Bio-One of Savannah decontamination and biohazard cleaning services

Animal Decomposition: What to do When You Lose a Pet

Losing a pet can be a highly traumatic event for most of us. Whether it is a household dog, cat, bird, or something more exotic, we treat them as a part of the family. Although the circumstances can vary wildly, there is a high risk of biological contamination in the aftermath of animal deaths.

Dealing with the fresh blood, urine, feces, and other bodily fluids left behind by an animal recently passed is an unpleasant task. But there is something even more distressing and potentially dangerous – chancing upon a dead and decomposing animal on your property.

In situations of animal decomposition, it is almost always a good idea to call in professionals. This article will explain everything you need to know about animal death and decay, its risks, the science behind decomposition, and above all when to seek professional help.  

To deal with all your animal decomposition concerns, call Bio-One Savannah without delay!  

What is Animal Decomposition?

Decomposition is a natural part of the life cycle – all things born must die, and when they die, their bodies decompose and convert into nutrients for other life forms. We think about it as nature’s way of recycling dead things.

The body of humans and animals are made up of highly complex compounds – proteins, amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, DNA, and other minerals and water. Decomposition is the process by which these are broken down into simpler molecules of sugars, mineral salts, carbon, and water.

These simpler nutrients become food for bacteria, fungi, flies, maggots, and other life forms. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed into the surrounding earth and nourish plants and trees.

When Does Animal Decomposition Become a Hazard?

The decomposition and decay of organic matter play an essential role in nature. It prevents the wastage of nutrients and ensures that plants can thrive, creating food for the continuation of life. Out in the wild and wide-open spaces with plenty of air circulation, a decomposing animal body does not cause any significant concerns.

Problems arise when animals die inside your homes. Wild animals like rats, raccoons, and squirrels often find their way into attics, ceilings, ducts, chimneys, between the walls, and even under the house.

Pets like dogs and cats also have the instinct to seek out nooks and crawl spaces, mainly when they are not well. This is a primitive instinct of self-preservation – all animals, domesticated or otherwise, will retreat to a safe hiding place when severely ill or injured.

Out in the wild, this is a valuable tactic to avoid predators who always target weak and easy prey. But in our homes, this instinct can lead to unpleasant situations where a beloved pet (or a wild animal) dies without our knowledge.

And while the body may be out of sight, thanks to rapid decomposition, you will soon know all about its presence. The following are signs of a possible rotting body inside your home or property:

  • A vile odor permeated the building.
  • A vile odor is wafting around the premises.
  • Presence of swarms of flies and ants.
  • Stains of unknown origin on a wall or ceiling.

The odor of a decomposing body is deeply unsettling as we immediately associate it with death. Living under the same roof with such a smell is virtually impossible. While the odors dissipate faster out in the open, they can linger for a long time indoors and saturate everything inside.

Health Risks from Decomposing Animal Carcasses

Apart from the revulsion factor automatically associated with dead bodies, animal carcasses can pose health risks to humans and other animals. Exposure to a carcass during improper handling can increase your risk of getting sick thanks to these factors:

Bacteria and viruses

Many wild animals harbor potentially deadly microbes that can cause infection in humans and other animals. Salmonellosis, leptospirosis, infections caused by Campylobacter, and Clostridium perfringens are examples.

You may catch these diseases by inhaling dust particles or touching the carcass without proper protection in gloves, face masks, and other clothing. Some diseases can also spread if the carcass contaminates your groundwater or indoor plumbing.

Ticks and fleas

While most pets are given medication and treatment to prevent ticks and fleas, wild animals don’t have such luxury. Their bodies are often ridden with these blood-sucking parasites, which are known to carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tularemia.

When the animal host dies, the ticks and fleas immediately leave the body, searching for new victims. Removing the carcass alone is not enough in these situations. You may also have to perform deep cleaning and fumigation of the area.

Common Causes of Animal Decomposition in Georgia Homes

There are two main sources of rotting smells and animal decomposition inside homes – wild animals and pets. Both wild and domesticated animals love going into enclosed spaces that resemble burrows, and our homes have plenty of locations where animals can hide:

Under the house

This is a popular hiding location for pets, especially cats and dogs. If they are sick but still able to move around, your pet may prefer the solitude and comfort of the crawl space underneath your house.

Since it is easily accessible, many wild animals like raccoons and possums may also take refuge in this part of your property. Since crawl spaces can accommodate these larger animals, when something dies in there, the stench will also be quite severe.

To remove the carcass and clean the affected area properly, you will have to crawl under the house. In regular clothes and with no adequate protection, this is a recipe for contracting an illness or infection. Bio-One Savannah decontamination experts can save you trouble. Give us a call now!

In the attic

Due to its warmth and elevated position, the attic is a popular spot for many feral and wild animals to build a nest. Since humans don’t venture there often, these animals settle in for the long haul, often dying there in the process.

Unlike the underside of the house, the attic has more direct ventilation access to the rest of your home. Any stench from an animal corpse will spread more intensely inside your house. As a result, it is often relatively easier to spot carcasses in the attic. But they remain quite hard to clean.

Inside walls

Rats and other small rodents often frequent the smaller gaps and spaces between drywall panels. They are the usual suspects whenever you notice any off-smell coming from a particular wall, possibly accompanied by weird stains close to the floor.

This happens when the animal dies and falls to the bottom of the walls, close to the baseboards. Sometimes, these critters can die and get stuck on nearby support beams. Removal of the carcass entails cutting a hole in a nearby wall section.

Inside Ducts and Chimneys

Given the hostile nature of these spaces (smell of fire, moving air), animals don’t usually favor moving into such spaces. Sometimes, a small pet like a rat or guinea pig (or even a snake) may end up in smaller spaces and die.

Handling and removing such bodies can be a veritable headache since there are many hard-to-get areas in AC vents and ducts or even between the flues of a fireplace. You are better off calling experienced professionals from Bio-One Savannah for these jobs.

The Science Behind Decomposition

While it is often a gruesome and revolting sight, decomposition's science is fascinating. It's a complex process involving microbial activity, organic substances, and chemical decomposition.

All living organisms undergo various forms of decomposition after death. Many organisms play an active role in this process. The decomposer organisms that feed on other dead organisms are collectively called detritivores. In general, they are either microscopic or have a very unpleasant appearance.

Detritivores slowly and steadily decompose organic matter over weeks, months, and years. They tirelessly eat away the decomposing organic materials of dead plants and animals. Due to this, there are significant differences in plants and animals' decaying organic matter.

Decomposition in Plants

Fungi play a lead role in decomposing dead material on the forest floor. Once hectares of forests produce anywhere from 1 to 3 tons of dead plant material for fungi to feed on. The material processed by fungi provides food for other organisms like snails, earthworms, and springtails.

While some fungi are toxic, they play a vital ecological function. They fertilize the surrounding soil by converting plant materials like dead leaves, dead tree bark, and other organic material. Along with soil microbes, fungi create the ideal situation for new growth.

Decomposition in Animals

Unlike in dead plants, the dominant role here is played almost exclusively by bacteria, along with other multi-cellular scavengers like maggots and worms, insects and beetles, flies, and even larger beasts like foxes, jackals, crows, and vultures.

Animal scavengers consume the dead carcass materials and release gases and absorb energy. Many microbes and other invertebrates participate in this “feast,” including jackals, vultures, foxes, crows, etc. But these do not attack the cadaver simultaneously. Instead, they follow a multi-staged process.

The 5 Stages of Decomposition

Even when alive, animals (including humans) are home to millions of microorganisms. Bacteria living in the gut aid in the digestion process. The bacteria remain relatively passive and benign as long as the host organism is alive. Once death occurs, that status quo is ruptured, and decomposition sets in across the following stages:

Initial Decay (Day 0 - 3)

Immediately after death, the gut bacteria began attacking the surrounding intestines' dead tissue. The digestive enzymes produced by the animal’s intestines also start contributing to the process of decomposition.

Meanwhile, house flies and other species of flies start laying eggs outside the carcass. They usually prefer laying eggs around wounds and other openings in the body – mouth, eyes, nose, ears, and genitals.

The larvae of flies hatch from these eggs within 24-48 hours. They quickly move inside the body to start feeding on the dead tissues.

Putrefaction (Day 4 - 10)

As bacteria inside the carcass continue to break down the cells and tissues, fluids and gases start accumulating in open spaces inside the body. Some gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen sulfide – foul-smelling to humans but attractive to flies and other scavengers.

When large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane are released by multiplying bacteria, it inflates the body. It creates additional pressure inside, forcing more fluids out of the tissues into the body cavities. The larvae of flies develop into maggots and move around as a substantial writhing mass.

As the maggots eat and digest the organic matter, they also spread bacteria to different parts of the carcass. The stench from the body also increases drastically, attracting more flies, insects, and maggots.

Black Putrefaction (Day 10 - 20)

The gases escape from the cavities at this stage, causing the bloated body to deflate and collapse. Along with the gases, lots of fluids drain into the nearby areas. If the carcass is indoors, this can lead to heavy staining and seepage. The stench will remain quite severe at this stage.

The maggots also start growing into pupae and leave the carcass. Other insects, like scavenger beetles and wasps, gradually replace the flies. The body’s exposed regions acquire a black color, while the tissue inside becomes creamy and white.

Butyric Fermentation (Day 20 - 50)

By this stage, the flesh is either removed or dries out and starts fermenting. High levels of butyric acid give the carcass a cheesy smell that attracts new organisms and mold. At this dry stage, the carcass is more suitable for feeding beetles and their larvae.

Dry Decay (Day 50 - 365)

The decomposition rates gradually slow as all flesh and other organic matter disappear from the body, leaving just the bones. The main organisms active at this stage are bacteria, mites, and moths (if the animal has fur).

The Role of Temperature

The rate of decomposition and decay will depend heavily on the ambient temperatures. The decomposition rate will be very high in hot summers as bacteria thrive in hot and humid conditions.

Meanwhile, in winter, the decomposition rate will progress significantly slower. Due to climate change, global warming, and the constant flux of the earth's temperature, which has been changing since time immemorial, we are starting to see heat waves and longer summers that lead to quick putrefaction and the decay of dead animals.

This also has a feedback effect - as more animal remains and plant litter get broken down by the decomposition process, it will release additional greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.  

Choose Bio-One Savannah for Compassionate and Professional Dead Animal Removal and Decomposition Service

Advanced decomposition of animal tissue creates a hazardous environment in closed spaces like the inside of your homes. It can release toxic gases, disease-causing germs, and other unpleasant substances into your surroundings.

Cleaning this mess is a job best left to seasoned professionals. Here at Bio-One Savannah, we use advanced equipment and specialized cleaning agents to remove all traces of the dead animal with clinical efficiency.

All our practices are in full compliance with the strictest regulations regarding the handling of bio-hazardous materials. You are guaranteed the highest quality animal carcass cleanup service with us in Savannah, GA.

We always prioritize the physical and emotional well-being of our clients. Losing a pet can be a very emotionally sensitive moment for a family. Our trained staff maintains the utmost respect and provides a compassionate cleanup service experience.

For a professional, discreet, and compassionate dead animal removal and decontamination service in Savannah, GA, give us a call today!