How Long After Death Can A Necropsy Be Performed On A Dog

Necropsy in pets is like performing an autopsy in humans. It is a post-mortem examination of the body of a deceased pet. It is performed to determine the accurate cause of death for legal, educational, and research purposes.

Many times, pet owners demand a necropsy report to diagnose certain underlying health conditions that may or may not have caused the death. In veterinary medicine, performing a necropsy is an important process. Especially for pets that suddenly pass away at home with little to no underlying health diseases.

This is to determine invisible diseases, inflammation, allergies, and other problems. So that proper medication or treatment can be developed to avoid more deaths.

However, not every pet owner allows their vet to perform a necropsy. But if you want to know what necropsy means and how long after death can a necropsy be performed, read the following information.

How Long After Death Can A Necropsy Be Performed

From a clinical and veterinarian point of view, a necropsy can be performed soon after the pet has been announced dead by a vet. A special medical facility is required to perform a necropsy by a trained vet. Even a small decontaminated room is sufficient.

Proper labeling of tissue samples, blood samples, and other parts is also essential. Pet owners are consulted beforehand to determine what kind of necropsy should be performed. Many clients who prefer to bury their pet and do not like the idea of “taking apart” their pet’s body often go for “cosmetic necropsy.”

In cosmetic necropsy is less invasive in that with the help of sutures the body is stitched back together without making multiple incisions on the body. Sometimes with the help of a cosmetic necropsy, a vet can find out whatever he or she needs to know about the cause of death.

Having said that, a necropsy should be performed right after death. Or else, the body should be kept in a refrigerator to prevent tissue breakdown as it can occur in animals very quickly.

Are Necropsies Expensive?

Vets when offering to perform a necropsy after your pet has passed away will also tell you how expensive the procedure can be. A vet might also request to perform an X-ray and certain non-invasive examinations to determine the cause of death.

If there has been any injury recently, sometimes an X-ray can shed light on the situation. Perhaps performing a necropsy might not do the same thing.

That is why it’s always better to consult and discuss with an expert before making a decision.

On average, a necropsy charge is between $100 to $1,000 based on what type of procedure is being performed.

Why Does Your Pet Need a Necropsy?

You don’t need to perform a necropsy unless your vet recommends it. Here’s why your pet might need a necropsy for further investigation:

When your pet dies suddenly without exhibiting any prior symptoms of the disease. So it’s not clear whether your pet had an undiagnosed disease that didn’t come through in an X-ray or blood tests.

Lots of time, it’s a legal requirement to perform a necropsy after an animal dies. Especially when the pet is suspected of carrying an infectious, contagious disease like rabies. For public health and research purposes, a necropsy is performed immediately.

Only a medical examiner or a vet determines whether a necropsy should be performed. According to the procedure, you can sign legal documents to allow/disallow certain procedures. For example, you can restrict the medical examiner to a specific region of the body.  You can consult a vet regarding the possible cause of death so that the possibility of a cosmetic necropsy may also be discussed.

What Are The Possible Causes Of A Sudden Death?

In dogs, there are many sudden causes of death that if it wasn’t for necropsies would have gone unnoticed and undiagnosed. This should state the importance of performing a necropsy for legal and research purposes.

Heart disease, bloating, heartworms are other underlying causes that are now diagnosable and preventable with the help of medicines.

Internal Bleeding

Any past traumatic injuries or poisoning due to incorrect food can cause internal bleeding. If it goes unnoticed for a long period of time, it may cause sudden death in pets. That is why experts recommend being wary of outdoor spaces like dog parks, pavements, and other public areas.

Ensure that even as you walk your dog on a path that’s near a road, always keep your dog on a leash. Never let your pet be unattended in such public spaces.

Internal bleeding that is a cause of sudden death in dogs may also be a cancerous tumor. Ruptured tumors in the liver, heart, or spleen are aggressive and they rapidly grow in size. Even if your dog doesn’t exhibit symptoms, he or she may collapse or lose consciousness suddenly. If that happens, take your dog to the vet immediately.


Pet poisoning is the major cause of sudden in animals, most especially in dogs. Foods like grapes, chocolate, garlic, onions, and alcohol contain toxins that are harmful for dogs. The main toxin is known as “xylitol” and it leads to seizures and in extreme cases, death.

To make sure your dog doesn’t ingest any toxins, keep a check on what products you use at home. Such as detergent, shampoo, and other chemicals. Keep them out of reach or in a locked cabinet.

Always evaluate all the natural foods you feed your dog. Not all vegetables and fruits are safe for your pet.


Necropsy is an effective procedure to determine any unknown or undiagnosed disease in deceased animals. It helps doctors detect new diseases to develop medicines. And it also helps stop the spread of any contagious infection among animals for public health and safety.

While it’s best to perform a necropsy within 24 hours to prevent tissue decay, it’s also important to find out the proper legal costs, procedure, and other important information before performing a necropsy.

Lisa Thompson

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