C ompanion animals are part of our families, but it is inevitable that time passes for us to say goodbye to them because of old age or disease.
Many pet lovers choose to bury their pets in the backyard. However, there are some hidden risks to this and there are other options that can help other pets and even the owners who love them.
Donating their body to science, research and veterinary education can potentially help hundreds of pets
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Why The Backyard Is Not Best
Backyard burial may seem like the easiest way to respectfully take care of your pet's remains. Unfortunately, it can be dangerous for other pets and wildlife. Most pets are put in bed with an extremely concentrated anesthetic, resulting in a very peaceful death (hence the term euthanasia, which means "good death"). But this drug, pentobarbital, continues in the animal's buried body for up to a year. Any animal attached to the remains will be poisoned by the euthanasia solution.
I have seen two cases in my career where this has happened, with serious consequences. In one case, a family had their pet mouse down and buried it in the backyard. The family's terrier dug up and ate the mouse and came in intensive care for almost a week. In another case, two farm dogs scavenged some bones from a cow that had been euthanized on a farm months before. One dog died and the other was seriously ill for several days.
If your pet dies from a disease that can spread to other animals or even humans, their body may also pose a risk. While vaccination has reduced the amount of dangerous animal diseases in the community, some diseases such as parvovirus still appear to be outbreak and are very hardy and easily spread between dogs.
This virus causes severe and sometimes fatal gastrointestinal disease in puppies and young dogs. Fortunately, there are not many diseases we can catch from our pets, but some ̵
What to do instead
An option is pet crematoriums and cemeteries. The service is very professional and covers a range of options and price ranges to suit most pet owners. The cost may vary with the size of the pet.
Professional funeral or cremation avoids risks of environmental pollution or illness that may arise from backyard burial. For my own pets who have passed away, I chose cremation, which typically costs A $ 200-300, and then buried their ashes under a memorial tree in my garden.
However, there is another way. As a veterinary pathologist, my job is to perform autopsy on animals to determine their cause of death. We also use the knowledge and tests we get from the autopsies to conduct research to improve our understanding of diseases and treatments in both animals and humans.
Our pets make excellent "models" of diseases in both pets and humans, allowing researchers to study the development and progression of a disease and develop new treatments.
Cancer is the most common cause of death for dog dogs. Many popular breeds get the same cancer at high prices and provide ample valuable research material. These cancers are similar in appearance, behavior, treatments and genetic causes to many cancers.
What's more, dogs share our home environments, but age faster and show faster cancer progression than humans, dogs study faster research results. In the United States, dog cancer experiments already provide attempts at new human treatments.
Another area where dogs are valuable scientific allies is in the study of rare genetic and developmental diseases in children. Since we have bred dogs for specific appearances, from fearful French bulldogs to blurry wine dogs, we have unconsciously created genetic abnormalities. Some of these are dense counterparts of rare genetic disorders in children. Thus, dogs can be used to identify the genetic mutations behind the disease and how the defective gene affects human children.
Universities have strict ethical assessments for this type of research. However, it is crucial that we have the opportunity to take samples of both common and rare animal diseases to form tissue banks. Most of this sampling occurs during an autopsy after the pet has died or been asleep. These tissue samples are used to examine better treatments.
How to donate
If you are interested in donating your pet's body, your vet can guide you to potential local opportunities. In most major cities, there is the veterinary school at the local university. Alternatively, you can contact the veterinary school directly via their website or telephone number for general inquiries.
Most schools are interested in all species for teaching. My institution takes everything from mice to horses and exotic pets like snakes and lizards. All these species provide the opportunity to learn about their anatomy and diseases.
In addition to helping us investigate human diseases, veterinary schools need body-giving donors to help teach anatomy, surgery and pathology. In the most ethical way, this training is performed on the animals that have died for natural reasons.
Donated pets give my students a valuable understanding of how the disease affects the body. In addition, we report the autopsy findings back to the animal's vet. This information is essential for veterinarians wishing to confirm diagnoses and to provide mourning owners with some closure.
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] If you choose to bury your euthanized pet, consider enclose their remains in a container that prevents other animals from accessing the body. Many municipalities also have restrictions on pet funeral, and it is worth looking at your local area guidelines.
In the end, however, I would urge you to donate your pet's body to science. The loss of a pet can be heartbreaking, but there are many ways to create a meaningful legacy from the loss that helps both pets and humans.
This article was originally published on The Conversation by Rachel Allavena. Read the original article here.