How Long Does It Take for a Dead Dog To Decompose

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 22nd, 2023

It’s a topic we never want to face: the death of a beloved pet. But as responsible dog owners, it’s crucial to know how long it takes for a deceased dog to decompose. The answer varies significantly based on several factors, including where and how the dog is laid to rest. In this comprehensive guide, we will go over everything you need to know to make well-informed decisions during an emotionally charged time.

How Long Does It Take for a Dead Dog To Decompose?

When it comes to the decomposition of a deceased dog, there are no one-size-fits-all answers. The rate of decomposition can range from as little as 6 months to as long as 18 years. The variations depend on multiple factors like burial depth, environment, and even the dog’s size. If the dog is not buried and left exposed to the elements, decomposition can occur quite rapidly, typically within 3-6 months.

Deep dirt hole in ground or lawn

The idea of burying your dog in the backyard might seem sentimental, but it’s not advised for several reasons. First, the decomposing body will emit a foul odor if it’s not buried deep enough, which could disturb you and your neighbors. Secondly, the decomposing remains can attract unwanted pests and animals, turning your yard into a less-than-ideal environment.

Moreover, disease and harmful bacteria pose a significant risk. For example, if your pet has Parvovirus, the virus can survive in the soil for nearly nine years. This could be a health hazard for you, your family, and any other pets that might dig up the remains. Lastly, the decomposition process could lead to water pollution and soil erosion, causing unintended environmental damage.

Will a Buried Dog Smell?

The short answer is, yes, a buried dog can emit an odor that can last from 9 days to 6 months depending on the decomposition rate. Weather factors like heat and humidity can intensify the smell. Therefore, it’s vital to consider the appropriate depth and location for the burial to minimize the chances of any odor.

Understanding the Stages of Decomposition

Fresh Stage

Right after death, your dog’s body enters the fresh stage, where body chemicals begin the process of decomposition. Enzymes start to break down the tissues, and blood will pool where the body rests. This stage lasts approximately 3 days and can attract flies that lay eggs on the body. It’s crucial to store or bury your pet before this process escalates.

Bloat Stage

The body starts to bloat 4-10 days after death due to bacterial activity breaking down tissues and releasing gas. This stage is particularly unpleasant due to the strong odor emitted, attracting more insects and animals to the carcass.

Degradation Stage

Around 10-20 days post-death, the body begins to deflate as the bacteria have consumed most of the tissues. By this time, the odor will have significantly lessened, and maggots will be present, consuming what’s left of the soft tissue.

Deterioration Stage

This is when your dog’s remains become skeletal. Mold may start growing on parts of the body touching the ground, and the smell at this stage is akin to rotten milk. This phase occurs approximately 20-50 days after death.

Dry Decay Stage

After all these phases, only dried bones and fur will remain. These will slowly disintegrate over time, potentially taking up to a year based on various influencing factors.

Factors Affecting Decomposition

  • Climate: Warm weather speeds up the process, while cold or dry conditions slow it down.
  • Burial Material: Direct contact with the earth hastens decomposition, whereas coffins or wrappings slow it down.
  • Grave Depth: A deeper burial means slower decomposition due to reduced temperature and oxygen levels.
  • Soil Type: Sand facilitates quicker decomposition, while clay slows it down.
  • pH Levels: Acidity under a pH of 6.0 can inhibit bacterial activity, prolonging decomposition.
  • Humidity: Water content in the soil can either normalize or impair the process.

When Does the Odor Cease?

Generally, a foul odor from a deceased dog lasts for 1-2 days if left exposed. If buried deeply, the smell can take up to 6 months to 18 years to dissipate, depending on numerous factors discussed earlier.

How Deep Should the Burial Be?

For an effective burial that minimizes odor and the potential for scavenging, aim for at least two feet of soil covering the body.

Bag or No Bag?

Using a plastic bag is not advisable as it slows down natural decomposition and can be harmful to the environment. Instead, wrap the body in a biodegradable material or consider cremation as an alternative.


The period it takes for a deceased dog to decompose varies greatly, affected by numerous factors like climate, burial depth, and material. It’s a sensitive topic but one that is essential for pet owners to understand for both emotional and practical reasons. Whether you opt for a backyard burial or cremation, being informed will help you make the best decision for your pet and your family.


Editorial Staff

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