Pet grave

How to Ease the Financial Cost of Losing a Pet

The Costs of Losing an Animal

Ask anyone who's been through it — putting down a pet is wrenching. These furry creatures have a way of wiggling into our lives and homes and evoking strong emotional attachments. At some point, though, age and/or illness bring the relationship to an end and you are forced to deal with the cost of your pet's death.

PetMD notes that the life expectancy of a dog depends on the breed, but on average dogs weighing up to 90 pounds live about 11 years, and heavier dogs tend to live about eight years. A cat's lifespan is generally longer, typically between 10 and 14 years, according to PetMed Express. Of course, how long any particular pet lives depends on a host of factors, and if you must put the animal to sleep, the last thing you need is to worry about the expense.

The following is a rundown of the costs and options associated with a pet's death and several ways to limit the expense.

Pet Euthanasia (free to $500+)

Euthanasia for a pet involves an injection of chemicals into a vein. It is a quick and pain-free way to terminate nerve impulses and, essentially, life. Maggie Schuckman, a veterinarian with a specialty in cardiology who practices in Cincinnati, Ohio, says the cost of euthanasia depends on the hospital (or vet) handling the procedure.

  • Emergency hospitals cost between $150 and $400.
  • Banfield Pet Hospital, which operates inside many PetSmart stores, charges around $135.
  • Nonprofits and humane societies offer services for free or as low as $35.
  • At-home euthanasia costs between $235 and $490.

Planning and settling the bill ahead of time can yield both emotional and financial savings. First, you won't have to pay up amid a draining experience. Moreover, you'll likely have a clearer head before the procedure and will be able to scrutinize the bill. At a minimum, expect the invoice to include charges for an IV catheter, IV sedation, and IV euthanasia solution. Some vets also charge an office-visit fee and handling of the pet's remains if you leave that task to the doctor. On average, you can expect to pay between $35 and $300, though the above at-home options vary wildly in price.

Giving him a home of love.Photo credit: ArtistGNDphotography/istockphoto

Pet Burial Costs (free to $200+)

According to Dr. Schuckman, there are three ways to deal with a pet's remains: 

  • Take them home for a backyard burial for free.
  • Arrange for a common burial (bury or cremate with a group of animals).
  • Plan a private cremation and take home the remains.

Burying the pet in your yard is obviously the cheapest option because it's essentially free. But check local ordinances first; some municipalities allow it while others do not. Sacramento County's Department of Animal Care and Regulation recommends against it, as the animal could contaminate water systems. If you do bury your pet at home, wrap the animal in a sheet or blanket, tie it securely, and then place the body in a biodegradable container like a cardboard box or wooden crate. The grave should be dug about two feet deep and a headstone or marker placed directly over it. Experts also recommend taking certain safety precautions, such as checking the location for underground electrical wires before digging; wearing gloves, a surgical mask, and pants and shirt that cover your skin; and washing your hands and clothes properly afterward.

Arranging for burial in a pet cemetery is obviously more expensive, with prices starting at about $200 and rocketing into the thousands. The final cost depends on the headstone and other details, like whether you want a complete funeral service. To ensure that your pet's remains are taken care of properly, choose a cemetery that belongs to the IAOPCC (International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories).

Pet Cremation Costs (free to $300+)

The cost of a communal cremation is also comparatively cheap, and some nonprofits even offer the service for free. Note that choosing a communal cremation means you will not get back the remains. On the other hand, private cremation is the most expensive choice, but if you feel the need for closure and can afford it, this might be the way to go.

  • Communal cremation ranges from free to $100.
  • Private cremation ranges from $150 to $300.

If you want more than a standard cremation box you will also pay extra for a decorative urn, which costs as little as $15 and upwards of $200.

Other Ways to Save

  • If you pay for pet insurance, it may cover euthanasia and cremation. Check with your provider and see if there are any limitations.
  • Contact local humane societies and nonprofits, as many offer low or no-cost euthanasia. Sugar's Gift, for example, offers free in-home euthanasia for terminally ill pets, and is available in Florida, California, Las Vegas, and in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Ask your vet for a payment plan, so you can pay your bill over time.

Final Word

For further advice on this delicate matter, speak with your veterinarian. They will be able to help you through the thicket of decisions during a trying time.

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