Experiencing the loss of a pet is never easy. Few things compare to the level of hurt and pain that comes with it. These emotions can become even more overwhelming when you are faced with the sudden death of a pet at home and there is unfortunately no one around who is trained to handle the situation.
We understand this sort of situation is something no one can be prepared for; it is absolutely common to find ourselves paralyzed in fear, faced with a million questions running through our heads as we go through an event of this nature.
What should you do with your pet’s body? Who do you call? How long do you have until the body starts to decompose?
These are all common questions that come to mind as we face the hard truth that our beloved pet has passed away.
In this guide, we hope to provide you with answers to some of the most common questions you may have as you prepare to say your final goodbye to your beloved friend. Our hope is for this guide to provide you with compassionate and thoughtful solutions to help ease you through the process.
When a pet is euthanized or simply passes away at the vet’s office, the situation is typically straightforward and clear. The doctor quickly instructs you that your pet has passed away and unfortunately, nothing else can be done. However, this is not necessarily the case when a pet dies at home. Such an event may leave you devastated and confused as to whether your pet is simply in need of urgent care or if it has already passed away.
In a situation like this, you’ll want to quickly take your pet’s pulse, check for any breathing signs, and administer CPR if necessary until your pet arrives at the vet’s office. If you have checked for all of these signs and are confident that your pet has passed away, you will probably still want to have a veterinarian take a look at your pet to officially make the call of their passing. A veterinarian will be able to perform a proper examination to determine if there is truly nothing else that can be done, and confirm that your pet has in fact already passed. They can also help you with the burial process if you so choose, by connecting you to a reputable pet cemetery or help arrange the disposal of the body themselves.
After addressing your pet’s condition and confirming their passing, you’ll be prompted to decide how you would prefer for your pet’s body to be handled. Keep in mind that bodies begin to decompose immediately after death, and it therefore typically takes only ten minutes for a decomposing body to begin giving off odors.
If you are not at a vet’s office when your pet has passed, and need time to process the situation and ultimately decide how you would like to handle your beloved pet’s body, you will want to find a container to properly store the body in the meantime, until it can be buried or cremated. If you do not place the body in cold storage after it has already begun decomposing, the body will create an overpowering smell that is hard to eliminate after. Thankfully, some pet cemeteries do offer 24/7 services that can help you if the event of your pet’s passing were to happen suddenly, in the middle of the night or on a holiday. You can also call your local animal control as they can guide you on what to do and will typically take care of the disposal of the body for you at an affordable cost.
Once it comes time for the handling or burying of the body, there are a few things to keep in mind:
No matter where you decide to bury your beloved pet, whether at home, a pet cemetery, or any meaningful place to you, make sure to dig a grave that is at least three feet deep or more, depending on your pet’s size. This will help prevent any hazardous event of the body potentially coming up to the surface. Keep in mind that if you wish to bury the body on your own property, some cities require a permit to do so. Always consult with your local authority to avoid future issues from popping up and to ensure you that you are acting in accordance with local regulations.
When handling the body of your deceased pet, make sure to wear gloves and proper gear. When a pet dies, the left-behind body tends to automatically empty its bowels which can cause you to come in contact with its bodily fluids. Proper protection should help you prevent the contraction of or exposure to any infectious diseases. Once you are ready to move the body, try wrapping it in a blanket or plastic bag as gently as possible.
As mentioned above, you might want to consider freezing the body as you ultimately decide how you would like to be handled. Although this is recommended, you should never freeze the body if you plan to have an autopsy done as it could alter the results. In the case that no freezer is available or an autopsy is necessary, consider wrapping the body in multiple plastic bags to minimize the smell.
Is important to keep calm when faced with an event like this. Thankfully there are many resources available to help you through the process and disposal of the body. Consider asking someone to be there with you who you trust to help you cope with the situation. Ultimately, you’ll be asked to decide whether you want to cremate or bury the body. You can always opt to bury your beloved pet at home or a pet cemetery, and if you do prefer your pet to be cremated, you’ll have the option to choose between communal or individual cremation.
Just remember that there is no one perfect route to follow when deciding how to dispose of your pet’s remains. However you choose to proceed, nothing will change the event that has just ensued of your pet’s passing or cause further harm to your beloved friend. The important thing is for you to find the right support and resources to help you cope with your loss, and accept that experiencing a period of grieving is normal and expected as you mourn your beloved companion’s death.