What to Do When Your Dog Dies

When a dog dies it can be an incredibly sad time for owners, and it can be difficult to know what to do. Make sure you're prepared during this upsetting time with our essential guide.
dog and owner hugging

The death of a beloved pet is an incredibly sad time for owners. Whether your dog dies naturally at home or is put to sleep at the vets, it’s always a stressful and upsetting time.

If your pet has been unwell, or is very old and naturally approaching the end of their life, you may already have plans in place for their eventual passing. However, even the best-laid plans can be disrupted by external factors or by grief. If you’re struggling with your pet’s death in the immediate aftermath, always ask for help from a friend, family member or veterinary professional.

What often adds to the trauma of a pet’s death is the uncertainty of how to handle their remains. Take some of the stress out of this period with this comprehensive guide on what to do when your dog dies.

What happens when a dog dies naturally?

We usually associate the death of pets with them being put to sleep at a veterinary surgery. But what happens when a dog dies naturally at home?

If your pet dies at home, it may be difficult to handle their remains. You may wish to call your vet or another professional service, such as a company that can assist with dead dog disposal. Remember that such services may not be available on weekends or during national holidays.

When a dog dies, their body may still show signs of what can look like life, such as the following:

  • Twitching, as a result of natural nerve spasms after death
  • The release of air from the mouth when moved
  • The release of bodily fluids and gas


These can all be quite upsetting for owners to witness, especially if they aren’t expecting them. They aren’t, sadly, signs that your pet is coming back to life. They are simply the natural bodily functions and what happens when a dog dies naturally.

What to do when your dog dies

When handling remains, always wear gloves and thoroughly clean any area that has been touched by the animal, as well as thoroughly cleaning any fluids that may have been spilt. It’s important to limit the spread of germs in the immediate aftermath.

You may wish to leave your pet at home for a few hours before organising a dead dog disposal; in which case, ensure that the body is left in a cool room, for no longer than 24 hours. Be aware that rigor mortis—the stiffening of joints after death—will begin to set in after around three to four hours.

owner holding dog

The options

Your local vet will be well placed to deal with dead dog disposal, and if you wish for it to be handled by them simply place a call as soon as possible. Your vet should then be able to organise the collection and subsequent burial or cremation, according to your preference.

Dog cremation

If you wish for your dog to be cremated, it is possible to organise this yourself rather than going through a vet. Dog cremation is more costly than home burial, but gives owners a variety of options when it comes to memorialising their pet’s remains.

Crematoriums will return a dog’s ashes to their owner and these can be stored or scattered according to personal preference. Many owners choose to keep dog ashes in an urn or even store them in keepsake items, such as a piece of jewellery. Owners also often scatter their pet’s ashes in some of their favourite places or walks.

Remember that there are various options when it comes to cremation, including communal or private cremation. If you’re planning to use your pet’s ashes for a specific memorial, do bare in mind that although crematoriums do make an effort to keep ashes separate during communal cremations, this cannot be guaranteed.

How much does it cost to cremate a dog?

The cost of dog cremation varies between different crematoriums and the options that they offer. These options depend on a variety of factors, such as the size of dog and whether a communal or private cremation is preferred. So, how much does it cost to cremate a dog? Overall costs will generally run to over £100.

Home burial

Some owners choose to bury their dog at home. This option reduces the cost of dead dog disposal by avoiding expensive cremation costs and gives a final resting place to beloved pets, at home. If you’re thinking about home burial, it’s important to consider local laws. In the UK, it is legal to bury pets in a garden that you own. It isn’t legal to bury animals in the gardens of rented accommodation, any property that you don’t own, or in public places. If you choose to bury your dog, check with your vet that their remains are not hazardous to human health before proceeding and choose a place away from water sources.

When burying a dog at home, ensure that their grave is no less than three feet deep, to ensure that their remains stay covered. You may also wish to mark the burial site with a covering of stone, or even a potted plant.

Pet cemeteries

There are some pet cemeteries and crematoriums around the UK that will provide burial services for dogs. This is generally a more expensive option than dog cremation, the final price being dependent on weight. Cemeteries may also require that remains be buried in a coffin or other container, which further adds to the overall cost.

Pet cemeteries will offer individual plots for dog burial and you may also erect a headstone or other memorial marker over the gravesite.

corgi dog in a field

Grieving a pet

 What to do when your dog dies is just the beginning of a process that can be very difficult for pet owners. For many, the passing of a beloved pet is similar to the death of a friend or family member and you should always seek support if needed.

Grieving a pet is always difficult, but there are many support groups and organisations to reach out to during this time.

Sometimes death can be prevented by regular check-ups with your vet. If you’re concerned about your dog’s health take a look at our content hub and find out how to keep your dog in top health.