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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.

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

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?

  • All bodies that are being dropped off at the DPC will need to be clearly labeled, and have a submission form completed prior to drop off.
  • 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.
  • Click here for a map.

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?

  • Typically final necropsy reports summarizing gross and histopathological findings are sent to the submitter in 15-20 business days from the date of the examination. This timeframe can be delayed by several factors, including the need to thaw bodies that are submitted frozen, University holidays, and requests for additional testing. The turn around time for biopsy reports is typically 3-5 business days from the date a sample is received. This timeframe may also be affected by the types of delays listed above.

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 our registered pet cremation service. PALS is the only cremation partner that the DPC will release bodies to, and this service.
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