How to bury a dog: Costs, timeline, and how to make it easier

Dogs become a true member of the family, making it all the more sad when they pass away. It can be a difficult process, too, so we're here to help you with info on when and where to bury your dog, and how much it may cost.

Organizing for your dog to be buried can be very stressful, and very emotional.
Organizing for your dog to be buried can be very stressful, and very emotional.  © Unsplash/Celine Sayuri Tagami

Death can be hard to deal with, especially when it's your darling doggo who has passed away.

Sadly, these moments are often overshadowed by the stress and the cost of your pet's burial. Everything has to be done quickly, allowing little time for grief and decision-making.

In this dog guide, TAG24 will take a look at how you might bury your dog once it has passed away.

Dog hilariously demands attention as owners dote over new baby
Dogs Dog hilariously demands attention as owners dote over new baby

How do you keep the costs down, how quickly should it be done, and how can it be made easier for you and your family?

Here's where to start amid the sometimes overwhelming choices.

How to properly bury your dog

Many people assume that they have to bury their dog in their yard, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In many cases, going for a more official approach is your best path. Apartment dwellers, for example, have no opportunity to bury their dog outside, so it's important to know how else to deal with a pet when they pass.

Here are the four best ways to have your dog buried:

Pet cemetery: One of the more expensive options on the table is to simply have your dog professionally buried in a pet cemetery. This provides a place for mourning, shrouded in dignity, where you can come to say goodbye and visit from time to time. You will be guaranteed to be following all the right rules if you go for this option, but it will cost you more than some others.

Cremation in the pet crematorium: There are many options presented through cremation, as it deals with the issue of decomposition and thus allows you time to potentially prepare for a proper funeral. Once your dog has been cremated, you'll be able to bury it, have it put in a cemetery, or displayed in an urn. It is also cheaper than having it professionally buried.

Animal rendering facility: Deceased dogs can also be taken to an animal rendering facility, where they will recycle their bodies. It may seem a bit disturbing, but this will be necessary for any animals that have contagious or dangerous diseases that are not allowed to go into the soil.

Veterinarian: If your vet has been involved in this process – for example if your dog has been put down or it died when in the veterinary clinic – they will be able to help take care of this for you. On top of that, dogs that have passed away at home can also be taken to the veterinarian. They will generally keep your dog refrigerated and then may have it taken to a rendering plant.

When in doubt, seek advice: Your vet should be the first port of call in any situation concerning your dog. If you don't know what to do, and are unsure about the options you can afford or have available, contact your veterinarian and talk it through with them.

How to bury a dog in the backyard

There are very strict laws governing how pets should be buried in a back garden, primarily to make sure that the remains don't contaminate any water supplies and don't get dug up by wild animals. As a result, before picking up a shovel and choosing a place, it's best to check the specific rules in your state and county.

Here are a few of the things that should be considered when burying your dog in the backyard:

  • Is your house in a natural area that is protected. Are you close to lakes or streams that could be contaminated?
  • You must never bury your dog in a public space, including national parks, forests, or beaches.
  • If your dog is infected with a spreadable disease, it needs to be disposed of professionally and not buried.
  • Your neighbors should likely be consulted before you bury the dog in your backyard.
  • The container that you use should be biodegradable, so that it dissolves into the Earth over time.
  • Some municipalities have made it illegal to bury your dog in the garden or yard, so you need to check this before moving forward.

In general, each state and each county has wildly different laws. Check with your local authorities and make sure that you are following all the relevant rules and regulations.

Dogs' deaths are hard. Making burial plans in advance can make things feel easier.
Dogs' deaths are hard. Making burial plans in advance can make things feel easier.  © Unsplash/Berkay Gumustekin

How deep to bury a dog

Different US states have different regulations for how deep a home burial site should be. Generally, all dog graves need to be between 2–5 feet deep, but you need to check the rules for your particular state.

The most important thing, ultimately, is that your dog is buried deep enough to not be disturbed, and you are not going to come into contact with any utilities like water and gas lines.

There are a number of different factors that influence how deep or shallow a dog grave should be. They include: the size of the dog, the type of container / coffin, where your home is and the natural wildlife in that area, where it's buried, and what else is being buried with your dog.

How long can you wait to bury a dog?

From a practical standpoint, it is good to get your dog buried as quickly as possible. After a few hours, rigor mortis will set in, and your dog's joints and muscles will tighten up and become quite stiff. You need to remember that dogs will start to decompose immediately after they pass, so you need to get them into the ground quickly (otherwise things could get very traumatic).

It is best to bury your dog once it has entered this rigor mortis period (to guarantee that your dog is definitely gone), within only a few hours (less than 12) of its passing.

This, however, is just a suggestion, but the time of pet burials is actually legislated in most US states. The majority of states give you 24–48 hours to have your pooch buried or cremated, with certain exceptions being given when different arrangements have been organized.

How much does it cost to bury a dog?

Get advice from your veterinarian about how to handle your dog when it passes away.
Get advice from your veterinarian about how to handle your dog when it passes away.  © Unsplash/Markus Winkler

The cost associated with a pet burial of any kind varies depending on how you want them to be buried. Of course, professional burials in pet cemeteries are some of the most expensive options out there, as are cremations. On the flip side, though, backyard dog burials incur the cost of only the coffin itself.

If you decide to have your dog buried in a pet cemetery, with a custom headstone, you are likely to be paying thousands of dollars. Additionally, professional burial will incur future maintenance costs. Cremations, on the other hand, usually cost only a few hundred dollars.

Dog owners who choose to have a backyard burial will pay very little, but will need to make sure that they are fitting the regulations for burial according to local laws. The cost of a dog casket is generally quite low, and the rest is mostly personal labor.

Keep in mind that this will be a hard process, though, and could be a seriously emotionally taxing option.

Allow yourself time to mourn when burying a dog

It can be a little traumatic when you lose your beloved doggo, often because everything happens so fast with little time to process everything. Of course, your dog's body needs to be buried within a short space of time, but you need to make sure that you allow yourself a mourning period.

Once all has been said and done, it is perfectly normal to be sad at a time like this. If you are struggling, make sure to talk to your friends and family, or a medical professional. If you have kids, make sure you break the news to them gently. Above all, try to remember the beautiful memories you shared with your four-legged friend.

Cover photo: Unsplash/Celine Sayuri Tagami

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