Preparing for the Death of a Dog

Love your dog and meet his needs.

Losing a pet dog is never easy, but at least you can make some preparations if you know his death is drawing near. The emotional loss itself can feel overwhelming, but there are some practical considerations you'll need to deal with.

Preparing Yourself Emotionally for Your Dog's Death

The truth is, you can probably never feel fully prepared to face the loss of a beloved canine companion. You can expect to feel grief, but you may not realize just how large a roll your dog played in your life until he's gone, and you're left behind to carry on. Even so, there are some steps you can take to begin preparing for that loss.

Learn About the Stages of Grief

Unless you've already been through a significant loss, you may not truly understand what to expect as you work through your grief. Grieving for a dog is very similar to grieving for any other loved one. Being aware that you may experience a variety of emotions during the various stages of mourning, even some anger and denial, can help prepare you for some of the emotional turmoil to come.

Talk to Your Children

If you have children, they'll be affected by your dog's death, too. It's best to talk with them in advance, and gently let them know that their pet is sick and will soon go to his well-deserved rest.

Try to give only as much detail as each child can understand, and be prepared for some questions. It may help to let them know that the dog won't feel pain anymore after he passes. Preparing the children will also give them a chance to say goodbye.

Spend Quality Time with Your Dog

Set aside some special time to spend with your dog. If he's still well enough to walk, take him on a leisurely walk in one of his favorite places. If he's too sick for very much activity, just sit with him, and stroke his fur. The important thing is that you take advantage of your remaining time together to let your dog know how much you love him

Take Photos

You may already have photos of your pet, but take a few more during the remaining time you have with him. These might not be the very best photos of your dog, but you may want to have them later on. On days when the loss seems too heavy to bear, these photos can help remind you that it truly was your pet's time to go, and that he's free from suffering now.

Dog pawprint impression

Preserve Your Dog's Paw Print

Keepsakes can give you something solid to hold on to after your pet is gone. Consider purchasing a paw print kit and making an impression of your dog's paw. You may find it comforting later on to have something that your dog touched.

Collect a Sample of Your Pet's Fur

If your pet's fur is long enough, you might want to trim some, and tie it together with a ribbon. Put the keepsake in a special box, and that way you'll always have a part of your dog with you in the years to come.

Making Arrangements

Although it's bound to be difficult, you need to think about what you'll do with your dog's body when he passes. Making arrangements ahead of time will spare you from having to make decisions while you're burdened by grief.

Cremation

Some pet owners prefer to have their dog's body cremated after he passes, and your veterinarian can help you arrange for this if that's what you want. According to Forever Companions, you'll need to request a private or individual cremation in order to have your pet's ashes returned to you.

You'll also need to decide whether you want to keep your pet's remains, or scatter them in some special place. If you want to keep them, you'll need a container. This can be as simple as a pretty ceramic canister, or you may want to purchase a proper burial urn.

Burial

Pet cemetery

If you want to bury your dog's remains, you have a couple of options. You may choose to have your pet buried in a pet cemetery in a special casket, or you might consider burying your pet on your own property.

If you choose home burial, check with your local health department to find out if you can do so legally. If it's allowed, make sure you observe all regulations and guidelines. This information will also apply to burying your pet's remains.

Veterinary Disposal

Veterinary disposal is another option if you're unable to take care of your pet's remains on your own. You'll need to consult your vet directly to find out the exact method used and the cost of that service.

Recovering from Grief and Loss

People grieve the loss of a pet in different ways, and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. If you need to cry, let it out, and don't worry about what anyone thinks. Your loss is as real and important as anyone else's, and bottling up your grief will only prolong your recovery.

You might also find it helpful to pay homage to your dog in some way. Try to choose a tribute or ceremony that brings you some measure of closure and comfort.

Some ways to memorialize your dog include:

  • Create a photo memorial - This could be as simple as a framed photo of your dog with one or two of your pet's favorite toys displayed with it.
  • Assemble a scrapbook - If you have enough photos, you could create a scrapbook to help preserve your pet's memory.
  • Hold a small service at home - This doesn't have to be elaborate. You could just plan a special dinner for your family, and give everyone an opportunity to relive a favorite memory or share a special moment they had with the dog.

Don't Hesitate to Reach Out for Help

Losing a dog can be almost as devastating as losing a family member, especially if you've had the dog for a long time. Whether you're having difficulty accepting that your dog's life is about to come to an end, or you experience serious depression after he passes, don't hesitate to contact a grief counselor who can help you deal with your loss, and learn to accept it.

Preparing for the Death of a Dog