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What to do when your dog dies?

Mehdi Punjwani
Written by  Mehdi Punjwani
5 min read
Updated: 14 Apr 2024

It’s heartbreaking when you have to say goodbye to your dog, and amid the emotions it’s entirely normal to feel overwhelmed. Everyone grieves in their own way, and it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Our guide aims to help you navigate the delicate steps of this journey, to ensure you can manage your dog’s final days with compassion, dignity and comfort.

Preparing for your dog’s death 

Understanding more about your dog and how it gets older will help you prepare for its end-of-life, both in recognising the time is getting closer and ensuring your dog gets the best goodbye possible.  

It’s good to research what life will be like for your dog as it ages, what conditions are common for its breed, and what signs to look for when it comes to illness in dogs. You should also talk to your vet and ask them about end-of-life options - they will be able to tell you if your dog is in pain and what the best course of action will be. 

While it can be incredibly difficult to think about, it will also help to think about your dog's final moments in terms of where it will be, how it will happen, and who will get the chance to say goodbye. When you’ve made all the necessary arrangements, all that’s left is to enjoy the time you have left with your beloved dog. 

It’s up to you how you’d like to give them a personal goodbye, but be sure to spoil them with all of their favourite treats, toys and activities they’re able to enjoy. Tell them how much you love them and find a moment for a gentle farewell, when you can express your gratitude for the joy and companionship they brought to your life. Let them know it’s okay to move on, so they can pass in peace and you can begin the process of healing. 

dog on sofa

Options for your dog’s end of life 

When the time comes to consider options for your dog’s end of life, think about what would be best for them in the circumstances. You may decide to let your dog pass naturally at home, and while the familiarity can provide assurance, without medical attention your dog may be in added discomfort. It can happen unexpectedly, but if possible it may be better to arrange palliative care to ensure they are in the best position possible for their last moments. 

If your dog does die naturally at home, do the best you can to create a calm and comfortable environment for them. If you’ve made the decision to let them pass away while at their home, talk to your vet about any pain medication they might need.  

Stay close to them and provide as much care and assurance as you can. When they’ve passed, it will be time to contact a vet or a pet crematorium - you should do this as soon as you are able to. 

Putting your dog to sleep 

The other option is to allow a vet to administer a euthanasia injection so your dog can pass on in peace and without pain. If you notice your dog is struggling or their quality of life is declining, you may decide it’s the right option to take control of the situation and provide them with a dignified passing.  

This can be especially true if their health declines rapidly and their chances of recovery are low. You should talk to your vet about the best options for treatment, but they may suggest that the most humane choice is to put the dog to sleep. This is also called euthanasia.  

Some vets may offer this service at home, so you can provide the extra comfort of familiarity as you say goodbye - if your local vet can’t, you might be able to find a private one that will be able to.

Alternatively, they can be put to sleep at the vet surgery. If your dog’s condition is severe, your vet may recommend that you take this option on the day - otherwise you might be able to arrange another day so you have time to say goodbye.  

What happens during euthanasia? 

The processing of putting a dog to sleep is peaceful and without pain. The vet will inject your dog with a high dosage of anaesthetic, and it will be over in minutes. They will usually arrange for a quiet time for you to come in for the procedure. 

Sometimes, a vet may discover during an operation that their condition will not improve, and they may recommend euthanasia to take place - and it may be better to do this without waking them back up again. While this will be terrible and even unexpected news, in some situations it may be the most humane option. 

Should I stay with my dog when they’re put to sleep? 

It’s entirely your choice whether to stay with your dog for their final moments. It is an emotional time and it’s okay that it may be too difficult to be there to see it happen. Your vet will understand, and they’ll do everything in their power to make your dog’s last moments peaceful and dignified. 

If you choose to stay with them, it can comfort you and your dog both - try to remain as calm as you can to avoid distressing them. You’ll be given a short time to be alone with your dog once they’ve passed on. 

What if my dog dies while you’re away? 

Unfortunately, emergencies can happen at the worst time. If you’re planning time away for a while and you’re arranging kennel care or a dog minder, discuss emergency plans and check if there are any specific terms or conditions regarding such an occurrence.   

Ensure they have accurate contact information so you can make the necessary arrangements if the worst should happen. More often than not the dog will be given to the local vet surgery where it should be kept until you decide what to do. 

What are my options after my dog passes away? 

After your dog has passed away, you’ll need to choose one of the following options:  

  • Burying your dog at your home: You may be given the option of burying your dog at home, however it’s important to ensure this is a practical option. For example, you’ll need to bear in mind any underground wiring or water mains, or whether the area is at risk of flooding 

  • Having your dog cremated: You can also opt for a cremation - this can either be communal, where your dog will be cremated with others, or individual, where you’ll be able to receive their ashes. Individual cremations are usually the more expensive option 

  • Burying your dog at a cemetery: Finally, you could choose to have your dog buried in a pet cemetery, although this can be costly. While registered pet cemeteries aren’t common, you can use the APPCC website to find your nearest one 

Coping with the loss of your dog 

Starting the healing process is as difficult as caring for your dog in their last moments, but for different reasons - and now, at the very least, you can console yourself with the knowledge that the worst is over. Everyone grieves in their own way, and it’s important to acknowledge that there is no ‘right’ way to do this. What we can offer is some advice on how to help yourself through it.  

Allow time to grieve fully and process everything that has happened - it’s different for everyone, and it’s not something you can rush. Instead, use this time to commemorate their life in the way you see fit - whether it’s going through old photos and putting together a collage or album, planting flowers, or holding a small service. Do what feels right for you and your family.  

It can help to talk to others especially if the loss is hitting you particularly hard. You might choose friends or family, while it can also help to talk to someone you don’t know - pet bereavement and support services can give you an understanding and kind-hearted person to talk to. If you have young children, it’s good to be open and honest about what has happened, so you can help them process their feelings.  

Finally, while it may be tempting to get a new dog to ‘replace’ the old one, it’s often better to wait for some time to pass. You cannot rush the grieving process, and dogs cannot be ‘replaced’ so easily - take your time and wait until the moment feels right. 

Does pet insurance cover end of life? 

Whether your pet insurance will cover end of life will depend on your insurer and policy you take out. You may be covered if your dog dies as a result of an illness or injury, up to the amount you paid for for them - but this only usually applies to a certain age, and rarely into elderly years.  

You can take out dog insurance for the cost of putting them to sleep and having it cremated if it doesn’t come included - it will usually cost extra.  

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