Cat Autopsy?

If you are convinced that your cat or dog died because of the commercial food he ate then there is a good argument that you should do three things in the interests of cats and dogs generally and for your own good.

Veterinary nurse training
Vet and nurse in mobile clinic in America. Photo
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

These are:

  1. Ask your veterinarian to do an autopsy (a post-mortem examination).  Although this sounds objectionable and, no doubt, emotionally it is difficult to instruct a vet to do this, it would very much help to confirm whether it was the food or something else which caused the death and
  2. In the USA, make a complaint to the FDA (“Food and Drug Administration”) and
  3. Keep a sample of the food that you think caused his death.

The recommendations by two veterinarians1 have come out of the Purina story about their Beneful dog food which is spreading virally throughout the Internet.  The Internet is very useful but can also be a little bit dangerous. Veterinarians are not necessarily saying that the dog food is not causing illness and sometimes death in dogs but what they are saying is that pet owners should be cautious about blaming the food and the better course of action is to be more scientific about it and take the steps as mentioned above.

Veterinarians writing on the website say that when a person’s pet becomes sick they often initially look at the pet’s food as a cause.  But, according to vets, it is rare for commercially produced food to cause serious illness in pets. However, there is a lot of distrust by concerned pet owners about the quality of commercially manufactured pet food. This is the fault of the manufacturers.

Cat autopsy

Also, they make the point that when a person’s pet unexpectedly dies or becomes seriously ill the pet owner needs answers and grieving takes place.  In order to assuage the pain of the passing of their pet people look for answers and sometimes they can be misled into looking in the wrong place.

What the veterinarians are stating is that pet owners should be more reliant upon “evidence-based medicine”. Veterinarians should be the main source of information about the causes of death.

“Any concerns with a particular product should immediately be brought to the attention of the manufacturer so that information can be collected and products appropriately monitored.”

In addition, a spokesperson for Purina said that they welcome telephone calls from consumers who are concerned about their products.  Both making an application to the FDA and calling Purina to make a complaint may be offputting and difficult to do especially for a pet owner who is going through the grieving process.  However, at a certain time it would be useful to take these steps both for peace of mind and to find closure and also for the wider good of pets generally in the country.

The veterinarians state that under certain circumstances it is appropriate to advise a client that an autopsy would be a good idea but the way the matter should be approached is important.  They suggest that the veterinarian should ask, “You have the opportunity to put your mind at ease and know what happened.”  This is better than simply asking a client whether he or she wants an autopsy.

The FDA have seen a large increase in the number of complaints about Purina Beneful dog food since the matter has gone viral Internet.  This is unsurprising but there is an argument that the power of the Internet can sometimes spread false information or information which leads people to form beliefs and ideas which may not necessarily be true.

This is not to say that the Internet is not useful.  It is extremely useful because it helps create networks between people who have suffered the same distress in losing their pet and therefore helps to find the cause of mysterious health problems.  The Internet also opens a conduit of information from pet owner to pet food manufacturer providing mass feedback to the manufacturer which, at the end of the day, must be a good thing although initially, as is apparent in this case, the manufacturers will vigorously defend their position.

Veterinarians should also file reports to the FDA when appropriate.

Note 1: Buffington, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVN, professor at The Ohio State University Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and Stephen Ettinger, DVM, DACVIM, a well-known small animal internist and cardiologist.

7 thoughts on “Cat Autopsy?”

  1. In my world, a sudden “fallen” cat generally means poisoned.
    But, no matter the cause, I am in favor of autopsies if they are for the greater good and for the purpose of exposing wrongdoings.

  2. Virtually all vets receive their nutritional education from the pet food manufacturers, so I’d be sceptical about getting an unbiased opinion as to whether the pet’s death was diet related. Unless of course the results of the necropsy identified disease or a previously undiagnosed medical condition as the cause of death.

    There’s no doubting that when one of our pets dies unexpectedly we want to know the cause, but I’ve no idea how much a necropsy costs and whether that would put people off getting one done. I do agree that knowing why our beloved pet died can help with the grieving process. Had I not taken Sophie to the vet the day after she stopped eating, she would have died naturally within the next 48 hours and I wouldn’t have known the cause. I was shocked when the x-rays and ultrasound showed she had end stage liver cancer, but I could see she was fading in front of me and euthansia saved her from any further suffering.

  3. It’s true that it would be difficult to ask for an autopsy after losing a pet. And then, there’s the issue
    of possibly getting a false report, though probably unlikely. Another issue is the extra expense, on top of what they’re already facing.

    I have a friend who lost two cats, within 2 months, after they began vomiting, with bloating. She had extensive tests run, going into debt for these. They were all negative for disease. When she asked the vet about why they died, the vet replied “It doesn’t matter now.” I wouldn’t continue taking my pets there.

    Recently, her 3rd cat is showing the same symptoms. I asked her what she was feeding, in addition to a lot of other questions to sort out what might be the cause. She’s been feeding Iams, both wet and dry. Iams is a brand that has had a lot of recalls. I hope it’s not too late to switch to a better food.

    • Sandra that must be so worrying for your friend and I agree that her vet sounds heartless. Surely he should understand that for two cats from the same household to become seriously ill and die within a matter of weeks is cause for concern. Even more so when there is a third cat in the home who may fall victim to the same unidentified illness.

      I hope a change of diet and vet will be enough to save the third cat.

      • Dee, I never got an answer to the many questions I asked of the guardian. She continues to ask me about what I recommend in pet food, but doesn’t answer the questions I ask, like yours.

        I have a feeling that her cats are indoor/outdoor. If so, they could have gotten a hold of a toxic substance, and it just affected them on a different time frame.

        But I’m more inclined to think of the food as a culprit, since they all eat the same thing.

        • Sandra, if they spent time outside, I would say that they were poisoned – probably antifreeze. If I could post a pic of my precious Colonel, I would. Grrrrrrr… Exact same symptoms.
          Hard to believe that her vet didn’t recognize the classic symptoms of liver and kidney failure due to poisoning.


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