So---What is necropsy? Most of us have heard of the word "autopsy" and know its meaning. An equine necropsy or post-mortem examination (PME),is the procedure that is performed on a horse much the same as an autopsy is performed on a human being. It is often done at veterinarian schools to teach the vet students about the anatomy of the horse. Simply put, a necropsy or post-mortem examination (PME) gives an explanation for the horse's death.. It is often important to investigate a horse's death to identify the reason or reasons. Examples might include: To see if the herd or other possible horses exposed to the dead horse are at risk. If a horse is being used for breeding purposes a PME can often answer questions about a genetic abnormality that may have caused the death. It is done for diagnostic purposes to determine if an ongoing treatment for a known specific problem benefited the horse. Did the drugs prescribed have any effect, cause side effects, or have unintended consequences? If a horse is insured for life/and or medical benefits legal documentation may be necessary to collect a payout.
The Procedure for Necropsy
There are multiple procedures involved in a necropsy. The following is a general overview: First, the case history of the horse is reviewed. It explains the first signs of abnormality or illness, length of illness, specific signs of illness, were other animals affected, vaccination history, did the horse get into anything that could possibly be toxic, etc. Before any cutting is done an overall outward examination (what can be see without a microscope) is done of the outside of the horse. Then the inside of the body is opened. "Although the necropsy is a visual exam, it's also a multi-sensory experience: Do tissues feel normal by palpation? Is there an unusual smell? Based on case history and gross observations, the examiner might choose to save tissues for microscopic examination and select further tests to run. For example, he or she might elect to carefully examine the spinal cord in a horse that could no longer stand, but not in a horse that had difficulty breathing. He or she might request bacterial cultures of the lung in a horse with clinical and/or gross evidence of pneumonia but not in a horse with suspected liver failure. ..." During the procedure cuts are made into the muscle and tissue of the horse. The vets are looking for lesions, fluids, bruises, hemorrhages, and signs of disease. They remove the main organs such as the lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen and heart. The stomach and the intestines are examined as colic
is the number one killer of the horse. Tests are done for toxins and drugs using tissue and blood samples. Microscopic examination (aka referred to as histology), is done looking for abnormalities. This procedure often takes several weeks to complete. Careful testing of samples in the lab take time. Outside environmental samples are also tested: feed such as pasture forage (poisonous plants injected), hay, grain, supplements of any kind, vitamins, soil samples looking for contaminants, and any other suspected environmental problems.
What is necropsy? The Equine Necropsy: A Sensitive but Important Topic