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Post mortem examinations

Post mortem examination (PME) is often a first choice for investigating the cause of death of an animal.  However, it's important to ensure that this is the most appropriate method of investigating the diagnosis in each case.

Before submitting any carcase for PME, you should first discuss the case with your nearest Veterinary Investigation Centre or other partner PME provider. Veterinary investigation officers, like all veterinarians, are legally required to report to APHA any suspicion of notifiable disease arising during diagnostic investigations.

Post mortem examinations are carried out at APHA Veterinary Investigation Centres and partner post mortem providers across the country and are subsidised by Defra. See the national network page for locations. 

To find your nearest centre, please use our postcode search tool and search for the first part of the client’s postcode. Also see the carcase collection map.

Criteria for PME

  • Animals dead for more than 24 hours will only be accepted after careful consideration of the facts as autolysis will often reduce the likelihood of diagnosis
  • Animals dead for more than 48 hours will not be accepted
  • Carcases which have been frozen may not be accepted
  • In outbreaks, a maximum of three mammals and five bird carcases may be submitted together from a single disease incident on each farm
  • Clinical history may suggest that submission of samples should be taken before PME is considered (e.g. faecal samples to investigate scouring)

Submission of live animals for PME

Occasionally, is it advisable to submit live animals for PME. This should only be done after discussion with the Veterinary Investigation Officer. The decision must take into account the Welfare in Transport Legislation: (The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 – WATO, parallel legislation exists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).