Where Do Dogs Go After They Are Put To Sleep?

The Difficult Decision to Euthanize a Pet

Deciding to euthanize a beloved pet is one of the hardest decisions a pet owner will ever have to make. There are several common reasons why dog owners may choose euthanasia for their pet:

Old age – As dogs get older, they often develop age-related health issues like arthritis, incontinence, dementia, and cancer. These can lead to chronic pain, loss of quality of life, and the inability to enjoy basic activities. When medication and treatment options no longer provide comfort, euthanasia may be the most humane option.

Terminal illness – Dogs can develop terminal illnesses like cancer, kidney disease, liver failure, etc. that cause significant pain and discomfort. If the illness has progressed to the point where it cannot be effectively treated, euthanasia spares the dog prolonged suffering.

Sudden injury or trauma – Severe injuries from accidents or trauma like being hit by a car, falls, or attacks by other animals often result in massive internal damage or paralysis. These cases may leave euthanasia as the only option to prevent further suffering.

Unmanageable behavior issues – Though rare, some dogs develop dangerous behavior problems like unwarranted aggression that cannot be resolved through training and medication. Euthanasia may be considered when the dog poses a serious threat to public safety.

The decision is often made based on the recommendation of a trusted veterinarian who can provide an honest assessment of the dog’s prognosis and options. Most owners choose euthanasia to prevent needless suffering and provide their pet with a peaceful, gentle passing when all other alternatives have been exhausted.

What Happens at the Veterinarian’s Office

The euthanasia process begins when the pet owner arrives at the veterinarian’s office with their beloved companion. Many veterinarians recommend bringing familiar blankets or toys from home to help comfort the pet. Owners are encouraged to spend some quiet time with their pet before the procedure begins.

When it is time, the veterinarian will first give the pet a strong sedative or anesthetic injection to relax them and make them drowsy. This ensures the pet is not anxious or in pain during the process. According to the AVMA, the most common euthanasia drug for dogs is an overdose of pentobarbital, which quickly induces a painless, humane death by stopping the heart and brain activity (AVMA).

Most veterinarians will allow owners to be present during the euthanasia if they wish. The owner can comfort their pet by petting them and talking to them softly as the injection is administered. Usually the pet will drift into unconsciousness within seconds, and pass away peacefully within 1-5 minutes. It is a quiet, calm, and painless procedure.

Afterwards, the veterinarian will listen closely to verify the pet’s heart has stopped. They will handle the pet’s remains with care and respect. Many clinics have private rooms where owners can spend more time with their pet afterwards before saying goodbye.

Where Do Dogs’ Bodies Go Afterwards?

There are a few options for handling a dog’s remains after euthanasia. Some of the most common choices are private cremation, communal cremation, and burial.

With private cremation, your pet’s body will be individually cremated and the ashes will be returned to you in an urn. This allows you to scatter or keep the ashes to memorialize your pet. Private cremation is more expensive but provides a way to retain a physical reminder of your beloved dog.

Communal or group cremation involves cremating your dog with other pets. The ashes are not returned to you, so this is a more affordable option if you do not need the ashes back. Many veterinary clinics use third-party pet cremation services that offer communal cremations.

Burial is another possibility for body disposal after euthanasia. Some pet owners choose to bury their dogs in a pet cemetery or on their own property, if local laws allow. This provides a physical gravesite as a place to visit and reflect on memories of your pet.

No matter which option you choose, make sure you understand the process and costs beforehand when making arrangements with your veterinarian. Considering the options in advance can help you decide what will provide the most comfort during this difficult process.

Private Cremation

Private cremation is when a pet is individually cremated without any other animals present. This allows the ashes to be returned to the pet’s owner afterward. Private cremation is more expensive than communal cremation but provides more personalized service.

The private cremation process involves the veterinarian taking the deceased pet to a crematorium. The pet is placed in an individual chamber where high heat reduces the body to bone fragments. These fragments are then processed into ashes. Any non-combustible materials like implants or collars are removed beforehand. The ashes are placed in an urn selected by the owner.

According to Perfect Memorials, private dog cremation costs range from $100 for a small dog up to $250 for a very large dog over 120 pounds. Extra charges may apply for expedited service, paw print impressions, fur clippings, or special urns. So the total cost can vary.

Communal Cremation

Communal cremation is the most affordable option for pet owners. In this type of cremation, multiple pets are cremated together in the same cremation chamber. The ashes are not separated out by pet, but rather combined together.

This is a good option for pet owners who do not need their pet’s ashes returned, or cannot afford a private cremation. According to Perfect Memorials, communal cremations typically cost between $30-$70 depending on the size of the pet https://perfectmemorials.com/guides/understanding-pet-cremation-costs/. The Daily Paws notes the average cost is $30-$70 https://www.dailypaws.com/living-with-pets/pet-costs/dog-cremation-cost. The ashes are scattered or buried in a pet cemetery.

While communal cremation does not allow pet owners to get their pet’s ashes back, it provides an affordable and respectful option for handling remains after euthanasia.


Many pet owners choose to bury their dogs after euthanasia, either in their own backyard or in a pet cemetery. Backyard burial can be more affordable, with costs starting around $100 for materials and labor to dig the grave. However, this option is not permitted everywhere due to local laws.

Pet cemeteries provide a designated burial ground and services to inter pet remains. Costs vary greatly depending on the cemetery, burial container, grave liner or vault, burial plot, memorial marker, and additional services. According to this analysis, the average cost of a pet burial in a cemetery is $524. Prices range from around $200 for a basic burial of a small pet, up to $2,000 or more for a large pet with full services and memorial marker.

Some factors that influence the cost of pet cemetery burial include the pet’s size, choice of casket/urn, burial plot location, memorial marker, and any special viewings, ceremonies or memorial events. Many cemeteries offer payment plans to make the cost more manageable. While saying goodbye is difficult, pet cemeteries provide a dignified resting place to memorialize beloved companions.

Other Memorial Options

In addition to cremation and burial, there are other meaningful ways to memorialize a beloved pet after they pass away. Here are some ideas:

Paw print keepsakes like casts or imprints in clay allow you to capture your dog’s unique paw print. These keepsakes can be displayed around the home and serve as a lasting reminder of your dog. Some veterinarians or pet loss services can create a paw print for you shortly after your dog’s passing.

Pet urns are containers used to hold a dog’s ashes after cremation. Urns come in many shapes, sizes, and materials like wood, metal, or granite. They can be engraved with your dog’s name and displayed in the home. Some people choose to scatter the ashes and keep the urn as a memorial.

Planting a tree or bush in your garden is a living memorial to your dog. You can choose a planting that was significant like their favorite place to be outside. A plaque at the site commemorates your beloved companion. The plant grows as a tribute you can visit and watch thrive.

According to this source, other unique memorial keepsakes include custom paintings, wind chimes engraved with your dog’s name, memory books, and personalized blankets or pillows.

Processing the Loss

The grief after losing a beloved pet can be intense and overwhelming. The bond between pets and their owners is powerful, and the death of a pet is a significant loss. Many pet owners benefit from grief counseling or pet loss support groups to help process their emotions. You should allow yourself fully experience all stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and know that there is no “normal” timeline for grieving.

Seek out friends and family that understand the pet relationship and will allow you to openly express your feelings without judgement. Joining a pet loss support group, either locally or online through sites like the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, can provide connection with others experiencing similar grief. Consider working with a pet bereavement counselor or mental health professional that specializes in pet loss.

Grieving openly and allowing yourself to fully experience the emotions of loss are important steps in eventually reaching acceptance. While the pain may feel unbearable at times, understand that the intensity will lessen with time. Appreciate the wonderful years and memories with your pet, and know they felt your deep love in return.

Moving Forward After Loss

The decision to get another dog after your pet passes away is highly personal. There is no set timeframe for when someone is “ready” for a new dog. Some people feel ready just weeks or months after their dog dies, while others may need more than a year before considering another pet. The most important factor is working through your grief so you can be fully present for a new dog.

It’s common to feel conflicted or guilty about getting a new dog. Know that getting another pet does not diminish your past dog’s memory. Each dog is unique, and your new pet will never “replace” your old companion. However, a new dog can bring joy back into your life when you’re ready. You can honor your previous dog’s memory while also building a new relationship.

Before getting another dog, reflect on whether you have sufficiently processed your grief. Consider working with a pet bereavement counselor. When you finally feel your grief lifting, it may be time to start looking for adoptable dogs if that feels right for you. Take your time finding the perfect new furry friend.

You may wish to incorporate your past dog into the transition. Some people hold little ceremonies to honor their pet who passed before welcoming a new dog into their home. You can share stories and pictures of your previous companion with your new dog as you build your bond.

While grief takes time, a new loving pet can eventually help heal the hole left behind by your dear friend. Be gentle with yourself as you work through complex emotions. With patience, you may find room in your heart to provide a forever home to a dog in need when the time is right. Your past pet’s spirit lives on through the happy memories you carry.

Cherishing Memories

The loss of a beloved dog leaves an aching hole in our hearts. Remembering them through memorial activities and keepsakes is one way to keep their spirit and memory alive. Celebrating a dog’s life, even after their passing, can be an important part of the healing process.

One simple but meaningful memorial activity is creating a photo album or memory book dedicated to your dog. Include favorite pictures capturing your dog’s personality, your favorite adventures together, their milestones and achievements, and any other special memories. Looking through photos and reminiscing can help maintain the profound connection you shared with your pet even after they are gone. Consider sharing the photo album with close family and friends so they can participate in remembering your dog’s remarkable life.

Other memorial ideas include making a paw print cast using clay or an ink paw print on paper to keep displayed in your home. You can commission a special piece of jewelry like a pendant containing your dog’s photo, name, or some fur clippings. Plant a tree, shrub, or flowers in your garden in their honor. On the anniversary of their birthday, adoption day, or passing, do a memorial activity like visiting their gravesite, looking through old photos, sharing favorite stories, or making their favorite treat.

Finding meaningful ways to honor your pet helps keep their spirit alive. Cherishing memories activities provide comfort and joy when coping with the loss of a beloved furry friend.

Scroll to Top