Every day, beloved pets die in Northern Colorado. They succumb to disease, unexpected traumas or dreaded old age. They die naturally or through gentle euthanasia when necessary. We don’t want them to die. We want them to live forever in health and vitality, but sadly they must leave us. And when a pet dies, we know something must be done with their precious body. But what?

Death is wrought with sadness and emotion and it’s hard to focus on important details like whether you want burial or cremation for your pet. Making decisions on how to handle a beloved pet’s body before death is very helpful. Cremation is most popular around the country so let’s review important factors to help you prepare.

Northern Colorado is fortunate to have at least four local pet crematories to choose from. Most offer standard flame cremation, but one offers water-based cremation, known as alkaline hydrosis, which is promoted as better for the environment and appealing to those who don’t like the idea of burning. Each crematory provides the option of a private cremation, meaning you will have your pet’s ashes returned to you or you may choose a communal (group) cremation, meaning your pet will be cremated with other animals and the ashes spread on your behalf. It is important to talk with your crematory about whether they perform a true private cremation, meaning only one body is cremated at a time, or they perform “partitioned” cremations where multiple pets are together in the machine at the same time, but not touching. For some people, it is very important to have their pet be alone to reduce comingling of ashes. For those wanting ashes returned, each crematory offers a complimentary container and selection of urns to choose from. The local crematories also provide a place to gather where you may spend time with your pet.

Cremation arrangements may be set up ahead of time (or after death) directly with the crematory or your veterinary office may do it for you. Your veterinarian may prefer a crematory that does not match your needs, such as choosing to work with a distant crematory, requiring your pet’s body to be shipped further away for cremation. Prices may vary when working with your crematory directly or through your veterinarian so ask questions if cost is a concern. If your pet has died at home, all local crematories will travel to you for home pickup, some even after hours.

Other options beyond cremation include burial, either on private property or a designated pet cemetery, composting, body donation to Colorado State University, or the more unique options of freeze drying and taxidermy. Regardless of what you choose, review what is important to you and your family well before the end of your pet’s life to ensure your needs are met. It’s an important way to honor the bond. 


Dr. Cooney is owner of Guardian Pet Aquamation and founder of Home to Heaven, both in Loveland.