My Pet Just Died! Eight Things You’ll Need To Know.

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If your family’s beloved bird, cat or dog just died suddenly, would you know what to do? If not, you’re not alone. People ask “what to do” on a regular basis. Here are eight things every pet parent or pet sitter must know when a pet dies at home.

When we make the decision to bring a pet into our home, the majority of us do our homework. Topics of conversation and planning revolve around house breaking, cage training, socialization and overall behavior, but rarely does the topic of the loss or a pet, or death ever come up. For the next few minutes we’ll review the necessary actions that every pet parent or pet sitter should know.

  1. First and foremost, as strange as it sounds, make sure the pet is deceased! I can’t tell you how many times

    Check to see if your pet is in a deep sleep.

    people think their pet has died, only to discover that they are still alive, just breathing very shallow and lying still. (Note that if they are still alive, you may want to think about euthanizing. Please call your vet clinic, they can answer your questions.  If you were planning to let them die naturally, keep the area calm and quiet).

  2. After a pet dies, their bowels, just like people will release. It will not happen immediately, but know that over the next few moments nature will take its course, so be prepared. If your pet is lying on the floor or a piece of furniture, you will want to make sure you have a towel or even place something plastic under their hind quarters.

  3. If there are other pets at home, let them smell their friend. By allowing this to happen they will understand what happened to their buddy, rather than leave them wondering where they went.

  4. A decision will need to be made to either bury or cremate.

  5. If you want to keep your pet at home for a day to decide what to do, you will want to contain your pets remains. Why? Without being placed in cold storage, the pet’s body will begin to decompose (this presents a health risk!). One stage of this process is known as rigor mortise. This is when the energy supply to the pet’s muscles deplete. When this occurs, everything becomes stiff. The average time for “rigor” to set in is 3-4 hours and its typically complete within 12 hours post death.

  6. Depending on the position your pet was in when it died, you will want to tuck their front and back legs tight

    “Paw Pod” The echo friendly pet casket

    into their body (known as positioning), rather than leaving the pet outstretched. Why? Primarily for transportation and burial reasons. If you want to transport you pet, you will want to place them in a container or even wrap them up in a blanket. If their limbs are not properly positioned they will be difficult to transport or place in a pet casket or secure container.

  7. If you bury, you’ll want to follow the city or township’s ordinances, if you cremate you’ll need to make arrangements for your pet’s transportation to the cremation provider.

  8. If you come home and your pet died while you were away – you’ll need to attempt to decide how long the pet has been deceased. If rigor mortise has set in, you’ll know it was at least 3 hours. Depending on the time of year, if its warm outside, you may have an odor that could be difficult getting out of your carpet or even floor.  Don’t try to remove this smell out of your carpet/floor yourself, consult a professional. In the long run, it will be worth it.


10 thoughts on “My Pet Just Died! Eight Things You’ll Need To Know.

  1. I unfortunately had the heart wrenching experience of one of my cats dying in my arms at home just last year. It was one of the most difficult things. We ended up placing him in a container and burying him in our back yard. Thankfully my husband took care of all of that because I wouldn’t have known what to do, considering the emotional state I was in. Thanks for sharing this wonderful advice.


  2. This is such a difficult matter to discuss, but one that people need to understand. Death doesn’t wait for a convenient time to occur. Emotions are often very high and reason is relatively quashed by them. I’ve had a lot of pets and it has always surprised me how unprepared I’ve felt every time I’ve had to let one go. Thanks for the compassionate and reasonable guide to coping with the realities of pet death.


  3. Wow, coming home to a dead pet, something I never want to have happen to me. Although I did have a small rabbit that died in the winter, when the ground was frozen, so I couldn’t bury it. For small pets, I’m told you could put them in a garbage bag and place them in the trash – although I could never do this with my dog. Going to the vet is the best thing to have them take care of the remains.


  4. I still remember the first time I came home to find our thirteen-year-old dog had died. He was laying inert on the floor, bowels released. I was in shock and drove all the way to the vet with him. Obviously, there was nothing they could do, but they did provide sympathy.


  5. Wow.. a lot of this is stuff I’ve never even thought of. While I’m glad to have a bit more knowledge in case I ever find myself in this situation, I really hope I never need it. Thanks for sharing!


  6. Wow! I’ve never had a pet to die at home. Thank you for sharing this information. I’m lucky we have a pet crematorium within 5 miles of my house and they even came to pick up my cat from the vet to transport her. I think they would do it from home, too. Thank you for sharing this difficult topic.


  7. Our local vets provided a cremation service by a company they work with who specialise in pets. The vets even sent us a condolence card for Dusty which was so kind and made a difference. Pet grief is very real and we often need help like this – good post.


  8. A tough subject and one that no pet owner ever wants to think about. But thank you for letting us know what no one wants to ask.


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