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When is a necropsy (i.e. postmortem exam, autopsy) beneficial?
Examination and testing of deceased animals provides producers, animal owners, and veterinarians with not only an understanding of the cause of death, but also identification of pathogens and/or management problems that may be of particular significance in herd-health and multi-pet households, and may potentially have implications in the health of humans sharing the same environment.

Reasons to necropsy an animal:

  • Suspicious or unexpected death
  • Legal or criminal investigations
  • Confirmation of diagnosis
  • Identification of disease
  • Inform treatment of disease in a herd
  • Limit future losses
  • Contribute the veterinary medical knowledge
  • Improve understanding of disease
  • Assessment of treatment efficacy

What should I do if my pet has suddenly died and I want a necropsy?

  • The first thing to do is to put the body of the pet in a plastic bag and begin cooling the core body temperature as rapidly as possible. If the body cannot be kept in a refrigerator, you may keep it in an insulated cooler containing ice or ice bags. A freezer can be used to cool the body temperature but freezing the body should be avoided if possible.
  • Owners should be aware that in some cases the necropsy will not reveal the cause of the patient’s clinical signs or demise.

Can I freeze the body before a necropsy?

  •  If circumstances prevent immediate shipping and refrigeration is unavailable, carcasses can be frozen. Frozen carcasses may take a long time to thaw and greatly increase turnaround time. Freezing also kills many bacteria, often preventing accurate bacterial culture, and creates serious tissue artifacts on histopathology.
  • If there will be a significant delay between death and the postmortem examination (24 hrs or more at room temp.) and the body cannot be maintained in the refrigerated state, freezing is better than the decomposition which will occur in an unrefrigerated body.

How do I get my pet to the Diagnostic Pathology Center?

  • Pet owners and veterinary staff are welcome to deliver the body directly to the Diagnostic Pathology Center.
  • For animals under 150 lbs: If you are in the greater Phoenix area, we employ a courier service that will pick up the animal and deliver it to the Diagnostic Pathology Center. There is an additional charge for courier service.
  • For large animals: Trail’s End Large Animal Removal and Disposal is a local company that will pickup and deliver large animals to the Diagnostic Pathology Center. You may contact them directly and arrange for delivery. Payment is made directly to Trail’s End for service.

Trails End Large Animal Removal and Disposal
Phone: (623) 680-0452

Can I donate my animal?

  • You may call (602) 806-7540 and see if there is currently an academic need for animal remains.
  • There will be a cremation or disposal fee collected.

What does the necropsy include?

  • Necropsy includes a full gross examination, histology, and a written postmortem report.

How long does it take to get a report?

  • A final report summarizing the gross and histological findings will be sent to the referring veterinarian in about 3 weeks from the date of the necropsy.

Who performs the necropsy?

  • Faculty veterinary pathologists will perform the necropsy with the assistance of necropsy technicians and veterinary students.

Can I discuss results with a veterinary pathologist?

  • We encourage owners to discuss results with their veterinarian, who usually has familiarity with the animal and/or its management, environment, and herd situation.  Your veterinarian is better equipped to advise any management changes or treatment of remaining animals.
  • Our veterinary pathologists are available to discuss results with referring veterinarians at any time.

Can I pick-up my pet’s body after the necropsy?

  • Remains will only be released to registered pet cremation services, to prevent accidental transmission of any potential pathogens from the laboratory. Only privately cremated remains will be returned to owners.
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