What To Do When a Large Dog Passes Away at Home

Losing a dog is never easy, and losing a dog at home can be especially challenging. You’re likely full of emotion, and now there is a body to handle. And, your beloved large or extra-large dog likely posed some challenges in life, but now his or her large body may pose some special challenges in death. People who own dogs like Great Danes and Mastiffs may have a more difficult time handling the body when their dog dies. Below we provide some useful tips on what you need to do.

Great Dane sitting on a pillow at home

Evaluate Your Situation

Take a deep breath. Your dog still needs you, even though they’ve passed on. Now you need to double-check that your dog has passed. Feel for a heartbeat or a pulse, and if you think your dog might still be alive, you can try to start CPR or take them to a 24-hour animal hospital. 

Call Your Veterinarian

Once you’re sure your dog has passed, the next step is to call your veterinarian’s office. A vet’s office will take your dog’s body and either dispose of it for you or store it for you before you have a cremation or burial. They might also know of resources like a pet crematory or a mobile vet service. 

Call Someone for Help

Now that you’ve assessed your dog’s state and called the vet’s office, what next? Call someone for help. You’ll need emotional support, as well as physical help for moving the body if you’re taking it to a vet’s office or crematorium. Choose someone calm and compassionate, as well as physically strong, to support you while you handle your pet’s body. If you feel unable to handle your pet’s body yourself, ask someone you trust to take over. 

Handling Your Dog’s Body

Here’s how to safely, lovingly, and respectfully take care of your dog’s body.

  1. Put gloves on to touch the body. When a death occurs, bodies may start to leak fluids from the mouth, genitals, and anus. Be prepared for more waste to be released when you move the body. You can gently clean your dog’s body if you wish. Using a damp cloth, wipe the released fluid up and throw the cloth away. 
  2. Find several blankets, towels, or bed sheets large enough to wrap around your dog’s body. It may take several blankets or towels due to your dog’s size.
  3. If you have extra-large trash bags, grab a couple of them too. You’ll need to place one of the trash bags inside the other so you can double bag the body to help prevent fluids from leaking out.
  4. Gently arrange the body on the blanket, towels, or sheets. Lay the body on its side, and arrange the limbs so that it looks like your dog is sleeping. This is respectful and also will make it easier to move the body. 
  5. Securely wrap the body in the blanket, sheet, or towel. Next, carefully slide the body into the trash bags. You’ll need help with a dog this size. 
  6. Secure the bag with either a knot or some tape.
  7. Place a label with your dog’s name and your information securely on the plastic bag.

Now you’re ready to take your dog’s body to the vet’s office for storage, or to the pet crematorium, or to wait for someone to come and pick up your dog. 

If you can’t reach your vet or pet crematorium because it’s after hours, you may need to store the body in your garage or basement. If you’re waiting more than a few hours, you might want to wrap your dog’s body in more plastic bags to prevent mess and odor. 

What Do I Do With The Body?

It’s important to deal with your dog’s body right away. Decomposition starts immediately after death, so you can’t wait on this. It’s not a pretty process, and the hotter the temperature, the quicker the body will decompose. While immensely difficult, this is a way to honor your beloved dog and to keep yourself and those around you safe. 

Next, the body must be removed or properly stored in refrigeration until burial or cremation. A 24-hour vet’s office can help with this, or some pet crematories work 24/7 and could pick up the body right away. If you have someone come to pick up the body, make sure you tell them it’s the body of a large or extra-large dog. 

Having Your Dog Cremated

Cremating your dog allows you many ways to honor and remember your beloved pet. It’s also typically less expensive than burial, though you can also bury part or all of your pet's ashes if you wish.

The Living Urn offers many beautiful and meaningful urns. Their most popular pet urn is their BioUrn, which plants a young tree with the remains of your dog. The tree uses the ashes from cremation as nourishment and turns your dog into a beautiful tree. They also offer bamboo pet urns that can be engraved with an image of your dog. These beautiful urns can be displayed in the home allowing you to keep a piece of your wonderful dog with you, or used to scatter or bury your beloved pet's ashes.