An article in the May 2011 issue of In Practice (volume 33, pages 220–227) discussed the fundamentals of forensic veterinary medicine and considered the protocol for investigating and reporting on cases involving live animals. However, if animals linked to suspected breaches of criminal law or civil proceedings of some nature die, or are euthanased, a forensic postmortem examination will be required. The aims of this examination are to provide the opportunity to describe and record all lesions or injuries, and to allow objective interpretation of these changes. Postmortem examinations must be conducted in a manner and to a sufficiently high standard that reassures the courts that the results are comprehensive and soundly based. They should include both external and internal examination of the cadaver, which involves removing the internal organs, including the brain, from the body for detailed examination. This article provides an overview of forensic veterinary pathology, using two common causes of death and injury in animals presented for forensic postmortem examination – neglect and blunt force injuries – to illustrate a practical approach to postmortem examination of such cases.
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