Can’t Afford to Euthanize Your Pet? Here Are Some Options

A woman consoles her sick dog that is laying on her couch.
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Pets aren’t just companions. They quickly become part of the family.

But with most pets living less than a couple of decades, pet owners eventually face a tough decision. Not only is end-of-life care expensive, humane euthanasia can cost hundreds of dollars.

Whether you’re looking for how to euthanize a dog for free or how to find end-of-life services for your cat, horse or other beloved companion, there’s plenty to consider.

Pet Insurance Coverage

Do you have pet insurance? If so, check your policy to see exactly what it covers. Some plans cover owner-requested euthanasia. If you have a plan that only covers accidents and injuries, though, health-related end-of-life care might not be eligible for coverage.

If your pet is still young, spend a little time researching pet insurance. You might find a high-deductible plan makes premiums more affordable, but you still could be better off putting the money into savings and earning interest on it.

Pet insurance policies at Lemonade start at $10 a month and are completely customizable for your pet’s needs with options to add on preventative wellness packages and more comprehensive illness packages.

Affordable End-of-Life Care

As your pet ages, veterinary costs can increase. For years, you may pay only for wellness visits and the occasional illness. In your pet’s senior years, though, you could find yourself rushing to the emergency vet or scheduling surgeries.

Households spend between $40 to $614 per vet visit, depending on the type of animal and the nature of the visit. You could end up facing thousands in vet bills for necessary surgeries. To help offset those costs, check with public services and local nonprofits. They might have end-of-life services that can help with those escalating health issues.

Four Affordable Humane Euthanasia Options

If you’ve been with your companion through all the stages of life, chances are you’ll want to be there at the end. Whether you choose cremation services or burial, there will likely be fees involved. Here are some options if you’re struggling to find room in your budget.

1. Veterinarian Euthanasia

In many cases, you’ll be making end-of-life decisions while standing in your vet’s office. All too often, an emergency appointment or surgical procedure turns into some emotional decisions for you and your family. If the vet visit happens after hours, you’ll pay even more since emergency vets charge a premium for their services. If cost is a concern, be open with the staff.

“If you have financial problems, your vet could help,” Dr. Nicholas Dragolea, founder of Fetched, said. “They may have various payment plans which could provide a feasible solution, allowing for the cost to be spread over a more manageable period.”

2. Veterinary School Options

If your focus is on where to euthanize a dog for free, pet owners often turn to educational institutions. Vet schools look for dogs, cats and other animals to use for educational purposes.

“This enables your dog to contribute to science and education, helping lots of future generations of pets,” Dr. Paola Cuevas, veterinary consultant at PetKeen, said. “It also saves money on cremation and memorial services.”

3. Nonprofits and Public Services

Plenty of nonprofits exist solely to look out for animals. Some of those organizations likely offer end-of-life services in your area. Get in touch with your local shelter or humane society and ask about low-cost or free euthanasia services. If they don’t provide the service themselves, they should be able to direct you to an organization that does perform euthanasia affordably.

“Another option would be using public services,” Cuevas said. “They offer euthanasia plus body disposal services for a fraction of what private practices charge.”

4. Rescue Operation Surrender

If your reason for euthanasia is that you simply can’t care for the animal, a local rescue could be just what you need. They can find a good home or at least use foster care until an owner becomes available.

Even in cases where euthanasia is medically necessary, rescue operations may be able to help. If they can’t provide the service themselves, they can make sure it happens. You may have to surrender the animal first, though.

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Four Affordable Memorial Options

Before euthanasia services begin, the vet will sit down with you and go over your body disposal preferences. This is where you choose from burial or cremation, as well as any memorial options you’d like. Costs range from handling the burial yourself to private cremation or paid cemetery plots. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Self-Burial at Home

At one time, beloved animals were often buried in the yard of the property they shared with their human families. Pet owners would choose a spot and start digging. They often designated the burial plot with a stone or other memorial marker. Although not as widely practiced today, it’s still an option.

There are some downsides to home burial, though. For one, it might not be legal in your area. Check local laws and homeowners association restrictions to make sure you won’t be in violation. Also, if you move, you’ll have to leave your impromptu pet cemetery for the next homeowners. But it is the most affordable burial option.

2. Paid Burial vs. Cremation

If you’re paying for the service, cremation tends to be cheaper than burial. With burial, you’ll need to purchase a box or biodegradable urn, as well as the plot. With cremation, you can simply sign on the dotted line and let the veterinary staff handle the rest. You may be deferred to private cremation if you don’t specify, and communal cremation is a more affordable option.

“Cremation, especially communal cremation, is generally more economical than burial,” Dr. Nicholas said. “This offers a respectful and also budget-friendly option for many pet owners.”

3. Types of Cremation Services

When you choose cremation, the vet will probably order a private cremation, but it’s important to specify. Private cremation services are the most expensive of the options, but if you’re requesting the ashes be returned to you, you’ll want to go this route. With private cremation, the pet is cremated separately, ensuring that you only get your own pet’s ashes.

If you aren’t requesting the ashes, communal cremation is the best option. The pet will be cremated with others. Discuss the options with your vet and choose the one that makes the most sense for you.

4. Veterinarian Disposal

After euthanasia services, your vet will go over your options. One is simply to have the office take care of the remains. Not all veterinary offices will offer this, but be sure to ask a staff member about it during the discussion.

Each office will have its own procedure, but typically, the animal will be combined with others and cremated as a group. You may not have access to the ashes with this option, but it’s typically the most affordable way to go. You can still honor the pet’s life in your own way without spending a fortune on aftercare services.


A woman looks at her dog's blue collar. The dog is no longer there. This is meant to represent the death of an animal.
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Managing the Grieving Process Affordably

If you’re going through any type of loss, you’ll likely process it through grieving. For many people, a companion animal is a family member, and the house can feel empty without them. Here are some tips to help you celebrate the life of your deceased companion while also coping with the loss.

Set Up a Memorial Corner

One of the best gifts you can give your furry household members is to remember them long after they’re gone. Set up a small memorial in your home where you can go when you want to remember your friend.

“Tribute does not necessarily have to have the body remains involved,” Cuevas said. “Remember your pet with love. Prepare a special corner for them with a photo and maybe their collar or favorite toy. When you see this special tribute, cherish the good times, and know that their mission here has come to an end and that they enjoyed your company even more than you miss them.”

Hold a Ceremony

One way we memorialize our human loved ones is through funeral services. Often, humans don’t get the same closure with pet loss. Yes, formal funerals aren’t uncommon, but they can be pricey, especially if you hire a professional to manage the service for you.

You don’t need to stand at your pet’s graveside for a memorial ceremony. You can hold one in your own home. Gather your pet’s favorite toys and treats or set up some photos of happier times. Have everyone share favorite memories as you celebrate your furry loved one’s life.

Seek Affordable Grief Counseling

Although nearly half of those who own pets have dealt with euthanasia, the vast majority mourn privately. Less than 1 percent seek formal grief counseling, which can help someone fully cope with a loss. Since seeing a mental health professional is pricey, it’s not the best option for those on a budget.

Instead of paying an hourly fee for a professional, you can simply discuss your feelings with friends and family members who can relate. There are also online grief forums, including Facebook groups, dedicated to this type of loss.

The decision to euthanize a pet is never easy, but if it helps an animal that’s suffering, it can be a little easier. There are some affordable alternatives to more expensive end-of-life services. Your vet will likely be able to provide guidance for your specific situation, but local nonprofits and agencies can typically offer advice at a lower cost.

Stephanie Faris is a professional finance writer with more than a decade of experience. Her work has been featured on a variety of top finance sites, including Money Under 30, GoBankingRates, Retirable, Sapling and Sifter.