Autopsy Service

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is an examination of a body after death. Information gained from a postmortem exam can be helpful in determining the most likely cause of death, furthering the understanding of disease, and learning how to protect and treat other animals with similar conditions.

There are two types of autopsies: cosmetic (available for pet animals only) and complete (available for pet animals and farm animals).  Because it is more comprehensive, a complete autopsy may provide the best information for determining a cause of death, expanding the current knowledge base to protect remaining or subsequent animals against similar infections, and to better diagnose, treat, and cure disease.  The primary purpose of a cosmetic autopsy is to maintain the deceased patient’s physical appearance following the post-mortem examination.   Your veterinary health care provider can assist you in choosing the type of autopsy that is best for you and your animal.

All autopsies are supervised by specialists in veterinary pathology. Specialization in veterinary pathology requires a minimum of three years of post-graduate veterinary training followed by rigorous examination and board certification by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.


After Care

If you plan to arrange for the burial or cremation of your animal, you must be sure to communicate that information to a member of the Ohio State veterinary healthcare team.  Verify that your request is properly documented before your animal’s autopsy. 

If you are planning to have your animal’s remains privately cremated, we have resources available for you.

A step-by-step resource guide for arranging your animal’s cremation is available upon request at The Veterinary Medical Center Hospital for Companion Animal front desk.  


Submission form, cost and drop-off times:

  • All autopsy submissions must be accompanied by an autopsy request submission form. Please note that the submission form must be signed by a licensed referring veterinarian prior to submission.
  • For animals not seen at the Ohio State University-Veterinary Medical Center within the last 90 days, the autopsy cost for small animals is $100 with private after care or, $125 with communal cremation (no ashes returned); $450 for all equine species; and, $300 for non-equine farm animals. Payment is due at the time the animal is dropped off. Acceptable forms of payment are cash, credit card or personal check. *Please note that while there is no charge for the autopsy of an animal that has been a patient at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center within the last 90 days, fees will be incurred for aftercare of the remains ($25 for small animal communal cremation; $50 for large animal disposal).
  • Deceased animals may be dropped off at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center:
    • Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    • Saturday 8:00 a.m. to noon
    • No holiday drop-offs are accepted.
    • Any drop-offs at times other than those listed above will incur an additional after hours fee of $50.

Results: Autopsy reports are written in a technical language and are designed to be interpreted by a veterinarian. A preliminary report will be emailed to the licensed referring veterinarian who signed the autopsy form, in approximately 48 hours (2 business days). The final autopsy report will be emailed to the veterinarian in approximately 3 to 4 weeks.

Ancillary Diagnostic Testing

Additional ancillary diagnostic testing can be performed from tissues obtained during an autopsy. These tests include assays to detect the presence of viruses, bacteria and certain toxins. Pursuing additional testing may be an option after consultation with the attending pathologist and resident assigned to the case.