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I was told by my vet that I couldn't bring my dog's body home with me, after he had been put to sleep for being in a terminal stage of canine distemper.

They told be that he could still infect other animals? Is that true? Is it reasonable to not allow you to give your dog a proper funeral in this case?

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    I feel with you, and it is very sad to lose a dog. But, please, do as your vet says. – Ingo Jan 13 '14 at 0:17
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    Sorry about your dog. :( – jeremy Jan 13 '14 at 1:25
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Sorry for your loss, it's never easy to lose a friend.

So, for those unaware, canine distemper is a particularly virulent disease closely related to measles with about a 50% mortality rate amongst dogs. There are a number of reasons that a vet may tell you that you cannot bring home your dog for burial:

  1. Natural route of infection is airborne, droplets, and infected surfaces.

  2. Burying your dog in your yard may expose local wildlife, causing additional spread that could come back to domesticated dogs.

  3. There is a zoonotic potential for humans. As I mentioned, the virus is closely related to measles and there is some evidence that it can transmit to humans or trigger complications for us. Most of us are protected by measles vaccination, in any event, but the very young are not, so that too is a risk to consider.

All in all, I have to admit that the vet has a legitimate concern, much as it may have added some distress for you. He may also be prevented from releasing the dog by law, this is not necessarily unusual when dealing with more dangerous illnesses in animals.

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I see that you have already received a good answer to your question and I agree with it. It is possible that the virus could still pose a threat to other animals and I do believe your vet has legitimate reasons for not allowing you to take the body home.

If you would still like to have some sort of funeral or burial for your dog, you may be able to ask about cremation. Some vet clinics will offer cremation for deceased pets and allow you to take the ashes home. This should provide a much safer option in cases where disease is a concern. However, I don't know if it's an option where you are. It might be worth asking your vet about though.

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