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End-of-life support and after-death body care for pets: what pet owners want

02 February 2023
13 mins read
Volume 14 · Issue 1



Pet owners caring for a pet during the end of its life are faced with numerous aftercare choices and decisions. This study was undertaken to explore the perceptions and expectations of pet owners regarding end-of-life issues.


An anonymous online survey was distributed via Amazon's Mechanical Turk, an open online marketplace providing access to potential survey respondents.


A total of 2043 dog and/or cat owners (41.4% male, 57.9% female) responded to the survey. The majority of these owners indicated they preferred to work with a specific crematorium (43%) or cemetery (70%) and over 95% reported feeling it is important to work with their preferred after-death body care service. Eighty-six per cent of owners reported relying on their veterinary team to help them with end-of-life decisions and arrangements with pet aftercare services and companies. Participants expressed significant concern over several aspects of after-death body care (e.g. body mislabelling or the type of container used for short-term and long-term storage).


Results suggest that owners look to their veterinary teams to offer ethical after-death body care. These findings can help guide veterinary teams' efforts related to end-of-life communication and services.

The bond that many people have with their pets often means that owners struggle with significant grief when their pet dies (Voith, 1985; Hart et al, 1990; Cohen, 2002; Chur-Hansen, 2010). Yet, despite the fact that many view their pets as family members, their death typically does not involve the same types of procedures or rituals that are used with human death (Adams et al, 1999; Chur-Hansen, 2010). In fact, the impact of the death of a pet is often not supported or validated by society (Corr, 1999; Doka, 2008). Too often, owners do not receive the emotional support they need from family or friends (Spain et al, 2019; Park et al, 2021). For these reasons, it is vital that veterinary professionals know how best to support pet owners during their time of loss (Adams et al, 2000). This support involves helping owners with end-of-life decisions and care (Fernandez-Mehler et al, 2013). Pre-planning can help ensure people have a voice in the end-of-life decisions of their loved ones, whether the death is of a human or companion animal. This reduces their stress and enables them to make informed decisions at a time when they are not in crisis (Nogler, 2014; Banner et al, 2019).

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