The loss of a beloved dog is heart-breaking and never easy but as dog owners it is something we all know we will have to face one day. During a time of immense loss and grief, the last thing you want to do is have to make important decisions that you have not considered until now.
Instead of making a rushed decision, it is a good idea to think in advance about what you want to happen to your dog’s body after their death. There are three main options – cremation, burial or asking the vet to dispose of your pet’s body.
Which option you choose will largely be governed by personal preference, budget and the availability or practicalities of each option.
In this article we will look at the pros and cons of pet burial, cremation and vet disposal.
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Pet cremation is a popular option for a number of reasons. Cremation is a dignified and practical solution for human and pet remains. As cremation has grown in popularity, it should not be difficult to find a pet crematorium near you.
It is worth spending some time researching pet crematories to make sure the one you plan to use is operating legitimately and ethically. Over the years, media headlines have reported shocking cases of pet crematories callously disposing of pets bodies rather than actually cremating them. So take care and do your research, preferable in advance so you don’t feel pressured or rushed.
You also need to ask the crematorium if your pet will be cremated separately or with other pets and whether their ashes will be kept separate. Don’t expect an individual pet cremation unless the facility specifically says that is what will happen. If in doubt it is always best to ask.
Pet ashes are of course portable, so your beloved dog can go with you if you move house. You can buy a beautiful pet urn to keep all or part of your dog’s ashes, scatter the rest or even put a small portion of ashes into a treasured keepsake urn or a lovely item of ashes jewellery.
Scattering of ashes
If you don’t want to keep the ashes in an urn, your pet’s ashes can be scattered or buried. As long as you own the land or have permission, this is no problem at all. Or how about a sea burial. Scattering ashes at sea is always poignant and no permission is required. Another lovely idea is a green space that your dog loved but please be discrete and mindful if using a public space. Technically, parks and beaches require permission. Please check the laws for your country and the area.
Choose a calm weather day for the ashes scattering. Strong wind will not be your friend. If there is a breeze, check its direction before scattering the ashes.
Burial at home
When I was growing up, this was the only option available, apart from disposal by the vet. All our pets were buried in the garden and it is something I have continued to do to this day.
If you have a garden then a home burial is a budget friendly (free) option and it is also a private and deeply personal moment. If you are in rented accommodation then you can’t bury a pet there. Home burial is only permitted if you own the property.
Make sure that you have adequate space available for the grave, away from any wells, ponds, pipes or other water sources. The grave needs to be deep to be safe from scavengers and any unpleasant smells or accidental uncovering. A grave at least 4-5 foot deep is best, if not more, and definitely not less than 3-4 feet deep for a standard / medium sized dog.
Bury your dog in something degradable like a cardboard coffin or a blanket. Do not bury your pet in anything that stops their body from decomposing naturally. Wrapping your pet in anything that is slow to degrade and/or air tight e.g. a plastic bag or bin bag, is to be avoided. If you don’t have a blanket or cardboard coffin, don’t worry. You don’t actually need to bury your dog in anything, but I always like to carefully wrap my dogs in a blanket for burial.
A major point to bear in mind when deciding on a home burial is what will happen if you decide to move house. As long as your pet is buried deeply and discretely, this should not be a problem for any new owners but how will you feel leaving your pet’s remains behind?
If you move and decide you want to take your buried pets with you, it can be tricky but not impossible. If your dog has been buried for about 2 years and was not buried in anything that would have slowed the natural decomposition process, you will probably only have bones to excavate, which you may feel you can handle. But a dog buried for less than 1-2 years or buried in something that slowed decomposition, you may have more upsetting remains to deal with.
There are pet crematoriums who offer a professional pet exhumation service. After exhumation, they will offer you the choice of burial in your new garden or cremation of the remains. Pet exhumations are not generally a lengthy process but you may want to get some quotes as it is not likely to be cheap.
If you don’t have your own garden but you would like to bury your dog’s ashes or body, you can consider purchasing a plot at a pet cemetery.
This can be really beautiful but it is a long term commitment, like any grave site. It is a good idea to choose a pet cemetery that is near to where you live or at least has an acceptable journey time, and that has a pleasing setting for your dog’s final resting place.
Do check the fees involved before agreeing to this option. There is likely to be an initial one-off fee followed by an annual ‘maintenance’ fee, so it is a long term commitment.
Dealt with at the vets
Medical disposal is an option if you can’t or don’t want to choose cremation or burial of your pet. If your vet euthanised your dog, they will usually offer to deal with their body for you. There is unlikely to be an extra fee if it a simple disposal. Generally a medical disposal of the body will be functional and basic. If you find this easier or you have no other option then this is a fuss free solution.
Many people worry about this. They may feel that their pet didn’t get a good send-off. However your dog’s body is dealt with, you can always carry out a funeral or passing ceremony.
This is a lovely way to honour your pet and a funeral or ceremony can really help with feelings of loss and grief. Your pet’s funeral can be any kind of send-off that you choose. Popular ideas are to read a poem, plant a shrub or tree or place a memorial ornament or statue in a special place.
Children can especially benefit from a nice send-off of a beloved pet. Encourage them to do drawings, write a letter or poem to the pet or each take it in turns to mention a happy memory.
Whatever send-off you choose for your pet, I wish you strength and smiles. As hard as saying goodbye is, the wonderful time spent with our pets is always worth it.
To all the doggies who have passed – Run Free!
Author Jenny Prevel, D for Dog
Jenny Prevel is a lifelong animal lover and dog owner. She grew up with dogs, cats, pigs, chickens and rabbits, to name a few. Wanting to help dogs in her adult life, Jenny started adopting needy rescue dogs in 2003. After adopting a deaf dog and wanting to share what she had learnt, Jenny started her website D for Dog in 2004 and has helped many dog owners by writing articles on a number of topics including pet loss and end of life, dog adoption, dog care and health issues.
Jenny shares her life with her husband Paul and their three-legged German Shepherd Zena who they adopted as a neglect case.
D for Dog www.dfordog.co.uk