Submission for Necropsy

Visit our COVID-19 webpage for the most current updates on services including facility hours, administrative support, and testing times.

General information

Whenever possible, submission of the entire animal is preferred. Under ideal circumstances, the animal should be submitted as soon as possible after death. If a period of time must elapse prior to submission, the animal should be kept cold, but not frozen. Freezing produces artifacts that make interpretation difficult. Please include a complete clinical history with all submissions. It is most helpful when the attending veterinarian writes the history.

Euthanasia Policies

Euthanasia by the VDL is performed only for production animals (cattle, pigs, sheep, goats) intended for necropsy. The VDL will also perform euthansia on wildlife species. The VDL does NOT euthanize companion animals including dogs, cats, camelids, or horses. 

In general, euthanasia of animals should be performed by the submitting veterinarian to ensure a proper clinical evaluation and appropriate history.

Herd (Cattle, Sheep, Pigs and Goats) Health Problems

In cases involving a herd problem, the best specimens for submission are live, acutely affected, untreated animals. When submission of a live animal is not possible, the second best submission would be samples obtained by the submitting veterinarian at the time of field necropsy. Prior to euthanasia, collect blood in red top and purple top tubes. Perform a complete postmortem examination and submit appropriate specimens and a complete history. It is important that the veterinarian select which animals to submit when there is a herd problem.

Handling of Animal Remains

At present, the release of any animal remains to owners is prohibited. Our reasons for this policy include the possibility of disease transmission from the laboratory to either the owner or the owner's other animals, and misunderstandings by the owner about the condition of the returned remains. Cosmetic necropsies are not performed.

Animal remains will be disposed of by mass chemical cremation unless the animal owner or the animal owner's personal veterinarian makes arrangements for individual cremation. The VDL does not provide individual cremation services, but may release the remains to a private cremation service. Animals greater than 300 pounds will incur an additional handling fee for whole body individual cremation.

Animals testing negative for rabies may be released to a private cremation service once all testing results are known. Animals testing positive for rabies or where the status cannot be determined may be released to a private cremation service after VDL decontamination procedures if they weigh 22 pounds or less.  Animals testing positive for rabies or where the status cannot be determined and are larger than 22 pounds will be group cremated at no cost to the client, but cannot be released for individual cremation due to the limitations of the VDL decontamination procedures. 

Depending on the policies of the private cremation service, the following types of animals may be acceptable: small companion animals, horses (entire animal or just the head, heart and hooves) and small ruminants or camelids. If a decision regarding individual/mass cremation has not been made at the time of submission, the VDL will hold small animal remains (dog, cat and other small species) for 5 business days. Large companion animal remains will not be held unless specific arrangements are made with VDL personnel. If specific instructions for individual cremation are not provided within 5 business days, the animal remains will be disposed of using mass cremation, and ashes will not be returned to the owner/agent.

Legal/Forensic/Insurance Necropsy Policies 


Due to limited resources (personnel and supplies), the UMN VDL is temporarily suspending forensic necropsy examinations.

Options you can consider include:

a) Submitting the deceased animal for a standard necropsy examination at the UMN VDL.  The scientific interpretation of the case would be the same, but we would not be able to provide photo documentation, and written descriptions would be summarized/abridged.

b) Submitting the deceased animal for a forensic necropsy examination elsewhere (arrangements to be made by the submitter). University laboratories offering this service include Cornell, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida  ( and a private laboratory called Forensic Veterinary Investigations, LLC.

c) If the remains are (or can be) frozen and the necropsy can be reasonably postponed, delaying submission of the case until we are beyond this pandemic event and back to full capability.  The UMN VDL cannot provide frozen storage.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation in addressing these challenges.