Necropsy for Dogs: Should YOU Consent?

Understanding the Canine NecropsyHave you ever heard the word “necropsy?” According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, here’s the correct definition:
nec•rop•sy: noun ‘ne-kräp-se autopsy; especially: an autopsy performed on an animals.According to veterinarians, however, a necropsy is any post-mortem examination conducted on an animal (as opposed to a human). Which makes sense seeing as the prefix, “auto,” as used in the word “autopsy,” means “self,” as in humans performing post mortem examinations on other humans.This is a brief explanation by way of intro to the subject of necropsy in veterinary medicine. Which, as some of you might already know, is among the most stressful topics we veterinarians sometimes feel compelled to discuss with our clients. After all, asking owners for permission to investigate their dog’s remains is an emotional situation that requires extreme sensitivity and an agile way with words.In case you’re wondering why we’d ever have cause to raise such a fraught issue, here is an explanation:A necropsy can be important for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because knowing what led to an dog’s death can be critical to a veterinarian’s understanding of the disease(s) at hand. Indeed, to investigate after death is to advance our skills for the betterment of animal medicine as a whole. And yet, the lowly necropsy is uncommonly undertaken in a general practice setting.Here are three examples explaining when a necropsy might be in order:- Medical curiosity: Your dog’s been sick for weeks and your veterinarians were stumped. They’d requested several expensive tests to help tease out the cause but things looked bleak so you elected euthanasia. She may be gone, but they still want to know why. In this case, consenting to a necropsy might well help future dogs who suffer from similar signs.