Caring for Your Pet After Death

Options for pet care after death: cremation vs. burial

The Spruce / Brianna Gilmartin

It's so difficult to say goodbye to a beloved pet. The care of your pet's remains after death is one of the last things you wish to think about while dealing with your grief. The sorrow you feel from losing a pet is difficult to bear. However, after the death of your pet, there is a decision you will need to make right away. The term "aftercare" refers to how you would like your pet's remains handled. As difficult as this may be to address, it is something you must do.

If your pet's body is at your veterinarian's office, they might be willing to hold the body for a day or two while you review your options. However, in some cases, there is not a way to store your dog or cat's body and a decision must be made right away. After the handling of your pet's remains, you may also wish to have a small funeral or memorial service to say goodbye to your dear companion. Here are common aftercare options for your pet's remains:


Cremation involves the incineration of the body in a specially-designed furnace, thus reducing the remains to ashes and tiny bone fragments or remains. Most veterinary offices have a professional relationship with one or more pet crematories and can help you make these arrangements.

Private/Individual Cremation

By selecting this type of cremation, you will be able to have your pet's ashes returned to you. Choose a reputable company to ensure that you are receiving your pet's ashes (and not the ashes of one or more other pets). Some people wish to be present to view the cremation, while others do not. However, choosing a crematory that allows viewing might give you peace of mind that your pet is truly being cremated alone. The basic cost of private pet cremation averages from about $150 to $300, depending on the size of the pet and the costs in your region.

Typically, pet crematories will return the remains to you in a plastic bag that is inside a decorative tin or box. However, many offer a section of urns, ornamental boxes, and figurines at an additional cost. However, you may find an urn or memorial box for your pet elsewhere, such as online. Some crematories will even transfer the remains for you at no additional charge.

Mass/Communal Cremation

If you do not wish to receive your pet's ashes back, you might choose this option. Community cremation means your pet will be cremated along with other animals, so obtaining the remains is not an option. The typical cost is based on weight and can range from around $25 to $150.


If you do not like the idea of having your pet's body cremated or if you would prefer a grave site you can visit, then pet burial might be the best option for you.

Home Burial

If you wish to bury your pet on your own property, first make sure local laws allow it. Unfortunately, in some areas, the local government does not permit pet burial on personal property.

Before burial, be sure to remove the body from non-biodegradable materials (like plastic) before burial. The body can be placed in a wooden or cardboard casket. The grave should be at least 3 feet deep and in a location that is not likely to erode or be dug up again. You can mark the gravesite with a special headstone or plant a special tree or bush in that spot.

Pet Cemetery Burial

There are many companies that offer pet burial services in a pet cemetery. Some are even affiliated with pet crematories. This will allow you a specific place to visit your pet without the potential legal issues of home burial. In addition, if you move from your current home, you will not have to move your pet's remains or worry about leaving them behind. Pet burial services are able to offer a selection of headstones and other decorative touches for your pet's grave. Prices vary from a few hundred dollars up to several thousand, depending on the details.

To find a pet crematory or pet burial service in your area, visit the International Association Of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories or talk to your veterinarian's office.

Memorializing Your Beloved Pet

When your pet dies, you may wish to collect a lock of hair and/or make a paw print keepsake with ink or clay. Some vet offices and pet crematories offer this service. The keepsake can be framed along with a photo of your pet so you can treasure the memories.

There are many online companies that offer special ways to memorialize your pet. Some involve the use of a lock of fur or a small amount of the remains. Others personalize a decorative item using the pet's picture. These memorials include decorative stones, paperweights, ornaments, jewelry and much more. Here are just of few of the many options available:

  • Art From Ashes: Beautifully artistic hand-crafted glass remembrances made with a small amount of a loved one's ashes
  • Life Gem: A certified, high-quality diamond created from a lock of hair or the cremated ashes of a loved one as a memorial
  • Peternity: A wide variety of jewelry, custom art, keepsakes, urns, and many other pet memorials
  • Everlife Memorials: Engraved plaques, personalized keepsakes, cremation jewelry, headstones, urns and much more
  • Remember Rocks: Decorative engraved rocks and stones to memorialize pets