What happens immediately after a pet's passing?

You can read more on the euthanasia procedure in our Saying Goodbye section. This help take you through the process of making your euthanasia appointment, coming into the vet clinic, what happens when your pet is euthanased, as well as how you can prepare for home euthanasia

Immediately following your pet’s euthanasia, usually several things will happen, depending on whether it took place at home or in the vet clinic. Firstly, you will hopefully have been prepared for the possibility of your pet voiding urine or faeces as it passes away. This is very common and why it’s important to place a towel or blanket under your pet before the procedure takes place.

Following euthanasia, your veterinarian or veterinary nurse or technician will help to gently clean your pet if necessary, and remove any intravenous cannula that was placed. Then, depending on whether you are burying your pet at home, having your pet cremated or are still undecided, a few different things may happen. 

  • If you have decided to bury your pet at home your vet will help you to place its body in a blanket or casket (if you are going to use one). It’s best not to bury your pet in any non-biodegradable material. If you don’t already have the burial place prepared (see Aftercare) it’s best to gently move your pet into a curled position, as if it were sleeping. When rigor mortis sets in after a few hours, your pet’s body will stiffen and it can make burial more labour-intensive if your pet is lying on their side. 
  • If your pet is being cremated, then again there are several options for what happens next. If you are taking your pet’s body directly to the crematorium yourself, then it’s best to curl them gently into a resting position and wrap them in a blanket, making sure that your car seat or boot is lined with an impervious material in case of any leakage of body fluid.
  • If your veterinary practice is arranging cremation for you then they will keep - or bring your pet’s body back to, in the case of a home euthanasia, or a natural death at home - then at the veterinary practice. Your pet’s body is usually picked up by the crematorium and brought to the facility in their own transport. Pick-up timing will vary, depending on the arrangement that your practice has with the crematorium. Don’t be afraid to ask if you would like to know.

Most pets’ bodies are placed into cold storage while awaiting collection, as with people. This is usually a freezer facility, to stop any body decomposition. If you have not decided at the time of euthanasia or your pet’s death how you would like to take care of your pet’s body, they will usually be stored in this cold facility until you decide. 

Post Mortem

If your pet died suddenly without the cause being known or a full understanding of your pet’s condition or disease was not reached when they were alive, your vet may discuss a post-mortem with you. A post mortem may or may not reveal the cause of death. Do not feel pressured to have a post-mortem done. Equally if you wish to have this carried out, do not be afraid to bring this up with your vet in advance of the euthanasia procedure. Post-mortems involve opening up the body cavity, and pets are generally not released for burial at home as an aftercare option. Your vet will be able to discuss this fully with you. No pet’s body should undergo a post-mortem without their owner’s full permission.