The discovery of abnormalities or lack of abnormalities can be invaluable to the veterinary surgeon and the client. The overall herd and flock health impinges on welfare and subsequently farm profitability.
Post mortem examinations can be revealing from the first incision to a complicated case whereby samples are taken for toxicology and histology (microscopic examination of tissues) to reveal a positive diagnosis.
The reasons for requesting post mortems can vary tremendously, some to satisfy an insurance company, out of curiosity, provide evidence that previous treatments were appropriate.
Negative results at PM can be a cause of elation e.g. an Anthrax negative; this may be an extreme example but needs to be viewed in a positive manner.
At times the attitude is “why throw good money after bad”. An animal, which has finally succumbed following a month of treatment, may not reveal findings which will significantly alter the future medical treatments of other animals.
At time findings can indicate a problem with nutrition e.g. two 5 month old calves down, euthanased on humane grounds, post mortemed and found to have fractures of the femurs strongly suggests inappropriate mineralisation of the diet. Obviously further tests may be required to confirm the diagnosis but correct mineralisation of the diet can be instigated prior to confirmation of the cause of the fractures.
Sheep farms are only too aware that examination of aborted foetuses is essential to investigate the cause of the abortion(s). Findings may result in advising flock treatments and/or future preventative vaccinations. It is very easy to “accept” abortions as “one of those things” but burying one’s head in the sand can be costly.
It is of particular concern that the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory Agency are reducing the number of premises available to carry out post mortems, this situation is not likely to be reversed but does not reduce the future importance of PMs.
Disease surveillance, using PM findings, is essential in maintaining health and discovery of the emergence of new diseases.
With the ever increasing incidence of liver fluke, examination of the dead ewe’s liver will provide valuable information as to the presence, or not, of a liver fluke problems.
Examination of decomposed carcases rarely provide any useful information.
Accurate analysis of PM findings will provide useful information on diseases present, future vaccination policy and management strategies. Please consult your own veterinary surgeon.