How to Bury a Pet

Three Methods:Taking First StepsBurying at Your HomeBurying in a Pet Cemetery

Getting over the loss of a pet is never easy. Your pet is part of your family, and you feel at a loss without him or her. Adding to the pain, you need to find a way to bury your pet. Before you bury your pet, though, you have a few decisions to make first.

Method 1
Taking First Steps

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    Check your pet. Check for a pulse, and look and feel to see if she's still breathing. She may be in trouble but not actually dead. Call your veterinarian, and ask her to guide you with next steps.[1]
    • If you're pet is still alive, take her to an emergency vet in the area.
    • The best place to feel for a pulse on a dog or cat is the inner thigh, up where the leg meets the body. You're looking for the femoral artery. Use two fingers (not a thumb) to check for a pulse. You may have a hard time feeling it on a cat.[2]
    • If you feel a pulse, have someone time 15 seconds while you count beats. Multiple by 4, and you have the beats per minute. Your vet will likely want to know the beats per minute if possible.[3]
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    Take action within a day. The body will start to decompose fairly quickly, usually within a day, so you want to bury the body as soon as possible. If you need to keep the body in your home, you can take a few steps to keep it from decomposing.[4]
    • You can wrap the body and put in the refrigerator, though you still want to take action within a day. You can also place the body in the freezer, which will keep it from decomposing longer.
    • If you can't use either of these options, leave the body unwrapped on concrete, as it will draw the heat out.
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    Notify people. In your grief, you may not remember everyone you need to tell. For instance, it's important to notify kids who are at away at college of the death. You also need to find a way to tell your children if you have young ones in your home.[5]
    • When telling kids, try not to use euphemisms. For instance, saying the pet has been "put to sleep" can be confusing. Tell the child that the pet died, and explain in simple terms what that means. For instance, you could say, "Honey, I have something sad to tell you. Our pet Kitty died today. That means that she stopped breathing and her body stopped moving. She won't be coming back to live with us."[6]
    • It can help to let the child see the body, though it's okay to soften the blow by covering the body partially with a blanket or putting a beloved toy nearby.
    • Answer any questions your child has as honestly and directly as you can, though you can say you don't know. Also, be prepared for the ways your child's grief will appear. Some children will want to write letters or leave flowers. Others may want some alone time, while still others may need more cuddles.
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    Let your pets see the body. Letting your pets observe the body, sniff it, and interact with it can help give the pet closure. If they can see the dead body, they may not spend as long looking for the pet to come back after she's buried.[7]
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    Check your local laws. You may or may not be allowed to bury your pet on your own property. It's typically not okay to bury in a public park, but sometimes you can bury your pet on your own property.[8]
    • Try calling your vet to see if she knows the local law. You can also ask your local humane society.
    • If you're still not sure, try calling the local police department to ask.
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    Decide on a burial spot. Once you know whether you're allowed to bury your pet on your yard, you may decide to bury her there. However, you do have other options. For instance, some cities have pet burial parks where you can buy a plot for you pet.[9]
    • To find a pet cemetery, ask at your vet. You can also look under "pet cemeteries" in your local area.[10]
    • Another option besides burial is cremation. Some vet hospitals have cremation services, while other times, the crematory is a stand alone service.[11]
    • Be aware that you may have the option of individual cremation (where you just get your pet's remains back) or group cremation (where your pet is cremated with other animals). Individual cremation is more expensive.

Method 2
Burying at Your Home

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    Call about utility lines. Whenever you're digging in your yard, you're supposed to call about buried utility lines first. That way, you won't run into them when you're digging, which could cause problems.[12]
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    Consider other aspects of the location. For instance, it's important to pick a high, dry location if you want your pet to decompose. In addition, you should pick a location downhill from a well and at least 50 feet away, though 100 feet is better, as well as 50 feet from other types of water such as ponds, rivers, and drainage ditches. Try to pick a place that is not shallow to the bedrock below (meaning, see if you hit rock below where you are digging), as when the pet is decomposing, it can leach into the water.[13]
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    Cover your pet. First, find a heavy duty plastic bag that fits your animal. Next, find a box. Wood or metal is the best option, because it keeps the pet enclosed. You can also decorate it if you wish.[14]
    • If you want your pet to decompose into the earth, you shouldn't cover your pet with anything. You should only allow your pet to decompose into the earth if your pet died of natural causes.
    • However, if your pet was euthanized, it's not safe to let her naturally decompose into the earth, so you should cover her.[15]
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    Dig a hole. For a larger pet, you want the hole to be at least 3 feet deep. You might get away with 2 feet if the pet is smaller. Keep in mind that you may need to go deeper depending on the size of your box. Make sure to make the hole wide enough and long enough to fit the box you put your pet in.[16]
    • If you want your pet to decompose into the earth, you should bury the pet in a shallower grave. The hole needs to be about a foot and a half deep, making sure that you have about a foot between the top and the bedrock below. Make sure you have a foot and a half of soil above the pet, even if you have to mound it up a bit.
    • Making the grave shallower gives the body a chance to decompose.
    • If you're having trouble digging in your soil, you can "bury" your pet above ground. Simply lay your pet out, and then cover it with soil in a mound equal to 18 inches.[17]
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    Place the box in the ground. Lower your animal into the ground in the box. Cover the box up with the dirt, packing it down as you go. If you're not using a box, simply lay your pet in the ground. You can also bury your pet with some of her favorite toys or a flower.[18]
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    Consider a ceremony. You can give it a small ceremony by reading a poem or saying a few words. You could also light candles in your home in memory of your pet. Having a funeral, even a small one in your home, can help you and your family say goodbye to your pet.[19]
    • Think about what you'd do at a person's funeral. For instance, you may want to read a short story or have someone offer a eulogy to your pet.
    • Get your kids involved. Let them read a favorite poem or story or something they wrote for the pet.
    • You could also play a favorite song, or enjoy "human food" that your pet loved.
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    Add a few stones. Stones will serve to mark the spot of your pet. However, they also serve an equally important utilitarian purpose: keeping scavengers from digging your beloved pet up.[20]
    • You can choose a decorative stone as a headstone.
    • You could also plant something over your pet, such as rosebush, in your pet's memory.
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    Know your other options. If you aren't physically capable of burying the pet yourself, some areas will let you put them in a (closed) trash can after you've wrapped them up in an old t-shirt or plastic.[21] Another option is animal control or services, who might come pick up your animal.[22]
    • Your sanitation department may also pick up animal bodies.[23]
    • While it seems sad to dispose of your animal this way, know you loved your pet well while it was alive. All that's left is the body, not the pet you treasured so much. If you want, consider placing a stone in your yard to remember your pet by.

Method 3
Burying in a Pet Cemetery

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    Pick a cemetery. If you have several options, you need to consider a few things. Price is, of course, sometimes a factor in what you choose. You may also want a location near your house. Finally, you should ask if the cemetery is dedicated. That means that it says in the deed that it will always be a cemetery, even if the land is sold to someone else.[24]
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    Decide on group or single burial. In some cemeteries, you'll have the option of a individual grave site or a group site. In a group site, your pet would be buried with other pets.[25]
    • You might also have the option of a grave, mausoleum, or crypt.[26]
    • In some areas, you may only have the option of group burial.[27]
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    Pick a plot. Just like regular cemetery, you'll likely have the option of choosing a plot if you pick an individual site. You'll work with the cemetery manager to find the one that you want.
    • You will need to pay for the plot before your pet is buried. You can also buy one in advance, before your pet passes away.[28]
    • Keep in mind that some cemeteries require you to pay a maintenance fee each year if you have a plot for your pet there.[29]
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    Choose a headstone. Just like a standard cemetery, you have the option of headstones. Work with the cemetery to choose one that you like for your pet.[30]
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    Decide on a funeral. Many pet cemeteries can work with you to set up a funeral, if you wish. However, you don't necessarily need to have one if you don't want one or can't afford it.[31]


  • Everyone grieves at their own pace. Never feel bad or silly for mourning the loss of a pet.

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Pet Loss