How Long Can You Keep a Dead Dog Before Burial?

how long can you keep a dead dog before burial

Losing a dog can be a truly heartbreaking experience. For many, it can be very hard to let go of their beloved family pet. If this has happened to you, then you might be wondering how long you can keep a dead dog before burial.

You can keep a dead dog at home for only a few hours, as deterioration of the animal’s body will set in soon after death. Within 24 hours, your deceased pet will have already bloated and given off a foul smell, which you don’t want to deal with.

Holding on to your deceased dog is understandable, but it is important to deal with the body as soon as possible after death. Here are tips on what you need to do should your pet die on you.

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What Happens When a Dog Dies Naturally?

Before we discuss what you need to do and how long before your dead dog decomposes, we need to understand what naturally takes place when the animal is dying and dead. You can either realize what’s happening to your dog or you will need to deal with the death without ever seeing it coming.

But if you’re still given time to be with your dog during his final moments, then you may recognize some obvious signs that your beloved pet is about to go. Observe closely the following signs as this could be the end of your dog:

  • Your dog will take his final breath, and you may observe the body slightly deflate as there will be no more air inside the lungs
  • The body will become limp and the heart beat stops
  • All the body tension will be gone and all the bodily functions will relax. As a result, your dog will likely defecate or release urine
  • To ensure your dog is really dead, observe for signs of life for 30 minutes. If there’s none, then it’s time to deal with the dead body.

My Dog Died, What Do I Do With the Body?

Having a dog die on you at home may leave you clueless as to what to do. But whether it’s a sudden thing or something you’ve anticipated, you need to be prepared with the knowledge on what to do with the body afterwards.

Before you set out and dig a shallow grave in your yard, you have to fully assess the situation just to make sure your dog is really dead. If this has been confirmed, your veterinarian may recommend someone who can keep dead pets for a few days.

In some cases, the vet hospital may have facilities that can store a dead pet for a couple of days. Whether you will seek pet crematorium services or have your vet clinic keep the dog for some time before the burial, know that it’s best to dispose of the body as soon as possible.

There are options like cremation, which allows you to keep your dog ashes. Some people also like to preserve their pets through taxidermy. This is a more expensive option but it’s ideal for those who just can’t seem to let go of their pet and want to be reminded of them always.

You can also bury your dog, which is the most common option. You can dig a grave in your property as long as you are aware of the bylaws in your area regarding digging and burying deceased animals in your backyard. 

When choosing burial, there are times when you may have to keep your dog a little longer for some reasons. One major reason would be if you needed to burial your dog in the winter. For many, this may not be an option because the ground may be frozen solid and you can’t dig in that situation.

If your dog passed away in winter and you want to have a burial, check out our guide on how to bury a dog in the winter.

In some cases, you may need to keep your dog around before holding a burial. Delays in burial could happen, such as in the case of waiting for other family members to arrive to join the funeral.

If keeping your dog around for a bit more time is necessary, then you should know what to do to avoid witnessing and experiencing the horrible effects of decomposition.

You should look into good storage options for your dog to help preserve the body.

How Long Can You Keep a Dead Dog in the House?

If you wish to keep your dead dog in the house, generally this should be no more than 24 hours. This timeframe will depend on where your dog is placed. If you place your dog in a cool room, decomposition is slowed down at least. Alternatively, in a warm environment, the decomposition rate increases.

For this reason, there is a need to get rid of the dead body fast. But apart from an unsightly decomposing carcass, your house will start to smell and you will need to do something to stop that smell from permeating your house. With that you may ask:

  • How long does it take for a dead dog or buried dog to decompose?
  • How long does it take for a dead dog to start smelling?
  • How long does it take for a dead dog to stop smelling?

We will discuss each in the next section.

How Long Does It Take for a Dead Dog to Decompose?

Dead dog decomposition takes place right after death. You may not notice any decay at this point, but the process has already started. The body tissues are broken down by the internal enzymes in a process called autolysis.

How Long Does It Take for a Buried Dog to Decompose?

A dead dog will turn into nothing but a skeleton in as little as a week; sometimes it would take several years to reach this state. The decomposition rate will depend on several factors, one of which is environmental conditions.

Environmental conditions play an important role in the decomposition rate. As mentioned, if your dog is buried in someplace warm and moist, the body will break down faster. How your dog is buried will also influence the rate of decomposition.

Dogs that are lightly buried on the ground will decompose much faster. They tend to be exposed to water and air, as well as decomposers. All these elements make decomposition faster. In contrast, if you have a dog that is placed in a coffin, the breakdown process may take longer.

How Long Does It Take for a Dead Dog to Start Smelling?

Smell is  a primary concern if you decide to keep your dog inside your home. The fact is the body breaks down immediately after death. And that means foul odor will soon be noticeable. All the more if your home is warm on the inside. Not only will your house start to smell but you could invite pests that may spread diseases.

How Long Does It Take for a Dead Dog to Stop Smelling?

The stench of a dead carcass will linger if you don’t remove your dog from your house or if you allow it to decompose inside. The smell can last for several weeks or months, unless you get your dog outside and bury or cremate it.

What to Do With a Dead Dog at Home?

So what do you do with a dead dog at home if you have no choice but to keep it for a little longer? The solution is to properly store your dog. Given that warm temperatures can hasten decomposition, place your dog in a cool area. 

How Do I Store My Dead Dog?

Storing your dog is necessary if you plant to delay the burial or cremation. The best way to do this – which many pet owners have done – is to place your dog in a freezer. When you do so, make sure you carefully wrap your pet and double-bag it.

For more information regarding this, check out our guide on how long you can keep your dead pet in the freezer.

How to Dispose of a Dead Dog?

Meanwhile, if you don’t intend to keep your dog at home, you still need to properly dispose of your deceased pet. This is not only for your safety and well-being but for others’ as well. You can dispose of a dead dog in the following ways:

  • Burial – the most common method; if you want to bury your dog in your backyard, check with your regulations if this is allowed.
  • Cremation –  a more expensive yet convenient way to say goodbye. The good thing about cremation is you can keep your pet’s ashes.
  • Dead animal removal services – this is an option for anyone who may have had a dead dog – most probably a stray one – die on their property
  • Trash disposal – you may easily think this is a morbid choice, but it happens. We’ll discuss it a bit in detail below.

Can You Put a Dead Dog in the Garbage?

Trash disposal of a dead dog is easily not an option for a dog owner. After all, a pet dog is part of the family and always deserves something better. However, for some, putting a dead dog in the trash is the best option to remove an animal remains from the property.

But of course, this could be an option for someone who doesn’t own a dog. Maybe the dog was a stray that ended up on someone’s property, died and just had to be disposed of. Generally, a dog can be placed inside the trash but it’s ideal for small to medium-sized breeds.

If you have to get rid of a dead dog this way, don’t give the garbage collector a hard time. Double-bag the animal in a heavy-duty trash bag, like Hefty Strong, and place a label that says “dead dog.” But before you go this route, make sure to check with your local sanitation guidelines.


Nothing can prepare your emotions if your pet dog dies on you. However, you can be prepared with the knowledge on what to do in case that happens. You can keep your dead dog at home but only do this within 24 hours.

It’s best to make arrangements for deceased pets right away. This is to avoid decomposition from taking place inside your home. A decomposing animal will start emitting foul odors that could invite unwanted pests that may be harmful. Should you need to delay burial or cremation of your pet for some reason, the best approach is to place it in a freezer.

On the other hand, if you find a dead dog that’s not yours on your property, there are ways to dispose of it safely and humanely. You can call animal removal services or place it in a labeled bag for the garbageman to collect.

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