Final Care of Your Pet's Body

Facing the death of your pet is sad and stressful; having to decide what to do with the body often adds to the anxiety.  For this reason, it's best to explore options available for the final care of your pet's body before their death.  If your pet dies before you can make arrangements, most veterinary hospitals can keep your pet's body for a few days while you consider the options. As emotionally draining as the decision can be, it helps to know that there are several alternatives depending on practical, legal, financial, emotional, and spiritual considerations.

Like many caregivers, you may prefer to leave the decision to your veterinarian or animal shelter, or you may select home burial, burial at a pet cemetery, or cremation. The following information will help you better understand what's available so that you can make the decision that's best for you.

Can I Bury My Pet in a Cemetery?

You can bury your pet in a cemetery created specifically for beloved pets. Pet cemeteries offer a wide range of burial and cremation choices to fit your needs; they perform the duties and services of both a funeral home and cemetery. To locate one, look in the Yellow Pages under "Pet Cemeteries & Crematories." Veterinary clinics and humane societies may also operate pet cemeteries and crematories.

How Do Cemeteries Bury Pets?

Pets can be buried either in a private plot or in a communal plot. In a private burial, a pet's remains are separately prepared and placed in an individual grave site, crypt, or mausoleum.  In a common or communal burial, a pet is buried in the same plot with other deceased pets. Cemeteries that do not provide individual gravestones for pets buried in a communal plot often provide a memorial wall affixed with plaques honoring those pets.

What Does Cremation Entail?

Cremation has become a popular and practical option for handling the bodies of deceased pets. Cremated remains, called "cremains," resemble sand-like particles or small pebbles with larger chips of bone.  These may be placed in a small urn which you can keep close by and take with you if you move. Cremains can also be buried or scattered in a special section of land set aside by a cemetery.  Depending on local government regulations, you can also scatter or bury cremains in a meaningful place, perhaps under a tree planted to memorialize your pet.

Before selecting an animal crematory, find out the cremation procedures.  Many animal crematories do mass cremations and then divide the ashes.  What this means is that if you don't request an individual cremation, you may receive the cremains of other pets in addition to those of your own. We do NOT do this. Our cremations are always private with the only exception being for multiple pets from the same owner and only at the owner's request. 

Is Home Burial an Option?

Check with your city or county government to see whether burying pets in yards is legal in your area.  If you choose to bury your pet at home, put the body in a heavy-duty plastic bag, encase it in a secure receptacle such as a wood or metal box, and bury it at least three feet deep.  This helps prevent other animals from being attracted by the scent and digging at the grave site.  Home burials allow caregivers to be near their pet's remains but this option may not be suitable if you move frequently.

Regardless of which method you ultimately select, your pet will always be close to your heart.