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The Journal of veterinary medical science/ the Japanese Society of Veterinary Science
Volume 85 | Issue 3 (March 2023)

Role of autopsy imaging in veterinary forensic medicine: experiences in 39 cases.

J Vet Med Sci. March 2023;85(3):301 - 307.
Kazutaka Yamada1, Kanako Satoh2, Eiichi Kanai3, Hiroo Madarame4
1 School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan.; 2 Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan.; 3 School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan.; 4 Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan.


While numerous scientific studies have suggested the usefulness of autopsy imaging (Ai) in the field of human forensic medicine, the use of imaging modalities for the purpose of veterinary forensics is currently scant. The current study performed Ai on suspicious dead animals requested by the police department to determine their cause of death. Radiography and/or computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging were performed on 39 suspicious dead animals before necropsy. After diagnostic imaging, pathological examination was performed, with drug testing added as needed. Among the 39 cases, 28, 6, 3, 1, and 1 involved cats, dogs, rabbits, a ferret, and a pigeon, respectively. The major Ai findings included skull and rib fractures, subcutaneous emphysema, pneumothorax, pneumoperitoneum, diaphragmatic hernia, and abdominal rupture. The leading causes of death, determined comprehensively via Ai and pathological reports and drug test results, included traumatic impact, blood loss, poisoning, suffocation, tension pneumothorax, starvation, and drowning, all of which have been strongly suspected to indicate animal abuse by humans. All eight cases of skull fractures and all five cases of poisoning, including suspected poisoning, were of cats. As the numbers of dogs and cats in Japan are almost equal, violence against cats may occur more frequently than dogs. Ai can be a valuable examination tool for veterinary forensic cases. As computed tomography is useful for ruling out fractures that screening computed tomography before necropsy is a more practical option for veterinary forensics.

animal abuse; autopsy imaging; computed tomography; forensic;

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