How to Ease the Financial Cost of Losing a Pet

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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 worry about the expense.

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

Pet Euthanasia.

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.

While there isn't much room to cut costs, there are several issues to consider regarding price. The fee at an emergency hospital runs about $400 compared with about $200 at a veterinarian's office. If you prefer to have the vet perform the procedure in your home, be prepared to pay a hefty premium.

Planning in advance and settling the bill ahead of time can yield both emotional and financial savings. First, you won't have to pay up in the midst of a draining experience. Moreover, you'll likely have a clearer head prior to the procedure and will be able to scrutinize the bill carefully. At 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.

Pet Remains.

According to Dr. Schuckman, there are three ways to deal with a pet's remains: take them home for self-burial, arrange for a common burial (bury or cremate with a group of animals), or plan a private cremation and take home the remains.

Pet Burial Costs.

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. If you bury your pet at home, Backyard Burial recommends wrapping the animal in a sheet or blanket, tying it securely, and then placing 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. 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 afterwards.

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.

The cost of a mass cremation is also comparatively cheap. Figure on $50 to $150 or so, with the actual fee largely dependent on the animal's weight. The cost may be added to the vet's invoice as most doctors and hospitals contract with companies that handle pet remains. Note that choosing this option means you will not get back the remains.

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. Costs start at about $150 and climb to about $300, and again depend on the animal's size. 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.

Final Word.

For further advice on this delicate matter, speak with your veterinarian. He/she will be able to advise you on local companies, laws, and fees that can help you through the thicket of decisions during a trying time.