Your dog was your trusted companion and best friend, perhaps for many years — and losing a beloved pet is one of the most painful things many people experience. There’s no question that you want to give your furry friend a peaceful and respectful send-off.
Many dog owners in the western world choose cremation. Because, as the Cremation Association of America says, “pet cremation and memorialization is one of the fastest growing death care markets in the United States and Canada,” people have more options during the grieving process than ever before.
Having a wide array of dog cremation options gives you the freedom to decide how to honor your canine, but it can also be overwhelming. This guide is here to help.
In This Article
Why Is Dog Cremation More Popular Than Burial?
Comparatively few American dog owners choose burial for their pets. Several factors contribute to the increasing popularity of pet cremation as compared to burial.
- Availability. Just over 700 pet cemeteries exist in the United States. Statistically, that means chances are low that there is one near you. Dog cremation services are easier to arrange than dog burial services.
- Cost. Dog burials can cost upward of $1,500 when you factor in the price of the pet cemetery. Dog cremation typically does not cost more than $400, with cheaper options available.
- More memorialization options. While burying your deceased dog or other pet in the backyard is legal in most states, many people don’t have backyards to bury their dogs in. Opting for cremation gives pet owners a chance to create a memorial or to scatter their pet’s ashes in their favorite park.
A Closer Look at the Dog Cremation Process
Many reputable pet crematoriums in North America have completed the Certified Pet Crematory Operator Program, jointly designed by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories and the Cremation Association of America, a trade organization that also regulates human cremations.
From a technical perspective, dogs and humans are cremated in exactly the same way. The dog’s remains are placed in a cremation chamber, a powerful furnace heated to temperatures of 1400 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. This process breaks the remains down to ashes and takes between 45 minutes and three hours.
Dog owners have three different options — private cremation, semi-private cremation, and communal cremation. The cremation process remains the same, but each option has unique advantages and disadvantages.
Operators allow these ashes to cool down, after which they may be processed in a special machine. This creates more uniform ashes, known as cremains.
Private dog cremation means that your dog will be cremated alone — your dog’s remains are the only ones to be present in the chamber. Private cremation is the most expensive option for pet owners, as it is less efficient than semi-private and communal cremation, but it offers unique advantages.
Dog owners who opt for a private cremation can have their pet’s ashes returned to them, which makes it possible to scatter the ashes privately, display them in an urn, or bury them in the backyard.
In some cases, private cremation makes it possible to attend the cremation and hold a funeral service for your dog.
Semi-private cremation is a process in which multiple pets are cremated in the same cremation chamber at the same time.
However, each pet has its own section in the chamber. This more affordable option makes it possible for your pet’s ashes to be returned to you, but without the same level of assured separation associated with private cremation.
In communal pet cremation, the most cost-effective cremation option for a pet, multiple pets are cremated in the same chamber. All of their ashes are mixed in the process, making it impossible to distinguish which remains belong to which pet.
Because of this, the ashes are not returned to owners after communal cremations.
Water Cremation for Dogs
Water cremation is becoming a more popular alternative to traditional cremations among humans, and the practice is catching on in the pet death care industry as well.
This process involves using heated water and chemicals like potassium hydroxide to decompose remains in record time, and it is more environmentally friendly than traditional cremation.
Water cremation, also called aquamation, tends to be slightly more expensive than traditional cremation. Dog owners can choose between private water cremation and communal water cremation, with the second choice being more affordable.
Water cremation for pets is still a new practice, so pet owners may have difficulty locating a crematorium that can offer this service.
What to Expect from the Dog Cremation Process
Veterinarians often work closely with pet cremation services, and dog owners may have the chance to discuss their pets’ death care options before the dog’s passing if the pet is ill and planned to be put down.
Your vet may be able to recommend a particular pet crematorium and handle the hand-off. A dog’s remains can stay in the vet’s clinic, where they are picked up by crematorium staff.
If your dog died at home or your vet does not work closely with a pet crematorium, you have two realistic options. You may be able to transport your dog’s remains to the crematorium yourself, or the crematorium staff can pick them up.
Dog owners who opt for a private cremation with a funeral service (not available everywhere) can immediately take custody of the dog’s cremains and decide how to memorialize the dog from there. Mourners can view the cremation from a special room in this case, and will not be in the same space where the cremation is carried out.
Those who choose a private cremation without witnessing the process may pick the remains up from the crematorium after. Many crematoriums will also offer to ship the remains to your home.
How Much Does Dog Cremation Cost?
You want the very best for your trusted companion — but there’s no question that financial considerations also play a key role in your decision-making process.
The cost of cremation may be an especially pressing matter for dog owners whose canines were sick and required extensive and expensive medical care prior to their passing. Vet fees are not cheap.
The cost of having a dog cremated depends on a wide variety of factors. Your location is one of the most important ones.
As with any other type of service, costs tend to be higher in urban than rural areas and depend on the general cost of living in your region. Your dog’s size and weight also factor in; the cremation of larger dogs is more expensive than the cremation of small dog breeds.
Besides those two factors, the options of private, semi-private, or communal cremation play an important role in determining the cost of a dog cremation service.
These general guidelines apply to the dog cremation process in the United States in 2023:
- Small dogs. It costs between $100 and $150 to have a small dog, weighing up to 50 pounds, cremated privately or semi-privately. Communal cremation can cost as little as $50.
- Medium-sized dogs. The price of a private cremation for a medium-sized dog weighing between 50 and 99 pounds is between $150 and $250, while semi-private cremation costs $100 to $200. A communal cremation costs between $50 and $100 if your dog was medium-sized.
- Large dogs. You can expect to pay between $250 and $400 for a private cremation if your dog was large, weighing more than 100 pounds. Semi-private cremations cost $150 to $250, while communal cremations have fees between $50 and $100.
What Other Costs Might You Incur When You Have Your Dog Cremated?
Pet owners who would like to witness the cremation will usually be charged an additional fee. Those who opt to have their dog’s ashes shipped to them will have to pay for shipping.
Further, dog owners can choose to memorialize their canines in a wide variety of ways. Options include glass memorials, jewelry in which cremains are turned into diamonds, urns, and memorial stones for your garden.
Some dog owners will want to know that it is possible to have ashes buried in pet cemeteries, too. This is, of course, associated with additional costs.
Is Cremating Your Own Dog Legal?
Some dog owners wonder if cremating their deceased pets themselves is legal and possible.
It is legal to cremate your own dog in many jurisdictions, if you have land available to carry the process out — although areas with homeowners’ associations may have specific regulations.
Cremating your dog on your own is complex, however, because breaking the remains down into cremains requires exceptionally high temperatures. A bonfire is not sufficient.
Additionally, the process would be traumatic or at least highly emotional for many pet owners, who may not be prepared for the changes the remains undergo during the cremation process.
DIY dog cremation is not recommended in most cases, and nobody who does not know how to do it safely and properly should attempt the process.
After Cremation: Memorial Options
Offering your beloved dog a safe and respectful send-off will be your primary priority after your pet’s passing. However, those who opt for a private cremation will also have to consider what to do with the dog’s ashes once they are returned.
Multiple options are available.
Many pet crematoriums offer a selection of urns, and pet urns are also available through retailers or on websites like Amazon. Urns can be displayed somewhere at home or buried in the backyard or a pet cemetery.
Related Article: 23 Beautiful Cremation Urns for Ashes [+ Buyer’s Guide]
Pet owners who choose to bury their dog’s ashes in the yard may want to select a memorial stone or headstone to remember their dog.
Of course, dog owners who choose to scatter the ashes or opt for a communal cremation can memorialize their pets by displaying photos alongside some of the dog’s favorite toys.
The Bottom Line
Cremation is a very common death care option for dogs. Dog owners can choose between private, semi-private, and communal cremations. Private cremations allow your dog’s ashes to be returned to you, while that is not the case with communal cremations.
Generally speaking, it costs between $100 and $400 to have a dog cremated, while minor additional costs are associated with pickup and shipping as well as the ability to view the cremation.
Those who opt for a private cremation can memorialize their dogs in a variety of ways, including displaying the urn, burying it in the yard with a headstone, or scattering the ashes.
Losing a dog is always hard — and many people are surprised by the deep loss they feel when their trusted canine passes away.
Making conscious death care choices can help many pet owners process the loss, and having your pet’s ashes close by can often help people feel a continued sense of closeness.