A vet in action checking up a calf in Nakuru [Boniface Thuku, Standard]

Once in a while, animals die. Some of the deaths are expected while some occur suddenly or mysteriously. Whether it is the death of your favourite cat or dog or your best producing dairy cow, it is always good to know what was the cause of death so that you can get closure and know next course of action. Like in humans, the causes of death are many and varied from old age, accidents, sickness, poisoning, malnutrition, deficiencies, congenital abnormalities among others. For animal owners who have insured their animals, you’ll need a post mortem or necropsy report from a qualified vet to get compensation. 

What do you do when an animal dies?

First, call the vet immediately or within 24 hours. Alternatively, you can take the carcass, within the same time frame, to the nearest veterinary clinic, hospital or laboratories. Here, a veterinarian receives the carcass and requests for a few details from you. Acting fast helps to prevent changes such as rotting which could affect the results of the post mortem. Details such as age, sex, colour, breed, number affected, vaccination status, clinical signs, duration of illness may help the veterinarian to fill a post-mortem form.

What happens during post-mortem?

Post-mortem for different animals is almost the same save for a few differences. The clinical signs aid the veterinarian to decide how best to approach this critical exam and exercise caution where necessary. In that regard therefore, it is prudent to disclose as much information as possible and be truthful while at it. The actual examination is two phased: external and internal. For the external one, the vet checks for external parasites, wounds, colouration among other observable signs on the animal’s body.

Next is the internal examination. Here the vet and the team removes the feathers or skin of the animal and observes how the whole body is. After this, the vet makes entry into the body cavities and examines each organ, systematically. The vet notes the colour, smell, feel, size, position of the contents in the body cavities. From this, the veterinarian comes up with several possible causes of death.

Narrowing down to the exact cause of death

Depending on the clinical signs, observations and changes seen, they take samples for further investigation. The samples could be a liver, faecal, intestinal contents, blood, lymph node among others. The samples undergo parasitology, microbiology, toxicology or virology analysis. The reports from these tests helps the veterinarian narrow down to the exact cause of death.

[The writer is resident vet at FarmKenya Initiative]