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Just as medical schools accept deceased human bodies for teaching and research, veterinary schools rely on animal bodies to teach animal anatomy and pathology and to further research. The act of giving something back to the pets and vets of the future can bestow a sense of purpose amidst the grief and loss.
If this is something a pet carer wishes to consider, they should speak to their vet or contact their nearest Veterinary School who will give them all the necessary information on their teaching programme.
Although many wild animals are successfully preserved using this method, many taxidermists will refuse to preserve a domestic pet in this way, owing to the poor results achieved. Even those taxidermists who agree to preserve a pet by this method normally keep the pet frozen for approximately six months, to allow the pet carer the option of not proceeding should they change their mind.
Taxidermists are also very reluctant to give an estimate for their work before they see the pet, but a pet carer can expect to pay hundreds of pounds for a small dog or cat.
Although most people are aware of what taxidermy is, when they look into the method used to preserve the pet, it gives a better understanding of why this method of preservation is not a particularly successful option when it comes to pets.
Initially, they remove the skin from the animal’s remains, then construct a realistic figure of the animal’s shape, and create life-like facsimiles of the eyes and other organs. The figure is often made from polyurethane foam, while glass is typically used to replicate the eyes. Wax and clay are frequently used to recreate parts such as lips and snouts.
It is the structure of the animal’s muscle that gives the animal its distinctive and
recognisable shape, and as this is removed at the onset, it is very difficult to recreate the animal’s original look, which is why results are often poor, and the reason taxidermists are reluctant to work on a domestic pet.
The results of freeze-drying a pet are far superior to that of taxidermy. Freeze-dry preservation is much less invasive than taxidermy. The whole animal is preserved as it was, with only some organs removed, and eyes replaced with replica marbles.
After being injected with silicone, the dead animal spends some time in a vacuum freeze-drying compartment (from two to fifteen months, depending on the size of the pet).
The procedure takes out all the moisture from the body, thus eliminating the process of decay. When the freeze-drying is done, the animal is returned to, and can be kept at, room temperature.
Although the animal is stiff, their fur remains soft to the touch.
Freeze-drying is not currently available in the UK, although the process has been done in America for several years. In order for someone to have this process done to their pet, over and above the expense of the freeze-drying, they will have to pay shipping fees to have the pet taken to America. This makes this a very expensive option for the aftercare of a pet.
This may be the oldest form of preservation. However, it is still a fairly complex, time-consuming, and a very expensive way to preserve the body of a pet. An incision is made to remove the internal organs, which are cleansed thoroughly and placed back into the body.
The body is then immersed in a special preservation solution. Several layers of cotton gauze are then wrapped around the body, and it is encased within a bronze or stainless steel mummiform.
This is a costly method of preservation when you take into account the cost of this treatment and the expensive outer casing. At the time of writing, there is currently only one company in America that offers this service. Therefore, anyone from the UK wishing to have a pet mummified will not only have the expense of the mummification, but also the shipping costs to the USA.
Cloning is an alternative method to ‘preserving’ a much loved pet, and although some may not agree with cloning from an ethical or moral stance, this is also a
method that those offering pet bereavement support need to be aware of. The first cat to be cloned was an American cat in 2002, closely followed, in 2005, by the cloning of an Afghan hound, called Snuppy, in South Korea.
Cloning a pet is very expensive. Live tissue has to be taken from the pet, in order for the pet to be cloned. Cloning of pets is currently being offered by companies in South Korea and the USA, making this a very expensive option to replicate a much loved pet.
Pet carers should be aware that up to six puppies may be born as a result of cloning, and many of these puppies may have genetic defects. However, the pet carer will be responsible for taking all the puppies. DNA can be taken from a pet after it has died. However this must be taken within the first three days, otherwise it cannot be used and even then there is no guarantee it will be successful.
To give it its proper name alkaline hydrolysis, is the process of dissolving bodies of the deceased pet in water. It is becoming a more recognise alternative to conventional burial and cremation, as it is better for the environment because it has a relatively small carbon footprint.
The cost of the machinery required is quite expensive and the whole process takes very much longer than cremation. Aquamation is not currently available in the UK.
Dawn Murray's new book 'An Introduction to Pet Bereavement Counselling' is now available to buy on Amazon. This is a must have reference book for anyone who supports or counsels others through pet bereavement.