Aquamation, or water cremation for pets, is a gentle and environmentally responsible alternative to traditional fire cremation.
What is Water cremation or Aquamation for Pets?
Also more scientifically known as alkaline hydrolysis, this is a method of cremation that uses water and an alkali salt to reduce a deceased body to bone. It is the same process that occurs as part of a natural process when a pet’s body is laid to rest in the soil for burial. The cremation takes place over a period of approximately 18 hours and leaves behind bones which are then dried and processed into what we know as “ash”.
Water cremation, or alkaline hydrolysis, was originally patented in 1888 (you can read more about its history here), however only in recent years has it gained increasing popularity within US households. Water cremation has been used for decades as a final disposition for people and animals and most recently made headlines as the process that was used in the cremation of South African Archbishop and human rights activist, Desmond Tutu.
Not only is water cremation a gentler alternative for your beloved companion, but it is also the more environmentally respectful option as well. Water cremation returns ~20% more of your pet’s ashes, uses no fire (therefore produces no toxic emissions) and does not directly contribute to greenhouse gases. Moreover, as compared to fire-based cremation, water cremation:
- has 1/10 the carbon footprint
- uses approximately 90% less natural gas
- burns no fossil fuels
- is 100% mercury free
- uses 95% less energy
- in one cycle, you can save enough energy to drive 500 miles
Yes. The water-based process uses a solution of 95% water and 5% alkali (a combination of sodium and potassium hydroxide). The alkalis used in this process are the same alkalis used in common cosmetic products, body washes, shaving creams, and even in food preparation. At the end of the process, the chemical has been completely consumed, neutralized, and no longer remains in the water solution.
Compassion 4 Paws is owned and operated by Dr. Sara Hopkins and her dedicated team and is the first mobile end-of-life care practice in the PNW to offer hospice care, euthanasia, and cremation completely under one direct guardianship. Our mission is to provide pets and their families with respectful, compassionate, and knowledgeable care throughout their pet’s end-of-life journey.
Our goal is to make you and your pet as comfortable as possible in your last moments together. If you prefer to be in a park or other location, we can offer guidance. We have a beautiful “comfort room” at our aftercare center that is set with cozy chairs, pillows, soft lighting, and rugs – a soothing alternative to a home setting. And just as if you were at home, you can take the time and space you need to say goodbye.
The water is considered a biostimulant and is very beneficial for agricultural use. As water cremation is becoming more widespread, further studies are actively examining the environmental benefits of this nutrient rich effluent. For now, the water is returned to the ecosystem via the municipal treatment facility. The water cremation process produces a completely sterile, non-toxic solution of amino acids, sugars, and nutrients in a water solution.
Yes! All remains are 100% safe and free of disease or pathogens after the cremation process. Your pet’s ashes are also safe to scatter in the environment and return to nature. If you plan to scatter them in a small memorial area, say in a garden or under a tree, please be aware that cremated ashes have an extremely high pH. This high pH makes essential nutrients unavailable for the plant to use, and, therefore, plants do not get the necessary nutrition to grow. We recommend combining your pet’s ashes with Let Your Love Grow – a specially formulated organic planting mixture that will lower the pH and dilute the harmful sodium content of cremated ashes – before spreading your pet’s ashes into your garden. You can learn more about this product here.
One of the main differences between water cremation and flame cremation is the temperature used. Flame cremation uses very high temperatures (usually between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) to break down the body, while water cremation uses lower temperatures (normally about 208 Fahrenheit) in combination with the alkali solution. Another difference is that water cremation is considered to be a more eco-friendly option as it uses less energy and produces fewer emissions than flame cremation.
No, at Compassion 4 Paws we charge the same for water or flame-based cremation and we can arrange for whichever option you prefer. When arranging for water cremation, we handle every step of the cremation process. If you elect a flame-based cremation for your pet, we will work with an outside aftercare partner to ensure your pet’s aftercare meets your wishes. Please reach out to our team for pricing information regarding our aftercare services.
Yes. With private water cremation, your beloved pet is gently placed alone in a secured partitioned basket within the aquamation vessel. The barriers between the baskets maintain the purity of your pet’s cremated remains, to ensure you receive only your pet’s ashes back. Additionally, each pet is carefully tracked using a unique number on a stainless tag that accompanies the pet through the entire cremation process.
Each private water cremation will receive a cremation certificate and you will have the option to receive a personalized memorial package that includes a clay paw impression, fur clipping, ink paw impression, and/or an ink nose impression. We have several complimentary eco-friendly urns available, along with other unique options that were thoughtfully selected to offer pet parents. Your pet’s ashes will be available for pick up directly from our center in Mountlake Terrace or may be delivered to your regular veterinarian’s office for pick up at a later date. We can also arrange for home delivery of your pet’s remains for an additional fee.
With our communal water cremation, your pet will be respectfully cremated with other pets whose families also elected this option. Their ashes are then mixed with “Let Your Love Grow”, an all-organic mixture designed to offset the natural toxicity of ash and invite new life to flourish. These ashes are then gently scattered on private land on the west coast of Whidbey Island.
Because of the gentle nature of this process, water cremation takes approximately 18-20 hours. Just as in flame-based cremation, minerals in the form of bones remain at the end of a cycle. These bones must then thoroughly dry over 24-48 hours before they can be packaged and returned to the family or spread on Whidbey Island in the case of a communal cremation.
No, during the water cremation process, the pet's remains are treated with water and an alkali solution (such as potassium hydroxide) to accelerate the natural process of decomposition. The process produces a small amount of non-toxic liquid that can be safely disposed of in the sewer system, and the remaining bone fragments are pulverized into a fine ash that can be returned to the pet owner.
Yes! Water cremation is a gentle, versatile process that can be used to cremate a wide variety of pets, including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and other small mammals (commonly known as pocket pets).
No, from the time we arrive until the time the ashes are ready, your pet will be handle with care and respect.
That is ok! After our visit to your home, you can call our office to arrange a time to bring your pet to our aftercare center in Mountlake Terrace for water cremation. Alternatively, if you prefer that we return to your home to pick up your pet, we are honored to have an aftercare specialist do this for an additional fee.
Because the process of water cremation takes a bit longer than traditional flame-based cremation, please allow 10-14 days for your pet’s ashes to be ready to be returned to you. We will promptly contact you via phone or email to let you know they are ready.
With fire-based cremation, the ash remains are white or gray, often with fragments. As water cremation uses no fire and is a gentler process, the ash remains are a soft white, tan or greenish powder, and families receive 20-30% more ash than with fire-based cremation.
Due to the length of time water cremation requires we do not offer this service currently.
Just like with traditional flame-based cremation, the “ashes” pet parents receive from water cremation are the bone remains of their pet, just processed into a fine ash-like powder. Because of this similarity and for ease of understanding, we refer to these remains as “ash”.
If your pet has a bone plate or other metal surgical implant and you elect a private cremation, our aftercare team will ask you if you would like the implant included with your pet’s ashes. If not, we will recycle it on your behalf. Chemotherapy medications and other drugs are broken down during the water cremation process and are rendered completely inert and harmless.
If there are items you would like to keep, such as a collar or ID tags, please remove them prior to releasing your pet into our care. If your pet passes outside of our normal business hours, try to place your pet in an area that is cool and dry. You can call us and leave a message if calling after hours or give us a call the next day to schedule a time for us to come to your home to take your pet into our care.
We utilize our tracking process to ensure your pet’s ashes are returned to you. Each pet that comes into our care to receive our water cremation service is issued a numbered stainless-steel tag. This tag stays with your pet throughout their time with us. When you opt for a private water cremation, this identification tag and a Certificate of Water Cremation are returned to you with the ashes.
We understand that thinking about the loss of a beloved pet is never easy, and it can be a challenging topic to discuss. Making a plan to say goodbye may offer a sense of empowerment at an otherwise vulnerable time. Our veterinarians and support team can offer guidance on your pet’s quality of life and end-of-life decision making. Our aftercare support team can offer further guidance on planning and arrangements, and urns and memorial items should these be wanted.
We are here to support you through this entire process. Please reach out to start the conversation when you are ready. You can rest assured you and your beloved pet will be treated with the utmost care and respect.
With water cremation, only 100% organic items can be included in the vessel (special food, treats, flowers, etc) because inorganic items will not be reduced during the process. If you want to include a special toy or blanket, a piece of it can be inserted into the urn afterwards if private water cremation is selected. Note: Flame-based crematories are no longer allowing personal belongings to be cremated with the pet to try to minimize their carbon output.
Our service area extends North to some parts of Marysville and South to Tukwila. We also service the Eastside including Redmond, Woodinville, and Bellevue. Please review our service area map for details.
*Rates and services will vary based on availability and location within our service area. Please call for more information*