Module 3: The Case of the Embedded Collar

Step 5: Diagnostic Testing

Clinical forensic exams should include diagnostic testing for 4 reasons:

  • Establish the health condition of the animal at the time of initial exam
  • Determine if the medical conditions are due to abuse or a pre-existing disease. For example, is the animal emaciated because of starvation or an underlying disease such as a malabsorption syndrome?
  • Test results serve as a baseline for comparison to future testing to determine if the condition resolves with proper veterinary care
  • Test results serve as evidence for a court of law

These basic diagnostic tests should be performed for animal abuse cases:

  • Complete blood cell count with differential (CBC/diff) to assess for anemia, infection, inflammation, blood cell parasites
  • Serum chemistry panel to evaluate organ function
  • Urinalysis to assess kidney function, diabetes mellitus, and urinary tract infections
  • Fecal analyses for intestinal parasites
  • Heartworm test for dogs
  • Feline leukemia virus/feline immunodeficiency virus (FeLV/FIV) test for cats

Other diagnostic tests are performed based on physical exam findings. Examples include:

  • Scrapes of skin lesions for demodex and sarcoptes mites
  • Fungal cultures of skin lesions for ringworm
  • Bacterial culture of skin lesions, wounds, urine
  • Ear swabs for ear mites, cytology, bacterial culture
  • Blood tests for tick-borne infections

 Whole body radiographs are essential for ALL victims of blunt force trauma, sharp force trauma, and gunshots. Radiographs document old and fresh fractures, bullet fragments, other metal foreign bodies, organ damage, etc. Radiographs serve as evidence for a court of law.

Special diagnostic procedures that may be necessary for some cases include toxicology tests and DNA analyses.


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