5 Things on What to Do if your dog dies at home at night

The loss of a pet can be a difficult time. If your dog dies at home at night and it’s unexpected, there are a few questions that you will need to think through such as:

  1. Are you sure your dog has died?
  2. Do you have a local 24/7-hour vet that you can contact?
  3. Is someone with you? Or can you call someone to help you?
  4. How much time do you have?
  5. What do you want to do with the body of your dog after they have died?

Below you will find information to help with each of these questions

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1. Are you sure your dog has died?

Finding a pulse on a human can be difficult for someone, especially if they are in a state of shock. When a dog passes away, its heart will stop beating. The most important thing is to try to listen to your dog’s heart to see if you can feel or hear it. You can check for a pulse in two places on your dog. The first is to place two fingers either on your dog’s chest where its heart is located (near the elbow joint). The second is to check for a pulse high on your dog’s inner thigh where a major artery is located. If there is no pulse in either of those two places, then sadly your dog has passed away.

Wes Memorial

2. Do you have a local 24/7 vet you can contact?

If you are not sure if your dog has died, it’s best to take them to the nearest 24/7 emergency veterinarian. If you have a local vet, they likely have an emergency vet they work with that is on their website. Or provided to you when you call the after-hours line. If that is not the case, you can pull up google maps and put in “emergency vet” and find one near you. 

When Wes needed a vet at 1 am because he was still breathing but we knew it was only a matter of time, we googled the nearest open vet. We called 2 to find out which one would take us immediately. It was a terrible night but the vet was waiting outside for me in the middle of the night to carry Wes directly back to the vet and make him as comfortable as possible after trying to save him. The reason for the vet is because it will be good to have someone who has been through this with others to help you through the process and next steps. 

If your dog has died at home and you were expecting their death to come soon, you might have already worked out a plan with your vet on who to call to help with transporting the body. If your dog’s death was unexpected, you may still be in shock from it all. This makes it even more important to reach out to a vet to understand what you need to do with the body, who to call to help transport the body, and any other logistical steps that need to be taken.

3. Is a family member with you? Or can you call someone to help you at night?

Anything happening in the middle of the night can be difficult to process. You are likely tired and the dark can make people very fearful. When your beloved pet dies at home at night and you are alone, it’s good to call someone to help. Maybe you have a neighbor that is a close friend that can come over quickly to help. Maybe you have family members that live close by that could be at your home quickly.

You are processing a lot of things at this time including grief, shock, and managing the next steps. It will help you tremendously to have someone to help you through all of those things.

Your dog also might be a big dog and weigh more than you can carry. Someone at your home can help with moving the body into the car if needed.

Grieving alone is difficult so even if you can’t call someone in the middle of the night to help immediately, make sure to reach out to someone as soon as you can. This will help you process and manage your pet’s death. There are also various support groups on Facebook and in various communities to help you grieve.

When Wes died…

When my dog Wes died, my husband and kiddos were home. It was 1 am when he got a blood clot and fell out of the bed. I was devastated and having my husband there really helped. Wes did not die immediately so I rushed him to the ER. My husband stayed back with our kiddos since they were 2 and 5 years old so they could not be left alone. One of the most difficult moments of my life was when I watched Wes die alone after the vet tried to perform CPR 3x and said I needed to let him go. Saying goodbye is the hardest thing. The unconditional love that Wes showed me and my family was immeasurable.

A pet dying is hard

It was the strangest thing to watch your dog die suddenly, sign papers, pay the vet bill, and walk out and go home at 3 am. It was surreal as I walked back to my car without my Wes. They let me stay with him for about an hour before they needed to take his body. It was horrible if I am being honest. There was never going to be the right time to say goodbye to Wes, but the tragic way he left is probably going to be one of the hardest things, if not the hardest thing, I will ever experience in my life.

The entire situation, nights, weeks, months, etc. were difficult following Wes’s death. It was good to know I had family and friends to help me through Wes’s death. You will want to find emotional support following the death of a pet.

Even now, family and friends will make a comment about Wes or post a picture that I see on social media and it brings me so much joy to have Wes pop up in my life unexpectedly. I know he is fondly remembered by many because I shared his life with as many people as I could so that he’d always be remembered. Just like I am doing in this blog.

wes's paw print

4. How much time do you have?

Your first reaction may be to just be with your dog for the little time you have left before you need to decide what to do next. And that is okay! When Wes had a blood clot in the middle of the night and we had to rush him to the ER, my first response was to make sure the kiddos did not wake up. I knew I only had a little bit of time before the kids would notice lights and hear voices before they came out of their rooms wondering what was happening. I was not in a state to be handling my dog dying and also having to explain to my little kiddos what was happening at 1 am.

You might be in a similar situation. Maybe you have a lot of time to spend with your dog before you start calling to make arrangements for their body. I was lucky that after Wes died, the ER vet let me hold him in a room for about an hour. Like the human body when it passes, it can release fluids like urine. The dog can do the same thing. The vet told me it was best to keep Wes in a large blanket for this reason.

Is trauma the reason for your dog’s death?

It’s tragic if there is trauma to your dog and that is the reason they died at home at night. In this case, there might not be a lot of time to prepare the body. You want to be able to get your dog to the appropriate place so they can properly prepare the body for burial or cremation. 

It’s difficult to imagine not having more time left with your beloved dog and unfortunately, it’s important to think about. You want to make sure that the body has been handled in your chosen way. By doing so, you can preserve the memory of your dog as you see fit. This allows pet owners to remember their best friend how they want to.

Another time to consider is how much time you have to grieve. Can you take time off of work? Can you keep your kiddos home from school? Your dog was likely with you for many years and a big part of your life. It won’t be easy to continue the next day as normal the morning after your dog has died. And that is okay, take all the time you need. If you find yourself crying a lot after your dog has died, please read my blog on ways to help.

5. What do you want to do with the body of your dog after they have died?

After Wes died, the vet soon came in and asked me to fill out forms on what to do with Wes’s body. I was still in shock and didn’t even really understand my options. Luckily, there was an option to call back within 24 hours after reviewing the information.

Your vet will likely have options on what you can do with your dog’s body after they have died. The options that were available to me were:

Option 1: Vet handles the body at no charge 

Option 2: The vet prepares the body for you to bury your dog how you wish (cost associated with this option – about $150).

Option 3: The vet sends the body for cremation and you receive an engraved box with your dog’s name and your dog’s ashes inside. There was also an option to get a paw print of your dog as well. (cost associated with this option – about $400). Find out more about what happens when a dog is cremated.

For my husband and I, Option 3 is what made sense for us. I wanted to remember Wes always and have him back in our home. For whatever reason, when I received Wes’s ashes back (took about 3 days), I felt at peace. The paw print was on clay and the box of his ashes is beautiful. I’m very happy I went with this option, although costly, but worth it. Please see the image below of the engraved box and the paw print pictured earlier in the blog post.

wes's ashes

Your dog dying at home is hard

Dog deaths are tough and seemingly impossible to handle. But, for your dog and you, it’s important to have a plan in place and put it into motion when they die. This will help ensure you can start the grieving process and also that you are able to do what you wish with your dog’s body. As pet owners, your dog’s remains will be a personal decision. You will want to find a special way to always remember your furry friend. You can find pet memorial gift ideas here in this post.

I would love to hear stories about your beloved dog, please comment below on the best memory between you and your best furry friend.

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