My pet died suddenly and I can’t afford to have them cremated. What should I do?

My pet died suddenly and I can’t afford to have them cremated. What should I do?

When your pet dies suddenly, you can be overwhelmed by shock, grief, anger, sadness, disbelief, anxiety…There are so many circumstances and challenges we have to meet when we live with and love a pet.

The hardest day of our lives will be when a pet dies unexpectedly due to an accident or an illness. If your pet had an accident or sudden illness, you also have the added anxiety of sudden (sometimes very high) medical bills. Emergency vet visits, especially, can be a nerve-wracking experience and can be incredibly expensive.

Let’s talk about some of the heartbreaking circumstances we have to manage when a pet is hurt or sick.

My pet had to be rushed to the emergency vet and they died there.

We have all been through this nightmare scenario. It’s a weekend, it’s a holiday or it’s ten o’clock at night and our pet becomes seriously sick all of a sudden or they have an accident in the house or have a serious accident outside. Your heart is racing as you try to make phone calls, get dressed, and get your pet into your car for the trip to the ER. When you arrive you are confused, scared and you might even experience vet staff taking your beloved friend into another room where you cannot be with them or comfort them.

Sometimes, a pet dies suddenly and sometimes family is called upon by a medical professional to make the decision to euthanize a beloved pet. Sometimes this happens nearly as soon as the family walks in, sometimes this happens after expensive medical intervention such as radiographs, bloodwork, surgery and other medical procedures.

We can go our entire lives never experiencing this. But when you do, once the reality of the loss of your pet sets in, you are now faced with the decision of what to do with your pet’s physical body.
Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You don’t have to make a decision immediately. It can be easier to allow vet staff to use the crematory they are contracted with to care for your pet, but it can be more expensive or they might not offer the type of service that you want. It’s OK to ask them for a day or two before you make that decision.
  • Ask a friend or family member to call some aftercare providers, get recommendations and find someone to work with whose ethics and prices work for you.
  • Most cremation providers can transport your pet the next day from the vet for a fee; but you are also allowed to transport your pet yourself, or ask a friend of family member to do it or to even bring them home that night. If you are choosing an aftercare provider other than the one your ER uses, you have a lot of choices.
  • It’s OK to ask for payment options. We all know as pet loss professionals that sometimes a pet’s death happens at a hard time for us financially, in the year, the month or the week. We also understand that end of life, especially emergency care, can get very expensive very quickly. Do not be embarrassed to ask for payment options. At Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park, we use Afterpay which is a third-party payment system that allows the family to pay for their cremation services in four equal payments. This also allows you flexibility in selecting your cremation type (such as private cremation instead of a shared cremation service) and memorial products such as clay pawprint impressions which you otherwise might not have been able to afford.

My pet died suddenly at home. I don’t get paid until the end of the week. What do I do?

When your pet dies at home and you cannot afford their cremation service, you have options.

  • Reach out to friends and family. It’s OK to ask for financial help.
  • Do not panic. When your pet dies at home it is not an emergency. This is a good time for you to collect your thoughts, feelings, reach out to friends or family and make an aftercare plan.
  • Call multiple pet loss service providers. Ask friends and family to help if you don’t feel up to making calls. You can also do a web search since most cremation providers list their pricing right on their websites.
  • Know the difference between the different cremation types as they do have different pricing:
    a) Communal also called shared cremation or group cremation is the most affordable, however you will not receive an urn or ashes back. When you choose a group cremation for your pet, their ashes will not be separated from those of other pets. Different crematories have different ways of managing their communally cremated pets (ie interring/burying the ashes, scattering the ashes on private land, etc.). You can ask the aftercare providers you call what they do with their communally cremated pets and if the area is marked and open to visitors. You can purchase tangible memorial products such as ink pawprints or a clipping of your pet’s fur to take home.
    b) Individual cremation. Your pet is cremated by themselves and their ashes are returned to you in an urn.
    c) Witnessed cremation. Some families want to be present as their pet is placed into their cremation chamber. This is called a “witnessed cremation”. Cremation providers will usually have a comfortable family room with a viewing window that allows you to witness your pet being placed into the chamber. Witnessed cremations take a little planning and so must be scheduled with the facility. The cremation provider will also make available the time, space and privacy for the family for the duration of the cremation and so understandably, this option will have additional costs. Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park does offer witnessed cremations to families.
  • Ask your regular vet if they are open, or as soon as they are open, if they are willing to hold your pet for you for a few days free of charge while you sort out your thoughts, feelings and options. Many vets will provide this service for long-time, regular clients.
  • If you are working with Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park, ask us to set up an Afterpay option for you so you can break your total cost into four equal installments.
  • If you have pet insurance, your aftercare services might be covered or reimbursed. Be sure to ask your insurance provider.

No matter what you choose, and how you pay for it, the most important thing is knowing that you gave your pet the best life and the most love possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for financial help when you need it and know that you always have a choice.