Burying Your Pet if it Doesn’t Survive the Disaster

burying your pet

This isn’t something that everybody wants to think about but, “what if your pet doesn’t survive the disaster?

We can do all the needed preparing and planning for our pet’s safety in case of disaster but there may always be the chance that they don’t survive. If this is the case, it isn’t your fault and sometimes there is nothing that we can do as owners to keep them safe. During this post we are going to take a look at the steps that you should take if your pet doesn’t survive and how you should bury them if you choose to do so at home. This may all be difficult to consider but it is one of the realities of living through a disaster.

Are You Allowed to Bury Your Pet at Home?

There are very few laws or rules regarding a home pet burial. As long as you own the property and are not renting, it has a domestic use and your dog lived there (although quite frankly who is going to check that part), you can bury your pet at home. This information is correct for the UK but if you live somewhere else you should check your local laws surrounding the matter.

Hold a Wake

Holding a wake came from the very sensible need to know if a person was really deceased before burying them. The person would simply be laid out and left to see if they would wake up. This step is important because following a disaster it may not be immediately evident if they have passed away. A vet will listen to their heart with a stethoscope and will discreetly check for your pet’s vital signs. But as owners, how can we be sure?

This is not a nice thing to have to think about but you do need to be sure of your pet’s passing before you bury the body. Even vets have been known to get it wrong. It is rare and not something to have nightmares about but here are some signs of death to check for:

  • Check for a pulse or heart beat – place two fingers (not your thumb) lightly on the pet’s chest between/behind the front legs or inside the back legs where the back leg joins the body.
  • Watch and listen for signs of breathing.
  • Check the colour of the gums. if a pet dog they would usually be pink when the dog is alive.
  • Finally the start of rigor mortis, where the body becomes stiff, is a sure sign of death.

Don’t just assume that the pet has passed away. Don’t feel afraid of making sure of death. It is important.

Preparing the Body

When your pet has passed away, get a plastic sheet or something waterproof like a bin bag. Following death, the bodily fluids can come out of your pet’s body and possibly again when the pet is moved or handled. You can place a blanket or towel over the waterproof sheeting if you like. It is entirely up to you how you lay your pet. You may opt for laying them on their side, slightly curled up in a sleeping position. This looks more pleasant, makes for easier handling later and positioning in the grave.

The Grave

You need to select the position of the grave carefully. Choose a place that is unlikely to need to be excavated in the future and don’t put a grave in a place that gets boggy or is at risk of flooding. Also, keep the grave site far away from water sources such as wells, ponds, streams etc… Also take care not to disrupt any underground pipes or cables.

To prepare your pet’s grave, measure your pet to get an idea of the size of grave that you need to dig, width and length wise. Depth wise, the grave should be at least 3-4 feet deep. This is for health reasons and also to safeguard against scavengers, other pets from digging up the burial area, or even rain from washing away topsoil and uncovering the grave. Don’t forget a 3 foot deep grave allows for about 2 foot of soil to go back on top.


Your pet should be buried in something that is biodegradable like a towel, blanket, wooden, wicker or cardboard coffin. You should avoid making a casket out of anything that is non-biodegradable.

Once the grave is filled you will have a mound of earth that can be piled on top. Don’t worry if it looks too much at this point as it will eventually settle in time.

Finally, to mark your pet’s final resting place you can plant a lovely bush or shrub and/or add a keepsake or pet memorial stone.

Plan Ahead

Try to think and plan in advance about what you want to happen to your pet’s body after their death. Facing their death is upsetting enough without having to suddenly decide what you want to do with their body. It can become easy to have to make a decision on the spot to only regret that decision at a later date.

I think home burial is a very personal way to deal with a pet’s passing. It is not expensive and you know exactly what has happened to your pet’s body during the entire process, rather than entrusting the handling to someone else.

Finally, many people feel that, once their pet has passed, the body is now simply an unused vehicle from their life on earth. Don’t feel you have to go to any great lengths to care for remains if you don’t want to. We all have different feelings about this. As long as everyone who loved the pet is in agreement with what should happen to the body, that is all that matters.


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