Backyard burial may seem like the easiest way to respectfully take care of your pet’s remains. Unfortunately, it can be dangerous for other pets and wildlife. Most pets are put to sleep with an extremely concentrated anaesthetic agent, which results in a very peaceful death (hence the term euthanasia, which means “good death”). However this drug, pentobarbital, persists in the buried body of the pet for up to a year. Any animal scavenging on the remains will be poisoned by the euthanasia solution.

I have seen two cases in my career where this has happened, with serious consequences. In one case a family had their pet mouse put down and buried it in the backyard. The family’s terrier dug up and ate the mouse, and was comatose in intensive care for nearly a week. In another case, two farm dogs scavenged some bones from a cow which had been euthanased on a farm months before. One dog died and the other was seriously ill for several days.

If your pet dies of a disease which could be spread to other animals or even people, their body might also pose a risk. While vaccination has reduced the amount of dangerous pet diseases in the community, some diseases like parvovirus still occur in outbreaks and are very hardy and spread readily between dogs.