Laying Your Pet to Rest: Dog Cremation or Burial?

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Dog cremation ashes on mantelAfter your pet passes on, taking care of their remains is the last thing you want to think about. So it’s best to prepare yourself by knowing your options, and maybe even making your choice, beforehand. This article discusses the two main options for taking care of your dog’s remains: cremation and burial.

The Dog Cremation Process

With more pet owners choosing cremation over burial — partly due to city ordinances in urban communities — cremation has become more affordable and easier than ever. The process of cremation is where your pet is placed in a chamber that is heated to 1400-1800 degrees and the heat reduces your pet’s remains to basic calcium compounds that we call ashes.

After cooling, the remains are removed from the chamber and are either placed in an urn (or other container) and given back to the owner, or are disposed of accordingly. Whether or not you’d like to take your pet’s ashes home with you depends on the type of cremation you’ll choose. Your budget plays a role here, as well.

Dog Cremation Types

There are three main types of pet cremation: private, semi-private and communal. Though terms may vary, the principles are the same.

Private Cremation

Just like it sounds, this choice ensures that your pet will be alone in the cremation chamber, and that the ashes you receive after the procedure is over, are your pet’s alone. Prices for a private dog cremation range from $200-$400 depending on the size of the dog.

Viewing Cremation

Not always available, a viewing cremation allows family to be present during the process in a separate viewing room. Otherwise the same as a private cremation.

Semi-Private Cremation

Also called a “partitioned” cremation, this option places multiple pets in the same chamber. Though they each have their own partition, co-mingling of ashes does occur. Note: In some places this process is considered a “Private” cremation so be sure to clarify this beforehand if you don’t want to risk your dog’s ashes mingling with others. In fact, many do not offer this service at all so it is crucial to make sure you are getting what you want at the price you expect. Prices range from $175-$250.

Communal Cremation

This option is also known as “Mass” or “Batch” cremation and places multiple animals in the same chamber with no form of separation. No urn is returned to the pet owner in this situation. Prices range from $50-$150.

Dog Cremation Questions

Understandably, you have a lot of questions surrounding your pet’s after care. No matter who you choose to perform this service for your pet, be sure you ask these questions, and that you’re satisfied with the answers before you move forward.

Who Will Perform The Dog Cremation?

Many vets can perform cremation services, however, there are crematories that cater just to pets. The pet crematory industry is not highly regulated, though, so if you choose to use an outside service, be sure you use a recommended company and ask them lots of questions about their practices. We recommend searching for an accredited member of the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance. When you’re determining services for your loved one, you can never have too much information or reassurance.

How Long Does it Take?

As this is a non-regulated industry, there is no standard time period because every place is different. Many factors will determine the time frame including how far your pet has to travel to have this service performed. When you’re looking into this process for you and your dog, be sure to ask this question so you’re not stressed if the process takes several weeks instead of several days.

How can I be sure the ashes I’m receiving are actually my dog’s?

Whether you’re using your vet or a cremation service, ask them how, and what system they use to track the animals. Ultimately, it comes down to trust. Trusting the individual or organization you use to perform this service for you is key.

Home Burial

If the cremation route is not for you and you’d prefer to bury your pup at home, first make sure the law allows it. (In some urban areas, it’s actually illegal to bury your pet on your own property and you’ll need to contact the city to find the best way to dispose of the body.) If you do opt for home burial, make sure you bury your dog at least three feet deep in an area that’s likely to be largely undisturbed, and wrap the body in bio-degradable material. A stone or marker at the site is a great way to memorialize your pet, and also to let others know that the site is sacred.

Preparation

Before you begin the burial service there are some things you’ll want to do. If you’d like to put your dog to rest in a more peaceful position, be aware that rigor mortis starts to set in around 3 hours. At that point it can be tough to put your dog into the position you want

Choosing a Container

There are many containers to choose from to lay your dog to rest. Coffins can be specifically made to fit your dog and the burial can be an experience in which the whole family participates, in remembrance of your beloved dog. If a coffin is not in your budget, there are other options depending on the size of your pet.

Small Pets

  • Lunch box
  • Cigar box
  • Matchbox
  • Shoebox
  • Tupperware
  • Jewelry container
  • Sunglasses container

Medium Pets

  • Cardboard box
  • Hat box
  • Laundry basket
  • Wicker basket

Large Pets

    • Barrel
    • Chest
    • Wooden Crate
    • Trunk Tote

Precautions

There are some basic precautions you need to take when burying your dog. You always want to be careful of any diseases, even if you don’t think your dog has any. Here are some tips on how to handle your deceased dog’s remains:

  • Wear protective clothing or old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. If you plan on wearing the clothes again, you should scrub them with soap, detergent or bleach after the burial.
  • Wear disposable gloves and a protective mask. The mask is to prevent you from inhaling fungal spores.
  • Do not eat or drink while handling the remains or near them.
  • Double bag any soiled items in garbage bags and safely dispose of them.
  • See a physician if you feel ill after exposure to the remains.

Refrigeration

If you’d like to bury your dog, but are unable to due to weather (snow) or some other event, you’ll need to refrigerate the remains. Be sure to place the body in an airtight, well-labeled container. If small enough, place the container in the refrigerator or another cold location. It is not necessary to freeze the body; however, if the body is too large to place in the refrigerator and you only have space in the freezer you may do this. I suggest that if you are unable to bury the body for an extended period of time that you look into cremation. It is difficult to say goodbye to a pet and move on if you are unable to lay her to rest for weeks or even months.

Burial in a Pet Cemetery

The final, and most expensive, option is to have your pet laid to rest in a pet cemetery. This option might appeal to you if you would like to have a sacred site to visit to remember your beloved pet, but you just can’t bring yourself to cope with the home burial process. This is also something to consider if you are in a rental property or an area that does not allow home burial. Pet cemeteries offer a wide range of products and services including providing caskets, headstones, and burial site maintenance. Some will even perform a memorial service for you and your family to attend. Costs and available services vary widely by location, so you will want to inquire in your local area.

Sara is a writer for Canine Journal. She adores dogs and recently adopted a rescue pup named Beamer. Whole she may be adjusting to life with another being to care for, she needed no time to adjust to all the extra love.

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4 Comments on "Laying Your Pet to Rest: Dog Cremation or Burial?"

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Jade haase
Jade haase
My dog died yesterday and I’m traumatized because she was hit by a car and nobody was home so I called my dad and he said he would be their right away.. I carried her a mile I would do anything for that puppy
Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt
I’m so sorry for your loss Jade. Losing a dog is not easy, they become our best friends and family. Our thoughts are with you during this time.
Olivia
Olivia
My dog was put down on Thursday. I got home from school to find out my dog had been put down. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. My family didn’t want his ashes. Where do they go if you don’t want them?
Kimberly Alt
Kimberly Alt
I’m so sorry for your loss Olivia. Depending on the facility that cremated your dog will determine what is done with his ashes. Various things can be done. If you want to know for sure, you can call and ask what they do with them. I know it’s difficult but try to remember the good times with your dog and he knows that you loved him very much. Our thoughts are with you at this time.
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