Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who Gets Excited About Necropsies?

Just like humans, animals can die of an unknown cause. In this situation, some veterinarians will do a necropsy which is the same thing as an autopsy which would be done on a human. A necropsy is the procedure performed postmortem to determine the cause of death, injury or sickness on a non-human body.

Necropsies are not something I, as the wife of the veterinarian, get too excited about. My husband, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoys getting a good look at the inside of the animal and all of the intricate workings of it's body. I understand why....I think.

First, it is something out of the ordinary. Second, usually leading up to a necropsy the vet may or may not have a good idea of what caused the death. So naturally, there is some anticipation to find what may have really been going on inside the animal's body. Third, it gives the vet a chance to use all of that knowledge of pathology and biology and any other vet medicine courses he or she had in vet school. Fourth, it can be a great educational experience for everyone involved.

Recently, the farm vet performed some necropsies on some young calves that had died. He used that opportunity to show employees whom work with cattle every day to see the effects of some of the diseases on the inside of the body. Respiratory diseases such as pneumonia show visible signs on the lungs of baby animals and it has a big impact for the employees and owners to be able to visualize that. It helps to stress the importance of detecting illnesses in a timely manner and properly administering treatments.

This is a topic in which we can't really avoid showing some blood and beware!

Here is another photo of one of the farm vet's colleagues performing a necropsy on a horse.

Dairy Herd Check

Many days the farm vet will start his morning very early with what is called a "herd check" at a dairy. This has become common practice on today's dairy farms and happens normally every week or two weeks. The cows that have been bred are checked rectally, yes through the rear end, to see whether or not they are pregnant. The veterinarians are experts in the field of reproduction! They can detect the fetus/a pregnancy as early as 36 days old by palpation. When using an ultrasound, they can detect the pregnancy even earlier! 

This procedure does not hurt the cows and most of them seem quite comfortable with the veterinarian. As the vet is walking along behind the cows this is a good opportunity for him or her to check for lameness issues, body condition, udder health, and general cow health. There will also be either the owner or an employee walking along at the head of the cows which enables them to get a good look at the eyes, ears and feed consumption. It is a great time to discuss issues on the dairy or just discuss the news! Here is a video showing the farm vet on a herd check.