Losing a man’s best friend is hard, and you likely never dreamed of researching dog decomposition.
But when beloved Fido passes away, you might be wondering—how long does it take for a buried dog to decompose?
We’ll cover the ins and outs of dog decomposition so you can decide if burying your dog in your backyard is the right option for you.
Factors that Affect Decomposition
When it comes to decomposition rates for a dog—or any animal, for that matter—there isn’t a cut and dry answer.
It can take anywhere from six months to 18 years for your dog to fully reunite with the earth.
The following factors determine how fast or slow your dog will decompose:
- How deep you bury them
- The type of soil, as pH levels impact decomposition
- Whether you bury them above or under the ground
- Climatic conditions such as temperature and rainfall
- Whether you bury them in a coffin, box, or naturally
- Size of dog. The smaller the dog, the more quickly it’ll decompose
When we talk about how long it takes for a buried dog to decompose, we’re referring to its flesh, organs, and hair.
In other words, “fully” decomposed means that the only body parts remaining are your dog’s bones.
Decomposition Rates for Dogs Buried Underground
If you bury your dog underground without any blankets or inorganic material around it, you can expect its body to decompose in 6 – 12 months.
That said, the deeper you bury your dog, the longer it’ll take its body to decompose.
Furthermore, plastic coffins and other human-made objects will inhibit decomposition rates.
Decomposition Rates for Dogs Buried Above Ground
If your beloved furry friend doesn’t return home or you find a deceased dog in your backyard, the body’s deposition rate will be much faster than a burial.
That’s due in great part to the fact that scavenger creatures will consume the body.
Scavengers range in size from hawks to maggots, all of which feast on your dog’s rotting flesh.
Assuming that the weather where you are isn’t too warm or cold, don’t be surprised if the stray dog laying on top of the soil in your backyard decomposes within one month.
5 Phases of Dog Decomposition
Whether you’re considering burying your dog or found one decomposing above ground, below are the stages a dog’s body goes through as it decomposes.
Phase 1: Fresh
After only three to six hours after your dog’s passing, its body will lose its heat, and rigor mortis will set in.
You’ll notice that the side that touches the ground starts to show signs of puffiness because blood begins to pool there.
At that time, the first flies will arrive at the corpse as they look for a place to eat and lay their eggs.
Phase 2: Bloat
You’ve likely seen roadkill take on a bloated appearance, and dog corpses are no different.
Bloat occurs because gasses accumulate inside your dog’s body.
Because of the pressure gas causes, bodily fluid gets pushed through any place it can exit.
You’ll want to plug your nose if you approach your dog’s body, as it’ll begin to smell.
Phase 3: Active Decay
The dog’s body will release all its gases and deflate.
The corpse won’t have any more fluid, and you’ll notice maggots crawling around due to exposure to the interior of the organs.
Phase 4: Advanced Decay
When the grass around a dog’s body turns brown, you’ll know that the corpse is entering advanced decay.
There isn’t much remaining on the dog’s body at this point aside from bones and hair.
Phase 5: Dry Remains
Cartilage, dried skin, and bones are the only remaining parts of your dog at this point.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, full decomposition happens when the only body part left is bones.
Burying a Dog FAQ
With the stages of dog decomposition in mind, we’ll look at some other common questions and concerns pet owners have.
When Should You Bury Your Dog?
Losing your dog is a painful time, but like people, you shouldn’t delay burying them.
You should aim to bury your dog by the time rigor mortis begins—that’s about six hours from the time of their death.
Otherwise, it’s more challenging to bury a corpse that enters phase two of decomposition.
How Quickly Do Dogs Smell After They Die?
If an ice storm rolls around and a recently deceased dog corpse is outside, you’re not going to have to worry about a rotting smell greeting you when you go to defrost your car the following day.
However, for any other situation, your dog may start to smell in as little as 10 hours after they die.
The warmer the climate, the quicker your dog will smell.
Dog corpses in cooler temperatures may take up to 12 hours before they begin giving off a rotting scent.
What’s the Ideal Depth to Bury a Dog?
If you live in an area with rich, compact soil, you should aim to bury your dog around two feet underground.
People living in dryer climates with lighter soil should bury their dog three feet underground to stay on the safe side.
These numbers strike a good balance between keeping your dog’s body out of the mouths of scavengers while still offering the corpse an opportunity for relatively quick decomposition.
Where Should You Bury Your Dog?
There’s no doubt about it—you’ll want Fido’s resting spot to be close enough where you can keep an eye on him and pay your respects.
A good rule of thumb is to bury the body away from water sources, gardens, and fruit trees.
What Kinds of Animals Dig Up Deceased Dogs?
Animals like wolves, vultures, bears, and foxes will dig up and consume your dog’s corpse if you give them a chance.
When you’re burying your dog, you should fill the last six inches of space with stones.
Follow that with a slab of wood and soil, which prevents these animals from digging.