Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is something many of us will experience at some point in our lives. Emotions will often be running high following their passing and thinking about the practicalities can feel overwhelming.
In this guide we’ll share some advice on dealing with the loss of your furry companion, as well as some guidance on how to navigate those practical next steps.
What to do when your dog or cat dies at home
Contact your vet
People may experience a whirlwind of emotions after losing a pet, especially if their passing was sudden or unexpected.
You might not know where to turn next, who you can contact for support, or even how to deal with your pet’s remains. But, rest assured, help is always at hand.
Your vet is there to help
Reaching out to your vet is usually a good place to start. They’ll be able to talk you through what to do next. You might want to find out if your vet can collect your pet’s remains or if you need to take your pet to them. Then you can make plans to suit your needs.
If you’re unsure, it may be worth getting a quote from one of our vets to see how they can support you. Our customers have free access to vetfone which offers 24/7 advice from registered vet nurses over phone or video, so help is just a call away.
Know what to expect
If you decide to bury your pet at home, it’s important to know exactly what to expect.
Decide what you'd like to do with your pet's remains
There are a number of options open to you.
Many people choose to bury their pet at home as a way of keeping them close. It can also be an important act of closure, giving you the chance to celebrate your pet’s life. You may choose to lay a plaque, place a statue or plant a tree in their memory. You might not wish to bury your pet at home if you rent or are likely to move out of your property in the near future.
It may also be a good idea to check with your local council before going ahead, especially if you live in a city where there could be area-wide restrictions on animal burials.
If you’d like to keep your pet close but don’t have a place to bury them, you could look at having your pet’s remains cremated and returned to you for burial. Then you won’t need to worry about them being ‘disturbed’ as they’ll be kept in a decorative urn or container. Other pet owners choose to scatter their pet’s ashes. Some vet's offer cremation services so you may wish to check with them. You can also find your local pet crematorium on the Pet Cremation Services website.
Some pet owners choose to preserve the memory of their pet rather than keeping their actual remains close by. If so, a formal cemetery burial could be more fitting. This ensures your pet’s remains will be undisturbed and cared for wherever life takes you. A pet cemetery might be able to pick up your pet from your home or vets.
The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria allows members to search for pet burial services by location.
Settle your vet bills and cancel your pet insurance
You can cancel pet insurance any time, but it’s best to check with your insurer to find out their cancellation process. Bear in mind that if you cancel before your policy is due for renewal, you might need to pay the premiums for the remainder of policy.
We do our best to accommodate customers when they lose a pet. If you're not able to contact us right away, we’ll backdate your cancellation once we receive a claim or invoice for end-of-life treatment.
To cancel your MORE THAN pet policy, you’ll need to get in touch with us.
Our Premier pet insurance also includes farewell cover meaning, when the time comes, we could help cover the cost of your pet being put to sleep by a vet. We could also help cover the cost of cremation or burial. You can also add this as an optional extra if you choose one of our other cover types.
Learn about the types of pet insurance we offer to help you choose the right cover for your needs.
What to do if your dog or cat dies at the vets
Ultimately, the decision to say goodbye to your pet was the right one if it was made with your pet’s best interest at heart.
Feel free to ask questions
If you like, speak with your vet about your decision and ask any questions that come to mind. You should also make a call about aftercare and let your vet know. Many vets work with companies that can arrange individual cremations or burials.
More about the procedure
Your vet will carry out a procedure called euthanasia intended to end an animal’s life when they’re suffering or there’s little or no hope of recovery. There will often be a consent form for you to sign before your vet proceeds.
You should decide if you’d like to be there during the procedure to help comfort your pet in their final moments. Also, try to decide if you’d prefer any family members or friends to be with you. When your vet has carried out the procedure, they may step out of the room to give you some time alone with your pet.
Coping with losing a pet
Grief can be different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong way to experience it.
Our pets are our constant companions. They’re always there when we get home from work and can be a reassuring presence in our lives. So, it’s normal to feel heartbroken when you lose them.
Give yourself space
Take time out and give yourself space to grieve. Having a focus can often help, so try to spend time on your favourite hobby, go for a walk or do some home cooking. Get lots of rest, sleep and fresh air.
There’s no set time to get over the loss of a pet. It may be months before you start feeling better and are ready to move forwards. You’ll adjust eventually.
Talk to friends and family
While not everyone will understand the special bond you had with your pet, it can help to share those cherished memories with loved ones, so be open with them about how you’re feeling.
Create a memorial
This can be a comforting way to remember and commemorate your pet. You could choose a sentimental plaque or picture frame. If you keep your pet’s ashes, you may prefer a decorative urn.
Get the right support
Chatting to the Blue Cross or Paws to Listen for confidential support can help you manage the pain of losing a pet. There are many services on hand to support you.
Getting a new pet
Although your furry friend is irreplaceable, it can be tempting to fill the void that their passing leaves by getting a new one. You’ll know when the time feels right, if you do choose to get a new pet, but we don’t recommend rushing in. Remember, your new pet is not a ‘replacement’ for the one that passed, so give yourself time. You should also make sure everyone in the family is involved in the decision and you consider any surviving pets.
Another option could be to adopt a pet and speaking with rescue centres to find a good match.
Helping children cope with the loss of a pet
Losing a pet can be hard for children to grasp. It’s usually best to be as honest as possible. Try not to use phrases like ‘put to sleep’ as this may confuse them. Pretending they ‘ran away’ may also leave a child feeling confused.
If a pet is very old, had an accident or is badly injured, try to talk to your child before the death occurs. Take time to let them talk about their pet. Be sure to tell them that the passing of their pet is not their fault.
Planting a tree in the spot where your dog used to sunbathe, or your cat used to like sitting could be a nice touch.
Pet insurance and death
Our pets mean the world to us, so it’s important we know what to do when it’s time to say goodbye and give them the send-off they deserve. Feel free to refer back to this guide if you’re in need of support following the loss of a pet.
Remember, we include farewell cover as standard as part of our Premier insurance. This means we could help cover the costs of your pet being put to sleep by a vet – giving you peace of mind when you need it most. Find out more about our cover options.