The death of a beloved pet is an upsetting and emotional time
but, because it's something we all know as dog owners that we will have to face at some stage,
I wanted to do a series of bereavement videos discussing topics like when to say goodbye,
euthanasia and also pet burial. So in this video we'll discuss pet burial at home.
There are a number of things to consider before burying your dog in the garden from whether you
can legally do it to exactly how it should be done, the specifics of the gravesite and dealing
with your pet's body. We'll discuss all aspects of dog burial so you can feel safe in the knowledge
that all is well with your best friend's final resting place. Home burials are a touching and
private moment and of course a home burial is less expensive than alternatives like cremation.
Although the popularity of pet cremations has increased in recent years,
it isn't the right choice for everyone. Some recent stories in the media of people abusing
the trust put in them will undoubtedly have put some people off of using pet cremation services.
Apart from those kind of horror stories, pet cremation has other pitfalls that you need to be
aware of, for example there's individual versus communal cremation. Communal cremation is very
common when it comes to pets. This is where your pet is cremated along with other people's pets.
Always assume the cremation of your pet will actually be communal unless you're told otherwise.
So can you perform a home burial for your dog,
there are a few laws and rules regarding home pet burial that you will need to be aware of.
As long as you own the property (for example you're not renting), as long
as the property is used for domestic purposes (i.e it's your home) and as long as your dog
lived there (although quite frankly who's going to check that part) you CAN bury your pet at home.
The only exception to UK home burial would be if your pet's remains are considered to be
hazardous waste. This is slightly complicated and seems to be open to some interpretation.
If your vet did use this as a reason for your pet not to be allowed home for a burial,
ask them for a written explanation. By the way, this information is correct for the UK.
If you live elsewhere you may need to check the legalities for where you live.
So you own the property, it is your home and the dog lived there. So can you go ahead with
the home burial? Yes but stop to consider just one more thing - what will happen if you move?
A home burial may not be your best option if you think you may move at some point and
it would upset you to leave them behind. If your pet passed away at home it's a good idea to hold
awake. Holding awake came from the very sensible need to know if a person was really deceased
before burying them. The person would be laid out and literally left for a while to see if
they would wake up. It seems strange to us now but if you are at home with a dying pet, it's not
necessarily obvious when they have passed away. A vet will listen to their heart with a stethoscope
and will discreetly check for your pet's vital signs but as owners at home how can we be sure?
I know it's another dreadful thing to have to think about but you do need to be sure of your
pet's passing before you bury or refrigerate the body. Here are some signs of death to check for.
Check for a pulse or a heartbeat - place two fingers (be careful not to use your thumb you
must use your fingers) lightly on the dog's chest between the front legs or inside the
back legs where the back leg joins the body. You can also watch and listen for signs of breathing.
You can check the color of your dog's gums (they're usually pink when the dog
is alive). Finally cooling of the body and the start of rigor mortis,
where the body becomes stiff, is a sure sign of death.
Don't be afraid of making sure of death. It is important. You may even want to call
your vet and explain that you would like help determining the death of your pet.
You don't have to rush to put your dog into the ground immediately after they have passed.
I personally love to spend a few hours with my dogs after they've passed away.
It gives me time to come to terms with what has happened. Once their body starts to go
colder and stiffer it is time to let their empty vehicle be laid to rest.
When your dog has passed away get a plastic sheet or something waterproof like a bin bag.
This is because bodily fluids can come out of your pet's body after death and possibly again when
moved or handled. I've never actually had this happen to any extent that a waterproof undersheet
was needed but it's better to be prepared. On top of that I tend to put a blanket or towel.
Here you can lay your dog's body on their side. Wrap them in the towel or blanket
in a slightly curled up position rather than leaving the legs sticking straight
out. This curled up position makes it easier for handling and easier positioning in the grave.
During this time, if you have any other pets you may want to show them the body of their doggy pal.
I always feel this can really help other dogs or pets in the household to understand that one of
their family has died rather than wondering where they've gone. Let them see and smell the body
and give them as much time as they need, which doesn't tend to be more than a few sniffs.
As we've already discussed, it's a good idea to wait two to three hours
after death before burying your pet, to be absolutely sure of their death. Once their
body goes cold or rigor mortis starts to set in, you can go ahead with the burial.
Sometimes the burial can't take place right away - maybe you're waiting for a family member
to come home or for a coffin to arrive. If this is the case it might be an idea to ask your vet
if you can use space in their mortuary refrigerator. If that's not possible or
if the wait is only for a little while, a cool dark basement or similar place will suffice.
Now we will talk about your pet's grave site. Select the position of the grave carefully.
Choose a place that's unlikely to be excavated in the future. Don't choose a site for the grave that
is boggy or at risk of flooding. Also keep the grave site away from water sources such as wells,
ponds and streams. Take care not to disrupt any underground pipes or cables. To prepare your dog's
grave, measure around your dog to get an idea of the size of grave you need to dig - so you're
getting an idea here of the width and length of the grave. Depth-wise the grave should be at least
three to four feet deep. This is for health reasons and also to safeguard against scavengers
or other pets digging up the grave area or even rain that may wash away topsoil and uncover the
grave. Don't forget that a three-foot grave allows for only about two foot of soil to go back on top.
A grave that is at least four foot deep is therefore best. For the burial, your dog should
be buried in something that's biodegradable like a towel, blanket, wooden box, wicker or a cardboard
coffin. Avoid making a casket out of anything plastic or anything that's non-biodegradable.
I tend to simply bury my dogs in the blanket I had previously wrapped them in.
I also like to pop a toy in with them. I've even written letters or poems to my doggies.
Do whatever you or your family want to do to make it a special moment. There are no rules. Let the
whole family be part of the burial. Writing poems, saying a few words, letting children add letters,
drawings and dog toys to the grave can all really help the grieving process.
Once the grave is filled you will have a mound of earth left over
that you can pile on the top of the grave site. It will eventually settle in time.
Finally to mark your pet's final resting place you can plant a lovely bush or shrub or
place a keepsake or memorial stone or statue on the top - whatever you like. When it comes
to anything to do with your pet's death it is best to try and plan these things in advance.
So think in advance about what you want to happen to your pet's body after they have died.
Facing their death is upsetting enough without having to suddenly decide what to do with their
body. I've known people who hadn't thought about it in advance. They ended up making
a quick decision at the time of the pet's death that they later regretted. If you have just lost
a beloved pet then I am very sorry for your loss and I hope this has helped a little bit, at least
in helping you to plan what you can do with your pet's body after their passing. So please
take care and if you have any questions, just ask in the comments - I'm more than happy to help.