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Dog Cremation: Options, Cost, and What to Expect

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Grieving a dog that has just crossed the rainbow bridge is not the best time to be making end-of-life arrangements.

Understanding the options ahead of time and determining whether dog cremation is the best choice to honor your best furry friend will allow you to focus on grieving your loss, not managing the logistics.

What Is Dog Cremation?

When dogs are cremated, their bodies are placed in cremation chambers, also called retorts, and incinerated. It turns their bodies into bone fragments and ash that are known as “cremains” or cremated remains.

Cremation for dogs is just one option for pet owners. Home burial or burial in pet cemeteries are also possibilities. Dr. Dani McVety veterinarian, founder and CEO or LapofLove.com, a nationwide practice specializing in hospice and in-home euthanasia, estimates that 70 percent of the dog owners she works with opt for cremation when their dogs die.

“The number one reason [dog owners choose cremation] is the mechanical aspect of it,” she adds. “Some dog owners live in apartments and there is no place for home burial and others aren’t living in their forever homes and want to keep pets with them when they move.”

Where to Cremate a Dog

Dog cremation is performed at special crematories for pets. There are national chains that perform this service as well as local, independent facilities.

Although pet cremation is a popular end of life option, Dr. McVety notes that it’s a niche business and the availability of facilities depends on your location.

Some cities might have a few pet crematories while others might have a single option. Most veterinarians have relationships with crematories and will make arrangements for pet owners. It’s rare for pet owners to search out crematories on their own after their pet dies, she adds.  

Dog Cremation Services: Types

Dog urn with rose

You’ll need to decide between different cremation options:

Private Cremation 

During a private cremation, your dog is alone in the cremation chamber. “There is no risk of commingling remains,” explains Barbara Kemmis CAE, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America. You’ll choose private cremation if you want to receive your dog’s ashes.

Partitioned Cremation

Some pet crematories offer partitioned cremation. In this option – also known as individual cremation or semi-private cremation – bricks are placed between pets to partition their bodies while still allowing for air flow within the cremation chamber. 

It might not be an option for larger dogs because retorts might not have the space to separate the bodies. Kemmis notes that there is “minimal” risk of commingling ashes during partitioned cremation and pet owners do receive the ashes following cremation.

This option is less expensive for pet parents than private cremation.

Communal Cremation

In a communal cremation, multiple pets are cremated together and their ashes are spread communally, not returned to the pet parents. “Some crematories on the coast will spread the ashes at sea and one of the crematories we work with spreads the ashes in a butterfly garden,” says Dr. McVety.

Aquamation for Dogs

In addition to traditional heat-based cremation, a newer offering called “aquamation” may also be available to pet owners. The process is water-based. An alkalizing agent is added to the water to help the body decompose, according to Dr. Tessa King, a hospice veterinarian with Compassion 4 Paws in Seattle.

Aquamation takes longer than traditional cremation – up to 21 hours – but it offers some benefits.

“It doesn’t release smoke and other particles into the atmosphere and you actually get more ashes with aquamation,” Dr. King says.

Dr. McVety opted for aquamation for one of her dogs and received her microchip and canine teeth back along with a plate that had been placed in her leg during a previous surgery because the water-based process preserved those items.

Dog Cremation Process: What to Expect

After your dog dies, your veterinarian (or the end-of-life provider you chose) will hold them in a secure, temperature controlled environment until the cremation occurs at their office or the crematorium. Kemmis notes, “these are dedicated crematories with equipment designed and used only for [cremating] animals.”

Depending on the schedule at the crematories, dogs may be cremated between 1 and 7 days following their deaths. Most crematories allow pet owners to witness their dog’s cremation with advanced arrangements if they choose to do so. The process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.

“For some people, witnessing the cremation may bring some closure,” Dr. King says. “Some people, they just want to see or know that their animals are being treated with care and respect and to know that they’re getting back the ashes from their animal.”

Pet owners who opt for private cremation will receive their dog’s ashes.

Dog Cremation Cost

The cost to cremate a dog ranges from $50 to $250 and up. The biggest factors are the dog’s weight and whether it’s a private, semi-private, or communal cremation. Communal cremation is the least expensive option and private cremation is the most expensive.

To avoid making decisions while mourning the loss of a beloved pet, Kemmis suggests researching options in advance and, when possible, pre-planning your dog’s cremation or funeral.

Dog Cremation Urns and Boxes

All dog ashes are packaged in secure plastic bags but those bags are often sealed in decorative boxes and urns that allow dog owners to keep their pets in a special place in their homes. The options for dog cremation urns or dog cremation boxes range from basic to ornate and the decision to choose an urn depends on the veterinarian and crematorium.

Some crematories have standard boxes included in their fee, allowing dog owners to choose a special box at a later date. Dr. McVety notes that online marketplaces like Etsy have countless beautiful urns and boxes for pet remains that can be personalized to make them extra special.

Dog Cremation FAQs

Woman holding dog collar

Should I bury or cremate my dog? 

The decision to bury or cremate your dog is a personal one and might be based on factors such as cost, burial space, access to pet cemeteries and local ordinances related to burying pets.

“We are a more transient society and cremation allows the owner to keep their pet with them,” says Kemmis.

Where can I get my dog cremated? 

Pet crematories specialize in pet cremation. Your veterinarian can provide a list of options but most veterinarians or end-of-life providers have partnerships with pet crematories and will arrange the entire process after your dog dies.

How much does it cost to cremate a dog? 

The cost to cremate a dog ranges from $50 to $250 (and more) and depends on their size and weight, whether pet owners choose private, semi-private or communal cremation, and even location.

How long does it take to cremate a dog? 

Dogs are cremated within one week of their death. The actual cremation process can range from approximately 30 minutes to 2 hours. 

Does pet insurance cover cremation? 

Most pet insurance policies don’t cover cremation. Check with your insurance provider to determine what end-of-life care is covered.

What happens to the microchip when a pet is cremated? 

Your dog’s microchip is incinerated during traditional cremation and can’t be recovered. During aquamation, the microchip isn’t destroyed and can be returned to the pet owner.

Memorializing Your Pet

Your dog was an important member of your family and there are many ways to honor their memory after their death. Some pet owners spread their ashes in the backyard, dog park, or other favorite spot. If you plan to spread your dog’s ashes, make sure there are no laws prohibiting you from doing so. 

You may also want to keep their cremains on display in your home or have a special keepsake made with their ashes. There are a variety of beautiful and meaningful options from memorial jewelry, stained glass and keychains to pottery, memorial stones and engraved boxes that will serve as a continued reminder of your dog’s place in your heart.

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