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How To Deal With The Death Of Your Dog


Last Updated: February 28, 2024 | 5 min read | 1,143 Comments

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Dog grave (caption: How To Deal With Dog Death)

Your pets are a part of your family and losing them can be emotionally devastating. If you or someone you know recently lost a canine companion, we offer you our most sincere condolences. We’ve been there and understand the pain you’re feeling right now.

Here are some strategies and insights to help you work through this difficult time.

Article Overview

The Grief Process

Everyone deals with grief in different ways. Strong initial emotions may preclude the inevitable sadness that comes when the shock is gone. These reactions are often taken out on those closest to the one experiencing the loss and act almost as a means of protection for that person until they are able to face the truth.

Two girls hugging

The process, as a whole, may look like the following:

  1. Denial and/or anger
  2. Guilt
  3. Sadness and/or grief
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Dealing With Your Grief

While grieving is a very individual and personal thing, there comes a time for us all when it’s best to stop feeling the loss and to actively choose to move past it. The right time for you won’t necessarily be the same as for someone else. Depending on how long it takes you to move through denial and get to acceptance, it could take weeks or it could take years for you to become ready to deal with your grief. When you are ready, however, you don’t have to face it alone.

Where Can I Get Support?

Aside from willing family and/or friends, there are entire communities of people who feel just like you and want to connect. Types of support include:

  • Pet-bereavement counseling
  • Pet-loss support hotlines
  • Online and/or local pet-loss support groups and forums

If sitting down for a one-on-one with an actual counselor or even getting up the nerve to attend a local support group proves too much at this point in your process, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary medicine offers a toll-free Pet Loss Support Hotline for grieving parties.

Personally Facing Death

While outside support is an important tool for coping with your grief, there are some things that a support group can’t do for you — you have to do them for yourself. Here are a few things that you can do on your own to help on your path to recovery:

  • Girl kissing dogAcknowledge your sadness, embrace it, and give yourself permission to feel and express this pain! It’s a vital part of the healing process.
  • Write out your feelings. Whether it’s in a personal journal or an essay on Fido that you submit for publication, writing is extremely cathartic.
  • Volunteer with a local animal shelter. While this may be best left for the later stages of grief, just like helping other people helps you forget your own problems, helping other animals may help you move past your loss.
  • Prepare a memorial for your pet. The act of having a service, saying a few words, and laying your pup to rest can help give you the closure you need.

Dealing With Reality

Beyond your grief lies reality: Whether you’re having to make the tough decision to euthanize your sick or aging pet, or if your pet is already gone and you’re having to deal with the memorial and burial or cremation arrangements, the reality of these situations can come crashing down on you like a ton of bricks.

This can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn. We’ll walk you through these separate scenarios so you can confidently cope with whatever comes your way throughout the process.

Dog Euthanasia

As your pet ages, or in the event that your otherwise healthy pup should become unexplainably ill or injured beyond recovery, it may be necessary to become emotionally prepared to euthanize your pet. From knowing when it’s time, how to say goodbye, and what to expect next, our article on dog euthanasia will walk you through this difficult process so you don’t have to do it alone.

Dog Cremation Or Burial?

Whether your dog’s death was of natural causes or you were forced to make that tough decision yourself to end his or her pain and suffering, once your dog has passed comes the matter of cremation or burial. Our article on dog cremation and burial offers information on the process of dealing with the remains and options for memorializing your pet after death.

What To Do When Your Dog Dies At Home

Girl hugging dog on the ground

If your dog dies or is euthanized at the vet’s office, they’ll handle the remains for you. However, if your dog dies at home, what do you do? It’s a terrible situation to think about, but there are several steps you’ll need to take. If you’re home alone, call someone close to you to come over and give you the emotional and physical support you’ll need to deal with this gut-wrenching situation. 

Wrap Your Dog’s Body

It’s a dreadful thing to have to ponder, but what do you do with your dog’s body if he dies at home? The first thing to do is wrap your dog’s body as soon as possible. When death occurs, bodily fluids can leak so put several potty pads, towels, or a large trash bag under his body. You may want to arrange your pet curled up on his side — this may bring you some comfort that he’s at rest in a natural position.

Choose one of his favorite blankets or a towel and wrap him up with what you’ve placed under him. Then place his body inside a large trash bag. Make sure you tightly seal the bag. You may want to remove his collar beforehand to keep it as a treasured memory.

If your dog is small, placing his body in the refrigerator is ideal. But if he’s too large, place him in a cool place in your home, like on a concrete garage floor. This can help slow the decomposition a bit while you make arrangements.

Call Your Vet’s Office

Once you’ve wrapped up your pup, call your vet’s office. They can help talk you through what you need to consider. They may be able to get you in touch with someone who can pick up your dog’s body (like a pet crematory or a mobile vet service).

Depending on your vet, you may also be able to take your dog’s body to your vet’s office where they can store it for a day or two until you decide on arrangements. If not, your vet’s office will still have information on where to cremate or bury your pet.

Can I Bury My Dog In The Backyard?

You may be wondering if it’s legal to bury your pet in your yard to keep him close by. In many states, it is legal, but there are often local (or homeowner’s association) restrictions or regulations that you must follow. If you’re considering a home burial, check on local restrictions. A good place to start looking for information is your county’s Board of Health or Animal Control agency.

If your dog was euthanized, it can be dangerous for your other pets or wildlife to bury him in your yard. Most pets are put to sleep with a concentrated anesthetic agent that can persist in the buried body for up to a year. Any animal scavenging on the remains could be poisoned by this euthanasia solution.

Remembering Your Pet

Don’t forget: The best way to honor your pet, your four-legged family member, is to remember the good times you had together and to be grateful that you were given the valuable time you had. Gratefulness goes a long way in the healing process, and helps us remember that, despite the heartache when our sweet ones pass on, that it was worth it… and that one day, it will be worth it again.

Rainbow Bridge Can Comfort One Dealing With The Loss Of A Pet

Whether you are dealing with the loss of a pet yourself or helping a loved one manage their pain, the Rainbow Bridge is always a nice story to share your sympathy in a very empathetic and caring way.

Coping with the death of your dog

Video: Rainbow Bridge Song

Discussing and sharing stories of your pet after losing them one way to begin the healing process.

Another sweet idea is to create a dog gift or photo book with your loved one’s photo to remember them. Looking back through old photos allows you to relive the memories you cherished together.

How will you remember your pet?

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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