What To Do If Your Pet Dies At Home

If you are unsure if your pet has died:
Contact your veterinarian. You can bring your pet into your local veterinary clinic to ensure that he/she has died. Your vet can also make arrangements for aftercare services on your behalf.

If you are unable to bring your pet into the vet, to ensure your pet has died you can look for these signs:
Check to see if the breathing has stopped; Place your hand gently on your pet’s chest to ensure that the breathing has stopped. If you feel your pet’s chest rise and fall, even in the slightest, that indicates that your pet is still breathing.

Check for a heartbeat; If your pet is laying on its side place your hand under your pet’s chest near the armpit. If the heart is still beating you should feel it on your fingertips.

Check for a corneal reflex; After a pet has died the eyes often remain open, the pupils dilate and the eyes lose their “glossy” appearance. There should be no response if you touch the eyeball itself.

Handling the body:
Place disposable training pads under your pet as bodily fluids are often released after death. If nothing is released during or just after death often fluids will empty out when your pet is moved. If you do not have disposable training pads, a towel or other absorbent fabric would work well to ensure your pet stays clean and dignified after death.

Be aware that your pet will feel differently after death. The body is usually very limp and relaxed until rigor mortis has set in. Be sure to support your pets head and body when moving the body.

Wrap your pet in a towel or blanket in the position you would like him/her to be in as rigor mortis usually takes affect within the first few hours after death.

It is important to keep your pet in a dry cool place and out of direct sunlight. If possible, refrigeration or freezer storage is ideal if your pet’s aftercare is not arranged within the first 24 hours.

If you wish to bury your pet at home and weather permits, check with your local bylaw to ensure you are permitted to do so. You can also contact your local crematory or pet cemetery to see if they provide home pick up to collect your pet’s body and provide aftercare.

It is permissible to bury your pet within the Ottawa/Gatineau area as long as your own the property or have permission from the property owner. Please see our Home Burial Instructions Sheet for guidelines on preparing your pet and the burial site.

If you are not planning a home burial there are pet aftercare companies who can help you with cremation or burial. You can contact your local veterinarian for this information or if you have a company that you would like to work with you can contact them directly. Most pet crematories offer a home pick up service.

The crematory that we normally work directly with is Eternal Companions. They service the Ottawa/Gatineau area and can be reached at 1-866-302-0500 or you can visit their website at compagnonseternels.ca/en/