The death of a beloved pet is never easy. They’re our family members, and we know them intimately. When a dog passes away, it feels like losing a best friend or a child. So, it’s only natural to wonder what vets do with dead dogs after they pass away.
Your pup may have passed on the operating table, or maybe you found your dog at home and wanted to leave the details up to the vet. No matter the circumstances, it will bring your peace of mind to know what happens to your dog after he dies.
In this guide, we’re going to look at what you should do if you find your dog deceased and what a vet will do with the body of your deceased pet should you choose that route.
Before you read this guide, “What Do Vets Do With Dead Dogs,” check out: What Is the Pancreatitis Death Rate for Dogs? Vet Advice. (2023) and When To Put Down a Dog With Seizures? Vet Advice! (2023).
What Do Vets Do With Dead Dogs?
For the sake of clarity, we’ll assume that your dog died while at the vet. Perhaps he was sick or undergoing anesthesia. Whatever the case, your dog’s vet has reported that your dog didn’t make it through. What happens next?
Your Vet Will Inform You
If your pup passes away in the vet’s care, their first responsibility is to call you. It’s not an easy phone call to make, and both vets and vet techs have said that that call doesn’t get any easier.
When she calls, your vet will ask you whether you prefer to bury or cremate your dog. The choice is yours; we’ll help you weigh your options a little later in this guide.
Your Vet Will Prepare Your Pet
If you decide to receive your deceased dog back into your care, your vet will take steps to ensure that your pup is ready for you. He will clean and sterilize the dog, and he will glue your pup’s eyes closed. This isn’t cruel; to the contrary, it makes the transition easier for you.
An Autopsy May Be Performed
If the cause of death of your dog is unknown, and if you agree to or request it, an autopsy may be performed on your dog. This will help to determine the cause of death and will rule out contagious diseases and the like.
Please keep in mind that a post-mortem examination requires the surgical opening of your dog. He will likely not be returned to you for burial if this is an option you’ve chosen to proceed with.
If You’ve Chosen Cremation, Your Vet Will Cremate Your Dog
Sometimes owners don’t — or can’t — choose to bury their own pet. Pet parents who live in apartments, for instance, may simply have no land to do so. Therefore, they opt for cremation.
In most cases, your veterinarian will cremate your dog alongside other animals. If you’ve requested to receive your dog’s ashes, note that they may not be the ashes of your dog, specifically.
If you’re adamant that you want only your dog’s ashes to spread, keep, or bury, speak to your vet prior to the procedure. A private crematory may be necessary.
If You’ve Chosen Burial, Your Dog Will Be Returned to You
If you have a plot of land on which you’d like your dog to be buried, or if you’ve chosen to cremate your pet through a third-party, your dog will be returned to you.
Usually, your vet will have curled your dog into a sleeping position to avoid cumbersome travel after rigor mortis. He or she will be wrapped in a blanket and will have been placed in a box.
Talk to your vet about what’s necessary for your dog’s transport, and how your pup has been prepared. Sometimes it will be advisable to transport your pup in a box to avoid leakage of body fluids onto your vehicle.
Cremation Versus Burial — Which to Choose
What do vets do with dead dogs? Well, in many ways, that question will be answered with your input. Unless your dog has been cremated or has been in an accident that’s caused his body to require cremation, your vet will let you choose whether you bury or cremate your animal.
So which should you choose? There are pros and cons to both. Let’s take a look at cremation versus burial to help you make that tough decision.
Cremating Your Pet
Individual cremation of a dog will cost between $50 and $150 in most cases.
Remember we mentioned that your vet will likely cremate animals together? If this is undesirable to you, you can have your dog cremated — usually through a third-party service — on his own. This way, you can ensure you only receive your pet’s ashes, not the ashes of other pets that have also been cremated.
If you allow your vet to cremate your dog, fees will vary and some vets will even offer the service for free. Remember, of course, the inherent risk that you’ll carry home someone else’s pet in an urn.
It’s estimated that over 90 percent of pets are cremated, so if this is the best option, you’re in good company. It’s affordable and eco-friendly, and you’ll have the opportunity to keep your pet’s ashes in your home or spread them in a special place.
Burying Your Pet
Around 10 percent of pets are buried, and most are buried on family property. If you have space in your yard for a memorial for your dog, this may be a good option for you.
You’ll need to check local guidelines and laws regarding burial before you begin to dig. In some cases, you may not be permitted to bury your pet — for instance, the burial may be illegal within city limits.
In addition to checking your local regulations, you’ll need to find an appropriate place to bury your dog. Check for the location of cable, sewer, water, and electric lines before you dig. Ensure the burial site is deep enough not to attract animals. And, if possible, choose a location that’s not subject to flooding.
Burial is free, of course, with the exception of any charges you may have incurred at the vet for preparing your pet. And, as long as you choose a biodegradable box or casket, burial is also eco-conscious.
Alternatives to Pet Burial or Cremation
Let’s say you’re not fond of the idea of your pet’s ashes intermingling with others, but you don’t have space to bury your pet in your own yard. What, then, should you do with a dog that’s deceased?
Well, there are alternatives to burial or cremation you can consider.
In your locality, pet cemeteries may exist. Search “pet burial grounds” on Google to find locations near you. The cost of a burial plot will vary widely from graveyard to graveyard and will be partially determined by the size of your pet. However, you can expect to pay between $400 and $600 for a plot.
Burying your animal in a pet cemetery is a wonderful option for those who wish to visit their pet’s resting place from time to time. You can be all but assured that your dog won’t be disturbed and that the groundskeepers will care for your pet.
Taxidermy is a pricier option than burial or cremation, but it’s certainly an option. You can expect a bill of upwards of $5,000 if you choose to go this route.
Taxidermy isn’t for everyone. Some people cringe at the thought of a life-sized, still version of the pet they loved so dearly. But for others, it’s a comforting option that brings them peace.
Check reviews of taxidermists before you commit. Countless horror stories of taxidermy gone wrong have appeared across the internet. Interview your taxidermist and check out his previous work before you bring your pet in to be preserved.
Cryomation or Resomation
The result of both of these services is ashes — so you’ll still be able to spread your pup’s ashes in a place you both loved. But cryomation and resomation rely on less energy and are more eco-friendly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do vets do with dead dogs? Now that you know a little more about what happens to your dog after death, you may have some final questions before you decide what to do with your pet.
Unfortunately, the death of a dog is often unpredictable, and with this uncertainty comes unexpected costs. If you can’t afford to cremate your pet, and you have nowhere to bury your dog on your property, your options may be limited.
In most cases, your best course of action is to bring your dog to a shelter. Call first, of course, and ask whether they can include your dog in a group cremation. You may or may not receive your dog’s ashes back, but there is usually just a small donation or no fee required.
This entirely depends upon your preferences. If you’d like to have your dog cremated along with other pets, cremation is a low-cost option. Should you desire to have your pup individually cremated, you can expect to pay a little more.
Burial is commonly free when you choose a spot in your woods or your backyard unless you choose a casket or coffin. A pet cemetery will cost more; expect a bill of up to $1,000 or so.
Losing a pet is never easy. Whether it was expected or accidental, you’ll go through a wide range of emotions before you’re able to accept the death of your beloved dog.
If you find yourself struggling, contact support groups in your area. The ASPCA has a dedicated pet loss support line — you can call this number at 877-GRIEF-10 to find a local group near you, or just to talk to someone who understands. Take care of yourself. It gets better.
Conclusion for “What Do Vets Do With Dead Dogs”
If you’ve lost a pet, you’re likely overcome with grief. It may be difficult for you to decide what to do with your sweet dog after death. Your vet will walk you through the process, but the final decision is ultimately yours to make.
We’ve discussed the options available to you, and have covered the pros and cons of each. Much of your decision will be based on the resources available to you locally and your budget.
Whatever you decide, we hope you find peace after the death of your dog. It’s never easy, but remember that there are support groups and resources available to help you through this tough time.
If you find this guide, “What Do Vets Do With Dead Dogs” helpful, check out:
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Learn more by watching “What To Do When Your Pet Dies…” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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