A post-mortem examination on a feline companion determine a cause of death and can serve as evidence in court if a legal issue is present. In many cases, having an autopsy performed simply offers peace of mind and closure for many cat parents, and might even help improve life for future generations.
About the Procedure
An autopsy is a medical exam performed on a dead human; in the nonhuman animal world it's known as a necropsy. Getting a necropsy performed can answer important questions about a cat's death, and it's a service many veterinarians offer. In some cases, more in-depth examinations are required; a local vet may not have the equipment or facilities to perform them. In these cases, you might consult a veterinary pathologist or a company specializing in necropsies.
A Source of Valuable Information
The information obtained from a necropsy can help empower cat parents and vets about possible pet care changes to make in the future to prevent similar deaths. For example, if it's determined that kidney failure was the cause of death, you might research this issue and work with a veterinary nutritionist to screen for it in your next cats, and particularly in cats from your deceased cat's litters. Having a necropsy done may even assist in treatment protocols for other cats with the same disease.
During a necropsy, the vet or specialist examines organs for signs of injury or disease. She may also take tissue sample to test for bacteria or abnormalities. Depending on the situation, other services or tests such as toxicology or microbiology tests, or examination of the nervous system, may be performed as well. Once complete, your specialist will go over test and exam results with you and help you understand the findings, which are usually highly technical.
Cost varies, depending on the vet or specialist, along with services performed. The University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine charges $495 with separate fees for additional testing. The Necropsy Services Group also has varying fees. Exams with tissue testing are $750, with additional fees for toxicology or other tests, or special arrangements for return of the body for burial or cremation. Necropsies with photos for use in court is $1,000, and exams including nervous system evaluation are $1,500.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.