What Are Your Options When A Pet Dies?

Losing a pet is difficult regardless of the circumstances, but the sad simple fact is that pets live shorter lives compared to their human companions. At the end of a faithful pet’s life, we may feel relief that they are no longer burdened by pain and suffering. If your pet passes away, or is euthanized, at a veterinarian’s office, the veterinarian can assist you with making arrangements for your pet.

But if your pet passes away at home or unexpectedly, you may be too devastated to know what to do or who to call. There are a number of options, depending on what you want done with your pet’s remains.

A licensed veterinarian will be able to help you determine the best option for you after the death of your pet. If you don’t have an established relationship with a veterinarian, you can find one using the license search on the California Veterinary Medical Board’s website.

Home burial

Some people want to have their pet buried at home as a means of keeping them close, but many municipalities have laws that govern whether you are permitted to do so. Check with your city or county before burying your pet’s remains on your property.

When burying a pet at home, remove any non-biodegradable material such as a collar. You can use your pet’s blanket as a burial shroud or place your pet in a wooden or cardboard box or casket. The burial plot should be at least 3 feet deep. You may want to plant a tree or shrub over the plot to memorialize your pet, or place a grave marker, but make sure you are not burying the body in a place that is likely to erode or be dug up again.

Cemetery burial

Pet cemeteries are found in many parts of the state, and the knowledge that your pet’s remains will be undisturbed and well cared for is a comforting thought. A formal cemetery burial may seem more fitting than a backyard burial. Your veterinarian may be able to make recommendations for a suitable pet cemetery, but like a cemetery for people, it can be an expensive option.


Your veterinarian may be able to make arrangements on your behalf to have your pet’s remains cremated, or you can contact a pet crematory on your own. In the pet cremation process, your pet’s body will be exposed to temperatures in excess of 1500 degrees. Organic matter is reduced to ash, which can then be scattered or preserved in a sealed container.

Pet crematories typically offer two types of cremation services.

  • Communal cremation: your pet is cremated at the same time as other pets. Typically, you will not receive ashes; instead they will be scattered by the crematory.
  • Private Cremation: your pet is cremated alone, and ashes are returned to you in a sealed container.

Some crematories may offer a witness cremation service, for those who wish to witness the initial stages of their pet’s cremation.

Options offered by your municipality

Your local animal control district may offer disposal services at no charge or for a fee. Some municipalities will allow the disposal of small animals with refuse pickup.

Managing grief

After the loss of a furry friend, it may take time to adjust to the loss of your pet. Your pet meant a lot to you, and whether your pet’s death was unexpected or not, it’s natural to feel sadness or grief.

Children and seniors may find it particularly difficult to deal with their grief. Surviving pets may also be distressed. The Humane Society offers tips to help you and your loved ones cope with the loss of your pet.

You may also consider speaking with a mental health professional. You can check the license status of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors at the Department of Consumer Affairs’ license search page.


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