Veterinary Post-Mortem Examinations
Edition: 1897, Digitalized Version, 2007
In veterinary medicine the death of an animal patient is often thought of as the end of a medical case. However until a thorough post-mortem examination is completed, the case is not closed. In fact, the post-mortem examination (autopsy, necropsy) is a very useful and necessary procedure in the diagnostic process as it often defines the cause of death.
Why do a post-mortem examination? A good post-mortem has five benefits:
- Benefit to the owner/breeder:
- It may reveal deficiencies in husbandry practices which can be modified or corrected.
- It may reveal hereditary and/or congenital (birth) defects which may influence future breeding decisions.
- By pinpointing the underlying disease process or processes, it allows the initiation of treatment for similarly affected individuals in a litter, household, kennel, etc.
- The results of a post-mortem exam may facilitate the development and implementation of a preventive medicine/ husbandry program in the kennel to avert future deaths if possible.
- Benefit to the attending veterinarian:
- A specific diagnosis, in many cases, leads to a specific treatment.
- It can reveal individual kennel problems and these can serve as a starting point when future disease problems occur. This avoids time consuming trial-anderror treatments and allows specific treatment and preventive measures to be started earlier.
- It adds to the experience and learning of the veterinarian.
- Benefit to the breed:
- It may reveal breed-specific problems.
- It will provide useful information to other breeders and veterinarians.
- It allows accumulation of specific information concerning the deaths of individuals in that breed and allows for statistical analysis and compliation of data.
- Benefit to humans:
- Since animals live with and amongst humans it may reveal zoonotic diseases which may be transmitted to people. This allows public health personnel to be notified and act to prevent human exposure and disease.
- We now know the close relationship genetically between animals and humans. More and more we are finding the same hereditary and genetic diseases in animals and people. The results of the post -mortem examine may facilitate the development of animal models for human disease which can lead to new treatments for both animals and people.
- The post-mortem examination often results in “closure” for the owner, the veterinarian and other people involved in the death of an animal.