Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder

Veterinary Handbook Contents

11.3 After The Necropsy

11.3.1 Disposing Of The Carcass

The options for disposing of carcasses on land are burial, burning, composting and natural decomposition and there are advantages and disadvantages of each method relating to cost, safety and the risk of pollution. At sea, carcasses are usually disposed of overboard.

You should be aware of and abide by any laws or regulations governing carcass disposal on land or at sea.

If animals have been euthanased by anaesthetic overdose, it is important to prevent scavenging animals accessing the carcass.

Animals disposed of at sea should be dismembered to prevent floating. As a minimum, the abdomen, chest and rumen (paunch) should be opened with large cuts.

Dragging the dismembered carcass to a disposal site is facilitated by the following technique:

  • Load the severed head and viscera into the thoracic and abdominal cavities, stacking them as securely as possible.
  • Then flip the upper front and rear legs over the cavities and the contents and put the feet into a tight fitting hole cut in the skin flap of the mid ventral abdomen.
  • Pull the legs through the hole until the knee and hock joints are through the hole.

11.3.2 Recording Findings

While still on site, make written notes of necropsy findings immediately if not already captured on a voice recorder. If using a voice recorder, capture the data in the order set out on the laboratory submission form for easy transcription later. The more detailed laboratory submission form can be written or transcribed later if necessary. The findings should be described in plain simple language.

History, necropsy findings and your differential diagnoses are important information to be conveyed to the pathologist and can make a major contribution to the diagnosis.

Write neatly and clearly and seal completed forms in plastic and tape them to the outside of the box containing the samples, to allow forms to be read without having to open the sample container.

At the earliest opportunity, download photographs onto a computer and record case numbers in file name or extension. Make good use of digital images to remind and assist with descriptions.

11.3.3 Cleaning Up, Maintaining And Replenishing Equipment

Wash the outside of specimen containers until clean. Then dry, tighten lids, double check the seals of re-sealable plastic bags and pack. Consider reinforcing seals with adhesive tape. 

Wash equipment and boots with soap and water and store equipment in its respective kits. Store soiled clothing in large plastic bags awaiting a hot, soapy wash. 

If storing necropsy equipment in buckets (Figure 10.1), place cutting and sharpening equipment with handles down so that steel does not rust from contact with moisture in the bottom of the bucket. Ensure knives are securely stored in scabbards and blade guards are securely tied to hatchets. 

For necropsy cutting equipment stored on ships there is the risk that the salty conditions may eventually cause rust damage to the metal components. To prevent this ensure the equipment such as knives, hatchets and scissors are well protected, even to the extent of coating them with light machine oil or petroleum jelly. 

At the end of a sea voyage, use the ship’s inventory checklist to make a list of the type and quantities of equipment to be replenished in the necropsy and diagnostic kits. This should be emailed or faxed to the exporter or the diagnostic laboratory before departing the ship.

11.3.4 Packaging And Dispatching Samples

Packaging and dispatch of samples must be done in such a way to prevent a number of risks. The main risks include leakage of formalin or biological fluids, deterioration of samples from heat or cold, spreading disease including zoonoses, the samples becoming lost or discarded and non compliance with customs and transport regulations or chain of custody requirements.

Note that there are a number of packaging and sample submission practices that were common place once but which now are no longer acceptable. These include:

  • Syringes capped with needles as containers to submit body fluids
  • Free ice as coolant
  • Paper as absorbent material
  • Submitting needles, scalpel blades and other sharp items with samples
  • Rectal palpation sleeves used as sample bags for tissues or faeces
  • Glass bottles as sample containers
  • Ears for diagnosis of anthrax
  • Specimen submission forms smeared with faeces or blood

Samples collected at sea can only be returned to Australia for subsequent diagnostic testing by storing them on the ship for unloading when the vessel returns to an Australian port. It may be months before the ship returns to Australia with other voyages to other countries occurring before returning to Australia. Therefore, samples collected at sea need to be especially well packaged and labeled with the Australian Government Accredited Veterinarian's (AAV's) name and the instructions "DO NOT DISCARD - SAMPLES TO BE REMOVED IN AUSTRALIA" in large, clear, bold writing.