet. The veterinarian knows all of the options available in your area. Because your pet’s body will need to be stored somewhere cold, like a freezer, they can keep the pet temporarily while you make arrangements.  

3. Make a decision

Finally, it’s time to make a decision. How would you like to handle the body? What type of service or memorial do you want for your dog, if any? It’s common to opt for a pet burial or pet cremation

You might also host a small service with close family and friends to honor the life of your beloved pet. This is entirely up to you. Consider what you’re comfortable with and take action. 

Making Arrangements for Your Dog’s Body

After the death of your dog, you also need to make arrangements for the body. Again, your vet is an excellent resource on what options are available in your area. Many services can handle things like cremation and burials for you. There are even pet cemeteries. Here’s how to make arrangements for your dog’s body. 

Handling the body

Though it’s not pleasant to talk about, you need to know how to handle your pet’s body after death. All animal’s bodies (yes, even humans) decompose immediately after death. The body will begin to smell and attract insects or other pests. The joints will stiffen within 3 hours after death. 

You want to handle your pet with as much care and dignity as possible. You also need to protect your health and your home. If you’re not confident with handling the body, contact your vet or another specialist to take care of this for you. 

Follow these body handling safety tips:

  • Always wear gloves to protect your skin
  • Wrap the body in a blanket, towel, or sheet
  • If possible, bag the body with thick plastic
  • Label the remains for the cremation or burial service
  • Store the remains in a freezer or refrigerated area until cremation or burial

Always be careful when handling your pet’s body. When in doubt, contact your vet. It’s surprising just how quickly death affects the body. Take action quickly after your dog passes to ensure the process is as simple as possible. 

Cremation

Cremation is a popular way to lay your pet to rest. It works very similar to how it does for humans. You can even keep your pet’s ashes in an urn or other memorabilia. The cremation is done in a specific pet ceremony or a typical crematory for both humans and pets. 

Once you’ve received your pet’s ashes, you can keep them, bury them, or scatter them. Pet cremations, in particular, offer many services that help pet owners. There are private ceremonies for cremating your pet alone. Private cremation allows you to keep the ashes separate from other pets. 

Finally, pet crematoriums usually scatter the ashes for you at your request, if that would help you through the grieving process. For help finding the right crematory for your needs, contact your veterinarian.

Burial

Aside from cremation, you can also bury your dog. Again, there are pet cemeteries specifically for furry friends. Each cemetery will have its own rules. Most require you to bury your pet in a casket. These are similar to human caskets, though they’re typically simpler in design. You are welcome to host a small memorial service or funeral at the pet cemetery. This is a great way to bring peace to yourself and your loved ones. 

Depending on where you live, you might also be able to bury your pet at home. Many people choose to bury their dogs at home to keep their memories close. However, you’ll need to check local laws about whether this is legal or possible. Contact your country sanitarian or a county attorney to determine if you’re able to bury a pet on your own property. 

If you do decide to bury a pet on your own yard, make sure it’s free from pipes or utility lines. Contact your utility provider for help with this. Finally, be sure to dig a deep grave for your dog. As animals decompose, their bodies release gasses. Since you don’t want other animals to dig up at the gravesite, make sure your hole is several feet deep. 

Finally, adorn the grave with a headstone or any other memorial items. Many pet owners find peace in planting flowers or marking the space with a rock. 

Memorial service or funeral

A memorial service or funeral for your dog is a way to overcome the grief of losing a pet. It’s a chance to say goodbye to your beloved pet once more. Whether you choose cremation or burial, you can host your own service at the pet cemetery or with the ashes. 

Taking the time to say a few words about your furry friend brings peace in a time of pain. Surround yourself with those who love and support you. Read a written tribute to your dog, share your favorite stories, and let yourself experience those beloved memories.

Managing Sadness and Grief After Your Dog Dies

It’s normal to feel grief and sadness after the loss of a pet. Your dog was a part of your life. These memories live on even after your pet’s death. It’s important to learn how to manage your feelings after the passing of a beloved pet. 

Create a pet tribute

Creating a pet tribute in your own home keeps these memories of your furry friend alive. How you honor your pet is up to you. Here are some ideas that are easy to do:

  • Frame a photo of your pet
  • Commission a painting or artist rendition of your dog
  • Hang your dog’s collar or leash on display
  • Display a pet urn in your home

Read about loss

Though these feelings feel impossible to overcome at times, you will overcome this grief. For help, read pet loss books. Learning about other’s experiences overcoming grief helps you feel less alone in a time of crisis. 

Make a donation

Finally, what better way to honor your furry friend than with a donation? Give your time or money to other pets in need. Whether you give to a local animal shelter or walk dogs on the weekend, giving back is the best way to feel better. Look for ways to give to animals in your own community. 

Write a eulogy

Finally, write a eulogy for your dog. While we commonly think of eulogies being only for humans, this doesn’t have to be the case. Writing a dog eulogy about the life and impact of your dog brings you comfort. This is a chance to share what your dog meant to you. Post your eulogy online or on social media to share your love. Your memory of your dog will live on in your words.

How to Handle Your Dog’s Death 

Losing a pet is one of the hardest experiences one can have. Dogs are part of the family. They have their own personalities, and they make an impact on our lives. If your dog passes away, it’s hard to know what comes next. 

This guide above explains everything you should do after the death of your pet. From handling the body safely to memorializing your furry friend, you don’t have to take these next steps alone. The best way to overcome the pain of losing a pet is to prepare yourself. Planning for the future and creating your own emergency pet care plan is a must for every pet owner. 

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