Unfortunately, you can’t avoid it; it’s going to happen at some point. Whether it’s sudden passing, or expected death from old age or illness, all pet parents will ultimately have to face the most difficult experience of losing their beloved pet. Though it’s not easy to think of this tough time you will have to go through, it is better to have some idea of the options you have before you have to face that heartbreaking moment.
The First Steps to Take After Your Pet’s Death
The first step is to make sure your pet is in a good location. If possible, place the body in the refrigerator, not a freezer. There are more options you can choose from if the body is refrigerated vs frozen, like necropsy or genetic preservation. Also, keeping the body cool will likely delay any odors or fluid leakage. If the animal is too large for the refrigerator, then place the body in the coldest room of your home and do not wrap the body as this will generate heat. A concrete or cement floor is preferable.
Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to make the next arrangements. He/she can help educate you on your next steps and options:
1. Pet genetic preservation – if you are interested in preserving your pet’s genetics for later cloning. This is not for everyone, but it is a growing interest as pet parents become aware of the opportunity. Your pet needs to be kept cool and not frozen for this option.
2. Necropsy – autopsy of your pet if you need answers on why your pet passed. Your pet needs to be kept cool and not frozen for this option.
Burial and Cremation Options
Home burial, if legal in your area, is an option if you want to keep your pet’s body close by and do not plan on moving in the future. The main consideration is to dig deep enough to ensure that you do not disturb the remains in the future. Having your pet rest at a pet cemetery is another burial option that is available in most states. This option gives peace of mind if you might move in the future and home burial is therefore not a permanent option.
Cremation is currently the most common option for pet parents. There are two main types of pet cremation:
1. Group cremation is where pets are cremated with other pets and you usually do not receive the ashes. This is the most economical option.
2. Private cremation is the option if you want to hold onto your pet’s ashes. Following receiving the ashes, you can choose to place them in an urn or scatter them in a special location.
Emotional Support and Remembrance
There are numerous pet loss hotlines for support to help you grieve your pet loss. You can find information at the American Humane Society. There are also many ways to memorialize your pet from portraits to taxidermy.
Unfortunately losing a beloved pet is a part of the pet relationship, but having a sense of the different paths you can take can help avoid some pressure immediately following your pet’s death with the very personal decisions you have to make.