What to Do When Your Dog Dies

Your dog’s death may be one of the hardest things you ever face. 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 the grief.

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

when your dog dies

“What to Do When Your Dog Dies” image by Laurie

“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.

You may also like...

14 Responses

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    • ken says:

      sorry for your loss,im going through problems with my bulldog and he has many problems and i no when i lose him i will be a complete mess and right now i do not no how to cope with it,thanks

  3. 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,

  4. 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..

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!!!

  7. 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.


  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.


  11. 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.

  12. 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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *