What to Do When Your Dog Dies

Here’s what to do when your dog dies – these tips are from pet owners who lost their dogs. They share what helped them cope with grief, because your dog’s death may be one of the hardest things you ever face.

For me, the most comforting way to cope is to believe my dogs’s spirit is still alive, and we’ll be reunited one day. Reading books like Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant can help with the grieving proccess, after your dog dies.

Here’s how one journalist handled the death of her dog: “When my precious schnoodle, Puccini, died, I channeled my grief into a project I’d been working on for 13 years-a series of children’s books called Adventures With PawPaw,” says Diana Scimone. “After Puccini died, I pushed the project into high gear.  About a year later, the first three titles in the series were published-and more are on the drawing board.”

Not everyone can publish a book about their dog’s death, but learning how pet owners survived loss can help you know what to do when your dog dies.

What to Do When Your Dog Dies

Surround yourself with people who understand pet loss

“I’ve got four boxes of ashes on my book shelves – three dogs and one cat – for the pets I’ve had to say goodbye to over the last dozen years,” says Carol Hodes. “Each was an important member of my family [I have no children].  I am of the belief that you have to accept that the grief will be as profound, if not more so, than if you lost a human member of your family.  And you need to surround yourself with people who understand that.  Folks who don’t share your love of pets will not understand your sense of loss.  In most cases, I had to make the decision to euthanize the pet and I also find that to be both a uniquely challenging and, sometimes, uplifting aspect of the experience. You got to be there for the pet and give the ultimate gift of a peaceful and pain-free end.”

Cherish your other pets – whether they’re dogs or cats

“I have been lucky that I’ve always had another pet at home to help me through the sadness – and they do feel the loss of their friend, too,” says Carol, who knows what to do when your dog dies. “And I have gone on to get other pets to fill the void.  I don’t understand the perspective of some people who, when they lose a beloved pet, won’t take the risk of getting another pet to love because they might eventually have to cope with the death of their dog or cat.  Two years ago I lost my Pembroke Welsh corgi, Chip, to cancer.  I knew that by the spring I would have “puppy fever” and sure enough, I got a puppy at the end of March.  Scooter is a border terrier who is now a year old.”

Make a memorial album – one of the healthiest things to do when your dog dies

when your dog dies

“When Your Dog Dies” Photo Frame from Amazon.com

Dog Memorial Inspirational Photo Frame like the one pictured is a wonderful way to honor your dog after death. You might also consider making a memorial album – especially if you enjoy scrapbooking.

“We have to put our 14 year old dog to sleep two weeks ago.  Not sure how, but he broke his femur bone and he would have had to undergo major surgery to put pins in his leg, or if the break was caused by cancer they would have to amputate and hope the cancer didn’t spread.  Neither choice was good for a 14 year old. I had to explain to my children that “Floyd” wouldn’t be coming back from the hospital.  We had a funeral and memorialized our dog by telling her funny stories about him-how he liked to chase chickens, how he rescued (by barking to a neighbor) another dog that was drowning in our pool, and how he like to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed with his head on the pillow.  We found several pictures of him and made a little album.  This helped us heal and know what to do when our dog died”. – Roni Jenkins.

Explore a different breed of dog

“One thing I have done that may work for some people – I don’t replace one dog with another dog of the same breed,” says Carol. “There’s no way to replicate your last pet and why have the next one held up to comparison all the time?  It’s easier [for me] to enjoy the charms of an entirely different type of dog.”

However, when your dog dies the last thing you may want is another pet – especially if you’re coping with guilty feelings. If you are, read Dealing With Guilt After Your Pet’s Death.

Embark on a new project or endeavor

what to do when your dog dies

“What to Do When Your Dog Dies” image via Pixabay CC License

“I’ve owned Doberman Pinschers for almost 25 years and each time, the loss of each one was crushing,” says Sherry Stinson. “When I lost my oldest Dobe, Tyler, I was numb with grief. He was old, I knew that, and had lived beyond the average age a Dobie lives, but his passing was still devastating. To pull myself out of the all-consuming grief, I decided to start a pet greeting card company and name it TylerDog Cards. This helped me focus on the wonderful joy I had when Tyler was alive.”

Give yourself time to mourn when your dog dies

“Many people advocate getting a new pet to replace the emptiness, while others say to wait,” says Sherry. “Personally, I think you have to give yourself a little time to grieve pet loss before jumping into a new puppy given they require so much attention. However, that’s just me.”

Let yourself grieve the way you need to

“The most important thing is, don’t be afraid to cry, to grief, to miss your pets,” says Sherry, when asked what to do when your dog dies. “Too often people let society deem what’s appropriate to grieve over and what’s not. Pets are an important part of people’s lives today and just as hard to lose as anything else, so it’s very important to just let yourself grieve.”

Share your memories of your dog

“My golden retriever Katie was a huge part of my life for 13.5 years,” says Regina. “We went through everything life tossed at us as a team, including my bout with cancer over six years ago. After she passed away, I hosted a memorial service with my friends. We sat in a circle and each guest told a happy story about Katie.  Before each person spoke, I lit a small candle.  After that I passed a balloon around and, as it reached each person, they had to express a wish for Katie in Eternity.  When we completed the circle, I released the balloon and said that it not only carried our wishes Heavenward to Katie, it would grant those same wishes to every pet who had ever been loved and lost by anyone in the group.” – Regina Leeds.

Visit a dog kennel

“We had to put down our beloved dachshund, who was two weeks shy of his 17th birthday. I almost immediately went online searching for dachshund rescue sites to see what dogs were available. I had no intention of replacing Joplin immediately but just found comfort in doing this. I also read up on how to cope with pet loss. Naturally, it’s a very individual thing and people respond differently. The house was eerily quiet without him and 4 months later, my husband and I adopted a wonderful 2 yr. old rescue. We still have photos of Joplin around the house and I do sometimes feel guilty loving Charlie as much as I do, but it is possible, at least for me, to be able to love this dog as much as I had Joplin.” – Jane Cohen.

If you feel totally lost, read How to Live Without Your Dog.

A final tip for before your dog dies: make a clear plan when all is well

“We recently lost Shirley, our cocker spaniel/poodle of 17 years, about a month ago,” says Abby. “My family is still very sad. We have tried to keep it as lighthearted as possible by laughing about her strange habits or funny times when she was around. We did make one mistake the day she passed away. My dad found her body and panicked. To ensure my mother would not arrive home from work and panic also, my dad reacted quickly and buried the dog in the backyard. While preventing my mother from having to watch the burial was thoughtful, it was not what worked for the grieving process. We learned to have a clear plan in case something happens and everyone is not around to make the decision together.” – Abby Harris.

In Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss I interviewed veterinarians, grief experts, and pet owners who survived their pet’s death in sometimes surprising ways. A book like this will help you grieve, show you you’re not alone, and give you ideas on how to memorialize your dog long after he or she has left our world.

If you have any thoughts about what to do when your dog dies, please comment below. Feel free to share your story – because writing can help you cope with your dog’s death.

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31 Responses

  1. Thank you for being here, and sharing what you did when your dog died. I know your experiences will help other readers as they cope with their dog’s death, especially if they don’t know what to do. May you experience comfort and peace as you grieve the loss of your dog. May you accept and live with the sad loss, and know your dog is resting in peace. You loved your dog so much, and your took care of your dog until the very end.

    May you remember your dog with a sense of surrender and joy, and know that your dog’s spirit will never leave you. Our bodies are fleeting, but our souls are timeless and endless. Hold on to the sweet memories, and live in a new moment – perhaps a moment that involves another dog to care for, and to be loved by.

    In sympathy,

    • Ade says:

      I had to make the decision to euthanize my 12 year old chocolate lab 3days ag, it was time. I love him so much and my heart hurts so much, sometimes I think I’m OK and other times I’m crying uncontrollably. I have a baby album for him so I started to fill it in with other amazing pictures I have of him over the years, yes its been hard but I feel that’s it helping me to move forward, I have also written a poem for him and made a memory box with his collar, baby and some pictures, again this was very hard but I feel it is helping. I have also been sharing stories with my family, crying, laughing I feel this is helping us get through this. I am not religious but I do believe that we will meet again in spirit….this is helping me too. I hope this helps.

  2. gail says:

    My name is Gail & I just put my sweet JJ down a couple of hours ago. JJ was our second sweet Dobie. Our first passed unexpectedly from liver disease at the young age of 6, and now JJ passed at 7 with cancer. :( I have had to make that all-to-hard discussion with sweet pets before, but I’ve never had what I’m about to tell you happen and it’s tearing me apart.
    I am torn up inside because (1) JJ never ‘complained’ about going to the vet, but this time he was scared and wanted out of that room. I had to hold him back away from the exit door for the first time ever, and (2) After our vet gave JJ the sedative to relax him, he started swinging his head “no”. She had to give him another little dose. Oh that broke my heart even more and I’ll never forget it.
    I know he was ready physically. I know that in my heart because he wasn’t eating, he was up at night because he couldn’t get comfortable, he limped when he walked from one of the tumors, and he would stand in place for what seems like hours. He wanted to stand because it got to be too painful to lay even with his pain meds. Running and playing with us was a thing of the past.
    My problem is…. I don’t think he was really mentally. I think he was trying to tell me that by wanting out of that room and by saying ‘no’ in his own way. :( I feel so guilty, I can’t function….I feel like I’m paralyzed and I can’t move. I don’t know what to do…. :(……
    .. I just happened across this website when I was searching for answers, and yes, reading these posts seem to help a little… but I’m still so lost and scared because I’m alone… I miss him so much and coming home without him to this empty house that has JJ memories everywhere is almost too much…

    • jade jackson says:

      I understand what you are going through I lost my beautiful border collie , I mean I had him for 12 years of my life its so sad when you loose a pet that you have loved for years and years if you need me I am here for you ok you are not alone xx

      • gail says:

        Thank you so much for your reply, Jade. It’s Day 2 now and I’m not crying as much, but I still feel guilt and emptiness. I put away several of JJ’s things, only to turn in every direction to see more of his stuff. It’s amazing how this house was more his than ours in a way.

        You know, my career has been in technology for over 15 years and I’ve never participated in a forum like this before. I can see why people do it now. It is very comforting knowing your posting to a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

        When did you lose your collie? Do you have another pet now? If so, how long did you wait?

        • gail says:

          Oh Jade, I just read your post to another person that your sweet collie passed about a month ago. I know what you mean about remembering the tough times and forgetting the good ones.

          I think I’ll create a photo book of JJ and that will help me. I read a tip on this site. It suggests to focus your energies in a project so I think that’s what I’ll do with the book.

        • jade jackson says:

          I lost my border collie on the 11th February 2015 and it was the most hardest thing I had have to do for my dog by having him put to sleep with my mum and dad which it was there choice , but It was an act of love that made my choice.

          I have an older dog but I am making a plant pot of beautiful flowers which are going to be a memorial for me to help , but also I am planting a plant for him where he was cremated

          I am here if you need me , I don’t have another friend for my dog

          don’t tidy his toys and stuff all away but make a memory box for him

    • Sylvie says:

      Hi Gail,
      I am very sorry for your lost. I too just put my beautiful Keeko to sleep tonight. She was an American Eskimo and the sweetest dog ever. I had a really hard time making up my mind, but I knew she was in pain. She was blind and deaf plus nerve damage in her spine making it difficult for her to walk and get up from a lying position. She fell asleep in my arms and I knew she was at peace. I am still crying as I write this message. I only had her for 5 years as she was a rescue and probably over 7 when I adopted her.
      I have a German Shepherd puppy of 17 months who makes me laugh and helps me cope with Keeko’s loss.
      My thoughts are with you as you go through this difficult road.

      • Gail says:

        Oh Sylvia, I’m sorry for your lose as well. It was just a few days ago when I was crying as I was typing, too. Knowing when to make “that discussion” is heart wrenching but I can tell from your loving words that you loved and still love your angel so know that you provided a wonderful and fulfilling life for her.
        Hold and love your little sweet shepherd puppy as much as you need, and treasure every moment.

      • jade jackson says:

        it just takes time , make a memory box of him or a scrap book to help you keep his memory alive , you will never forget your best friend that you spent your life with .
        if anybody need me I will be here for you

  3. Laurie says:

    Dear Denise,

    I’m so sorry your dog died….it’s awful. You took such good care of him and loved him with all your heart….and he loved you too! You were his world, and you made him happier than he ever thought possible. You gave him six and a half years of love, food, treats, exercise, and security. You were there for him every day, and he loved you for it.

    Losing a dog is one of the most difficult losses many of us face because the love a dog is unconditional. Our dogs adore us, and when they die…we are left with a huge hole in our heart. You are grieving, and your grief feels overwhelming. But you need to hold on to the hope that this will pass! Believe that your heart will heal, and that you will remember your dog with peace and joy, and a touch of sadness.

    How do you heal after your dog dies? It depends on your personality and past. Some people never stop grieving, and never open their hearts to love another dog. Other people adopt dogs after they grieve for awhile — but they always hold a certain dog in their hearts. Me, I grieved the loss of my dog by holding on to my belief in God, that there is a Heaven and that my dog is SO happy where she is now! I believe my soul will be reunited with hers one day, and that her spirit is here with me. I don’t believe death is bad….it’s a natural part of life, and our dogs’ energy is still here with us.

    My prayer for you is that you find a way to heal from this crushing grief you feel. I pray you find the right counselor — the one you talked to is not the right one for you. I encourage you to try again, with a different counselor. Maybe someone who specializes in grief support and recovery.

    The pain and grief you feel will never totally go away. I carry the memories of the dogs, cats, and people I’ve loved and lost….my heart is always a bit sad that they’re gone. This sadness will remain, because we’re human. The important thing is to find a way to process your grief when your dog dies, to work through it so it doesn’t overwhelm you and prevent you from becoming whole again.

    Go see a different grief counselor, and tell me how it goes. How are you?

    In sympathy,

    • jade Jackson says:

      Hello my name is jade Jackson and i lost my dog Wednesday , i am finding it hard to come to terms with the death of my dog . All i remember is my dog going into a coma and crying in pain all i see is him doing this and it is taking over the bad memories and not letting me think of the good memories, i am frightened that i will forget him

      • J.R says:

        Hello Jade, i just saw your post, and i hope you are feeling better after this months, i just los my dog 2 weeks ago, i miss her soooo much, and i also can not stop thinking about how much the poor thing suffered before she died, it is hard to remember the good times when all i can see is her poor face feeling sick, it is killing me inside, i don’t know how to stop the pain i feel inside because she is gone.
        I hope you finally got some sort of closure from your dog’s passing, they say time heals everything, but for now all i can feel is pain for the loss of my little baby.
        Hope you are feeling better.

  4. denise says:

    My dog got killed this past wedn. He got hit by a train because my roommate was careless. I have never felt so much pain in my heart. I can’t eat sleep and all I do is cry. He was a little older then 7. I got him from shelter when he was 6 months old. He was so scared because he had been beaten. He help me threw so much and now he is gone. He loved me and I feel like I should have given him more.What do I to make the pain stop. Went to therapist and that made me worse. I made the poor girl cry. So if anyone is out there to suggest what to do. I would be greatful.
    Thank You

  5. Laurie says:

    Dear Doris,

    I’m sorry you lost Rico, such a young pup. Poor little guy….but he is resting in peace, chasing squirrels and treats all over Heaven! Maybe even getting into trouble for chewing.

    I will keep you in my prayers, that you find peace and healing as you go through the grieving process. It takes time to heal and let go of a beautiful little dog….and it’s so hard. My prayers are with you.

    In sympathy,

  6. Doris says:

    I am sorry for your loss. I lost my baby Rico yesterday. He was a chihuahua 15 months old. I can not stop crying I loved him so much. Please Pray For me.

  7. Laurie says:

    Thank you for being here, and sharing your experiences. It helps to know we’re not alone in the grief and loss we feel when our dogs die…but nothing can truly make us feel 100% better!

    I think people who loved and lost their dogs always have a hole in their hearts, where their dogs once lived. Time doesn’t heal all wounds.

    On a brighter note, though, sometimes the loss of a dog can open a space in our home to care for another dog. There are so many wonderful, quirky, lovable, mischevious dogs in the world who need good homes! Getting another dog is not about “replacing” our lost dogs or finding a substitute…it’s about loving a dog who needs a home, and sharing our lives with another animal who needs us.

  8. Dee L. says:

    Just lost my beloved, Max of 11yrs. He was such a good dog. Max was a wonderful beagle, he leaves behind a brother, who already misses him. Mikey is one year younger, and max always looked out for him. Im trying hard to remember the good and happy times with max, its just so hard right now, I miss him too. Im sure max went to rainbow bridge, also.

  9. Laurie says:

    Dear Peter,

    I’m really sorry for your loss. Linda was dearly loved at your house, and her death is so hard on everyone. It wasn’t your dad’s fault – if he had known that Linda’s had a heart problem, he would have taken her to the vet immediately.

    Your mom is grieving, and sometimes it’s easier to blame others when we grieve. It’s a natural tendency. I believe your mom knows in her heart that it wasn’t your dad’s fault. I think she’s just so sad that Linda is gone, she isn’t thinking clearly. Her grief is blinding her.

    There isn’t anything you can do to help your parents grieve, or heal their pain. They’re struggling to deal with your dog’s death, and they’re doing the best they can to cope. All you can do is let them grieve in their own way. Everyone grieves differently, and there’s not much you can do when your dog dies but let time heal your heart and soul.

    I will keep your family in my prayers. I hope you all can say good-bye to Linda, and draw closer together as a family.

    In sympathy,

  10. Peter says:

    Today I lost my 8 years old westie dog,her name was Linda…she was with me since my childhood and i really loved her.She started vomiting and then we called the doctor and he said to let her vomit so she can’t get rid of the virus(we didn’t knwo for sure if she had any virus).In the morning she was in coma and then her heart stopped.Doctor said she had a heart problem..Everyone here is sad now(in my house) I don’t know what to do,they make me more sad,my mother blames my father for not taking Linda to the doctor earlier and that’s really break my father’s heart beacause is like blaming him for Linda’s death.Everything is a mess here and makes me go crazy..

  11. Mary Lynn says:

    On Dec. 26, 2013, our beloved three year old Riley, passed away from a blood clot. Riley was a stray, that friends of ours found running through the woods, they could not keep him so we adopted him. He was around 6 months old at that time, had a stapf infection, and we nursed him back to health. Our other two pets took to Riley immediately, being female we didn’t know how they would react to a male dog. Our female dogs are 15 and 13 years of age and the younger one misses her playmate and I miss my buddy, my shadow. My tears still flow and I realize that he found US and brought US so much joy in the short amount of time that he lived with us. Yes, he will be waiting for me, and in the meantime, he is with our Daughter and my Dad in Heaven.

  12. Meredith & Lee murray says:

    Sam I Am my basset boy told me saturday he was so tired after a week of running and howling in his sleep.
    I yam sixteen dad and I know i pee on the rug and loose my mind most of the time. I love you and mommy but but can’t you help me with the pain and scarry dreams and atheritis. Daddy(looking into my eyes sat. morning) please help me!!!!

  13. Laurie says:


    Thank you for being here, and for sharing your thoughts about Jasmine. You loved her so very much, and I know she loved you too. Being without her is so hard, but she’s happier where she is. She’s not suffering. She is free, and resting in peace.


  14. Ellwood Greiner says:

    We love and miss you Jasmine . Please do not be Mad . It Really hurts . We miss you so Much . Sleeping with you . Going in the car with you . You always being Happy Wo wowing Seeing you in the Morning . You wanting your chewers at night . And getting mad wanting more . Going swimming . Chasing the ball and not giving it up . Always having your Choclate ice cream Running around the house at night with Mom . Layinging in the Sun ruling over on your Back . Scratches e Scraches . Mom holding inch you in Bed . We love an miss you so Much . Our Love Jasmine Don’t be Mad Please . Lady Jenny, Sammy Dog , Casey , Pursey And Muffey Are Playing with you . St Francis Of Assie Take care of Jasming . Keep Jasmine Warm and Happy . Good By Jasmine Until we See you Again . It Won’t be Long . We Love Yoe Forever .By Jazzey.

  15. Laurie says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    Thank you for sharing the Rainbow Bridge with us. I hope it helps others know what to do when their dog dies…trust and have faith that we will meet our beloved pets on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge one day.

  16. Laurie says:

    Dear Mary,

    I’m so sorry to hear about Sunny. My heart goes out to you, and I hope you know he’s resting in peace. He’s free of pain and suffering, and even though he’s not with you in this world, he’ll always be in your heart.

    I hope my words don’t sound trite or corny. I’m really sorry for your loss, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.


  17. Mary says:

    I lost my Sunny and it hurts so bad. Sunny was a beautiful, smart, loving, beagle. We had him for 13 years. He had the most beautiful face and wiggle when we came through the front door. The last few years, he could no longer hear so well and didn’t know when we got home so he could come meet us. He had pain in his joints sometimes and could not walk well, but this came and went. The vet said he was bleeding internally and was very anemic so we had to put him down. It’s only been 2 weeks, but I feel like from time to time I see him coming down the hall or I hear him walking around the house.

  18. Stephanie K. says:

    The unconditional love, affection and loyalty that we receive from our beloved pets is one of the most unique experiences I’ve come to know.

    Since the age of 2 I’ve known many;
    Thumper, Tom, Fritzie, Gengas, Chirpie, Sweetheart, Dusty, Winter, Heidi, Marmaduke, Pooh Bear, Candy, Misty, Bullett, Scotty, Buster, Shadow, Missy and Bandit.

    My “recovery” time was long and very tearful with each passing.

    The one thing that has always comforted me, as well as make me cry uncontrollable at the same time, was a poem a dear friend gave.
    I hope someone reading this is comforted also.

    Just this side of heaven lies the Rainbow Bridge!
    When a beloved pet dies, it goes to the Rainbow Bridge. It makes friends with other animals and frolics over rolling hills and peaceful lush meadows of green. They are as health and playful as we remember them in days gone by.

    Together, the animals chase and play, but the day comes when a pet will suddenly stop and look into the distance . . . bright eyes intent, eager body quivering. Suddenly recognizing you, your pet bounds quickly across the green fields and into your embrace. You celebrate in joyous reunion. You will never again separate.

    Happy tears and kisses are warm and plentiful, your hands caress the face you missed. You look into the loving eyes of your pet and know that you never really parted. You realize that though out of sight, your love had been remembered.

    You cross the Rainbow Bridge Together!

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