Modern Australian

Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard

  • Written by Rachel Allavena, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

Companion animals are part of our families, but inevitably the time comes for us to say goodbye to them due to old age or disease.

Many pet lovers opt to bury their pets in the backyard. However, there are some hidden risks to this, and there are other options that will help other pets, and even the owners who love them.

Donating their body to science, for research and veterinary training, can potentially help hundreds of pets.

Read more: Raw meat pet food may not be good for your dog, or your own health

Why the backyard isn’t best

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.

Read more: Vaccinate your puppies – a new strain of parvo has been found in Australia

This virus causes severe and sometimes fatal gastrointestinal disease in puppies and young dogs. Thankfully there are not many diseases we can catch from our pets, but some – such as salmonellosis and toxoplasmosis – can make sensitive people very ill.

What do to instead

One option is pet crematoriums and cemeteries, which are are available in most large cities and regional centres in Australia. The services are very professional and cover a variety of options and price ranges that suit most pet owners. Costs may vary with the size of the pet.

Professional burial or cremation avoids the risks of environmental contamination or disease that might occur with backyard burial. For my own pets which have passed away, I chose cremation which typically costs A$200-300, and then buried their ashes under a memorial tree in my garden.

Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard If you do chose backyard burial, make sure you enclose your pet’s body first. Shutterstock

However, there is another path. As a veterinary pathologist, my job is to conduct autopsies on animals to determine their cause of death. We also use the knowledge and samples we get from the autopsies to conduct research to improve our understanding of diseases and treatments in both animals and people.

Our pets make excellent “models” of diseases in both pets and people, allowing scientists to study the development and progression of a disease and develop new treatments.

Read more: Australians love their pets, so why don't more public places welcome them?

Cancer is the most common cause of death for pet dogs. Many popular breeds get the same cancer at high rates, providing ample valuable research material. These dog cancers are similar in appearance, behaviour, treatments and genetic causes to many human cancers.

What’s more, because dogs share our home environments, but age faster and show more rapid cancer progression than humans, studying dogs provides faster research results. In the United States, dog cancer trials are already informing trials on new human treatments.

Another area where dogs valuable scientific allies is in the study of rare genetic and developmental diseases in children. As we have bred dogs for specific appearances, from squishy-faced French bulldogs to lanky greyhounds, we have unwittingly created genetic abnormalities. Some of these are close counterparts of rare genetic disorders in children. Thus, dogs can be used to help identify the genetic mutations behind the disease, and how the faulty gene affects human children.

Universities have rigorous ethical reviews for this type of research. However, it is vital that we have the opportunity to take samples of both common and rare pet diseases to form tissue banks. Most of this sampling happens during an autopsy after the pet has died or been put to sleep. These tissue samples are used to research better treatments.

How to donate

If you are interested in donating your pet’s body, your veterinarian can direct you to potential local options. In most large cities this will be the veterinary school at the local university. Alternatively, you can contact the veterinary science school directly through their website or general enquiries telephone number.

Most schools are interested in all species for teaching. My institution takes everything from mice to horses, and exotic pets like snakes and lizards. All these species provide opportunities to learn about their anatomy and diseases.

Beyond helping us research human diseases, veterinary schools need pet body donors to help teach anatomy, surgery and pathology. At its most ethical this training is done on the bodies of animals that have died from natural causes.

Donated pets provide my students with a valuable understanding of how disease affects the body. Further, we report the autopsy findings back to the pet’s veterinarian. This information is crucial to vets who want to confirm diagnoses, and for giving grieving owners some closure.

If you do opt to bury your euthanased pet, please consider enclosing their remains in a container that would prevent other animals accessing the body. Many local councils also have restrictions on pet burial, and it is worth looking at your local area’s guidelines.

Read more: When pets are family, the benefits extend into society

Ultimately though, I would urge you to donate your pet’s body to science. The loss of a pet can be heartbreaking, but there are many ways to create a meaningful legacy from that loss which helps both pets and people.

Authors: Rachel Allavena, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-you-shouldnt-bury-your-pet-in-the-backyard-113375

NEWS

Lies, obfuscation and fake news make for a dispiriting – and dangerous – election campaign

The integrity of Australia's election process is under unprecedented pressure during this election.Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDThe integrity of Australia’s electoral processes is under unprecedented challenge in this federal election.The...

What's the school cleaner's name? How kids, not just cleaners, are paying the price of outsourcing

In Victoria in 1992, every government-employed school cleaner was terminated overnight.from shutterstock.comThis is an edited extract from The New Disruptors, the 64th edition of Griffith Review. It is a little...

how Western attitudes towards Islam have changed

Muslim clerics and members of the Pakistani Christian minority light candles to commemorate the victims of this week's bomb blasts in Sri Lanka. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for...

Vital signs. Zero inflation means the Reserve Bank should cut rates as soon as it can, on Tuesday week

The last time inflation was zero the Reserve Bank cut rates twice. It'll get the chance on May 7.ShutterstockWhat do US pizza executive Herman Cain, US conservative commentator Stephen Moore...

Bizarrely distributed and verging on extinction, this 'mystic' tree went unidentified for 17 years

Flowers of the mystical Hildegardia australiensis. I.D. Cowie, NT Herbarium.Author provided (No reuse)Sign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here, and suggest a plant we should cover at...

Why the idea of alien life now seems inevitable and possibly imminent

Relative sizes of planets that are in a zone potentially compatible with life: Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e, Kepler-62f and Earth (named left to right; except for Earth, these are artists' renditions).NASA...

Think you're allergic to penicillin? There's a good chance you're wrong

A rash people assume is a reaction to penicillin may not be related to the drug at all.From shutterstock.comAre you allergic to penicillin? Perhaps you have a friend or relative...

'you’re always commenting on power'

Podcasters can introduce new voices to the conversations about the cities we live in.Salim October/ShutterstockMore and more podcasts about cities are being produced by journalists and academics. They’re being recorded...

you have the chance to stop fuelling devastation in the Amazon

Deforestation in the Amazon has accelerated since Brazilian president Bolsonaro scrapped environmental laws.ShutterstockThe effects of European consumption are being felt in Brazil, driving disastrous deforestation and violence. But the destruction...

All is forgiven in the Liberal embrace of Palmer

This election is acquiring quite a few back-to-the-future touches.There’s John Howard, in robust campaign mode. One of those he’s spruiking for is the embattled Tony Abbott, with a letter to...

Bat and bird poo can tell you a lot about ancient landscapes in Southeast Asia

A bat in a cave among the poo.Christopher Wurster, Author providedThe islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java were once part of a much larger landmass connected to Asia called Sundaland...

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka terror attack. Here's what that means

In the wake of any tragedy, it should be enough to grieve and stand in solidarity with those who mourn. With a massive toll – at least 359 dead and...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

What to Do When Traveling From Australia to USAWhat we should know about ‘nitric oxide’ and why we need more of itDownsizing: What Is Too Small?5 unique ways to extract toxins from your bodyThe Art Of Bell-RingingModern Snapback Hats trending in Australia6 Mistakes to Avoid When Moving Overseas5 Tips Designed to Help Accentuate Your Hourglass FigureRoyal Edinburgh Military TattooThe inaugural Bondi Ocean Lovers FestivalHow to Plan a Remodeling at Home: Tips and TricksAchieving Facial Symmetry with RhinoplastyHow to Choose the Best Colors for Your BedroomFind Here the 3 Best Online Pokies in AustraliaHair Loss and Transplant Solutions