- Record the age and sex (if known), any
identifying number, bands, tags etc. Retain any rings, microchips etc.
- Examine the inside of the container/wrappings
the carcass has been presented in, noting contaminants
(e.g. mud, oil) and possible external parasites such as leeches, lice or mites which may
have left the host.
- Weigh the carcass.
- Examine the external surface of the carcass.
Note whether the carcass is fresh or decomposed and whether it has been frozen, also
whether it is intact or scavenged, and if scavenged to what degree. Permanent
written records should indicate the following:
- General appearance of carcass and plumage - e.g.
wet, muddy, oiled, clean, bloody, covered in salt; feathers intact, damaged or missing. If
contaminated, note extent and areas affected.
- Presence of parasites - leeches (particularly around eyes and nares), lice, ticks etc.
- Body condition - prominence of keel
- Examine: bill (outside and inside), mouth, external
nares, eyes, ears, head, neck, body, uropygial gland, wings, legs. Check for discharges
from body orifices, scouring, abrasions, lacerations, fractures, dislocation.
- Radiography may be indicated to detect e.g. fractures, radiodense foreign bodies
(particularly lead shot in the gizzard, evidence of shooting, fishhooks), metabolic bone
- Preparing for internal examination: Wet
feathers thoroughly with soapy water or disinfectant in water to minimize feather debris.
- N.B. tissue samples, swabs for culture and impression smears should be taken as
tissues are examined and before they become contaminated. Tissue to be fixed should
be no more than 3-5mm thick, and thinner if congested, although whole lung may be fixed.
EXAMINATION BY SYSTEMATIC DISSECTION:
- Examination of head: cut through
sinuses, cut through corner of bill, examine hard palate, tongue. Cut skin over head and
peel back, cut through cranium on both sides from foramen magnum forwards, keeping
scissors or shears perpendicular to surface to minimize damage to brain, and lift off.
Examine brain in situ, note any haemorrhage (N.B. agonal
bleeding may produce blood in cranial bone, but haemorrhage in meninges or brain tissue
should be considered significant). Cut brain sagittally, retain samples for toxicology.
Eyes may be removed with care and fixed in a preservative preferred by the
histopathologist, e.g. Bouin's or Zenkers solution.
- Slit the skin from the vent to the bill in the
ventral midline: nick the skin over the breast muscles in the midline, continue
the incision rostrally (forwards) to the bill and caudally (backwards) to the cloaca
(vent), taking care not to damage underlying tissues.
- Reflect the skin from the neck, chest and abdomen
, noting amount of subcutaneous fat, amount of breast muscle present, thymus in
young birds, colour of subcutaneous tissues, bruising, haemorrhage or other lesions,
condition of external surface of trachea and oesophagus, distension/impaction of
oesophagus, presence of haemorrhage, pale areas or e.g. 'rice grain' lesions in breast
muscles, presence of haemorrhage in neck muscles.
- Incise over major limb joints, examine
state of synovial fluid, joint surfaces and tendon sheaths. Incise leg muscles, note
colour (e.g. pale areas), any haemorrhage. Leg bones may be checked for whether they may
be bent or easily broken.
- Remove sternum and rib cage: Incise transversely (across the body) just below the sternum,
lift the sternum up wards and, noting the condition of the air sacs, cut through the rib
cage and coracoid on either side using shears.
- Note any gross abnormalities (e.g. gross
haemorrhage), and examine pericardial sac, thyroid and parathyroid glands (at thoracic
inlet, near common carotid arteries). Dissect out the heart, leaving a portion of the
major blood vessels intact. Examine the heart: overall shape, pericardium,
fluid in pericardial sac, epicardial surface - any haemorrhages, presence of worms visible
under surface, thickness of ventricle walls, presence and amount of blood in ventricles,
state of valves, colour of muscle: haemorrhages or pale areas within muscle or on
endocardial surface, cut along major vessels, check walls of vessels for presence of
plaques, calcification. [Normal:- pericardial sac clear/translucent, containing trace of
clear fluid. Epicardial surface clean, glistening, heart contracted, triangular. left
ventricle wall two to three times as thick as right ventricle wall, little or no blood in
left ventricle, small amount of blood in right ventricle. Valves smooth and shiny].
Cultures and smears may be prepared from heart blood.
- A scintillating sheen of urate
crystals may be visible over the viscera in a bird with visceral
- Examine liver in situ, note
size, shape, colour, any haemorrhage on surface or free in body cavity, whether surface is
intact or split, presence of pale areas, whether lesions are flush with surface or
protruding or shrunken, whether edges of lobes are sharp (normal) or rounded
(enlarged). Remove liver, carefully cutting connections with other tissues. Cut
through liver several times, note colour variations, size and shape of any lesions (pale
areas, haemorrhages, abscesses). Note size of gall bladder. Take tissue/swab for culture,
impression smears from cut surface, tissue for histology and toxicology (e.g. lead levels
in waterfowl) as appropriate.
- Examine lungs in situ, note colour. Cut
through lungs, noting any presence of water, froth, blood, fungal infection,
abscesses. Using sharp scissors, cut along whole length of trachea (cut along both
sides required, as tracheal rings are springy) from mouth, and major bronchi, noting
presence of fluid, blood, fungal plaques, necrotic lesions, parasites (tracheal flukes,
gapeworm). N.B. if drowned, may be water in air sacs and lungs, or just
lungs if there has been a delay in examination.
- Examine gastro-intestinal tract in situ, note
any distension, discolouration, haemorrhage or lesions on serosal surface, size, shape and
colour of spleen (normal small and flat in waterfowl). Note presence and type of any fluid
within body cavity. Tie off oesophagus at top of neck, cut above this, remove whole of
- Examine kidneys, adrenals, and reproductive tract in
situ, including size and colour of kidneys, presence of haemorrhage or pale areas
(e.g. with renal coccidiosis, presence of chalky material if uric acid build up. Examine
gonads: size, whether ovary is active (follicles present and growing) or inactive,
appearance of oviduct, presence of egg within the oviduct or the abdomen, presence of
associated reaction if egg or yolk is present free within body cavity, any haemorrhage.
Remove kidneys, adrenals, gonads, incise and examine.
- Examine whole of gastro-intestinal tract, including
pancreas. Open each region (oesophagus, proventriculus, gizzard, small intestine,
large intestine, caeca, cloaca). Check for: haemorrhage (N.B.
agonal bleeding and post mortem leakage must be distinguished from haemorrhage
into gut), ulceration or other lesions, presence of parasites and whether lesions are
associated with these, presence and appearance of ingesta, including recognizable food
items in the oesophagus and gizzard, and any foreign bodies. Remove any parasites,
preserve for identification. Fresh samples of contents and mucosal scrapings of
duodenum, ileum, caeca may be examined microscopically for parasitic ova and coccidial
oocysts, also smears may be Gram stained. Gizzard: Flush out gizzard contents into white
bowl, examine for presence of lead shot and other foreign bodies, note colour of
gizzard lining and whether it is normally adherent to the underlying tissue and whether it
can be peeled out.