THE MERCK VETERINARY MANUAL
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Postmortem Inspection

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Animals should be inspected immediately after slaughter and evisceration for possible changes and lesions that indicate unsuitability of the meat for food. Postmortem examination requires observation of all parts of the carcass, dressing procedures, equipment, and facilities to prevent contamination of edible parts. The inspector must ensure that condemned carcasses and parts are disposed of safely. The following are unacceptable for human food: lactating mammary glands, laryngeal muscles, thyroid glands, and lungs. Brains, cheek meat, and head trimmings from animals that were stunned by lead, sponge iron, or frangible bullets, and carcasses suspected of containing antibiotics, sulfonamides, or other residues are also unacceptable. CNS tissue and spinal cords must be discarded to eliminate the threat of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the food supply.

Routine postmortem inspection should include the following procedures.

Cattle:

Head: Incise and visually examine the left and right atlantal, mandibular, parotid, and suprapharyngeal lymph nodes. Examine two incised layers of both masseter muscles. Examine and palpate tongue. Viscera: Examine abdominal viscera and mesenteric lymph nodes. Examine and palpate ruminoreticular junction. Examine esophagus and spleen. Incise and examine anterior, middle, and posterior mediastinal lymph nodes and right and left bronchial lymph nodes. Examine and palpate costal and ventral surfaces of the lungs. Incise heart from base to apex through interventricular septum, and examine and cut inner and outer surfaces. Incise and examine hepatic lymph nodes. Incise bile duct in both directions and examine contents. Examine and palpate dorsal and ventral surfaces and renal impression of liver. Carcass: Examine internal and external surfaces. Palpate internal iliac and superficial inguinal or supramammary lymph nodes. Examine and palpate diaphragm and kidneys.

Calves and Veal:

Head: Incise and examine suprapharyngeal lymph nodes. Viscera: Examine and palpate bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes, heart, and lungs. Examine spleen. Examine and palpate dorsal and ventral surfaces of the liver, and palpate hepatic lymph nodes. Examine abdominal viscera. Carcass: Examine exposed inner and outer surfaces. Palpate the kidneys and internal iliac lymph nodes.

Sheep and Goats:

Head and Carcass: Examine body cavities and outer surfaces. Palpate back and sides of carcass. Examine head, neck, and, shoulders. Palpate prescapular lymph nodes. Examine and palpate kidneys. Palpate femoral, popliteal, and superficial inguinal or supramammary lymph nodes. Incise lymph nodes when necessary to exclude caseous lymphadenitis. Viscera: Examine abdominal viscera, esophagus, mesenteric lymph nodes, omental fat, and spleen. Examine bile duct and gallbladder and their contents. Examine and palpate liver and costal and ventral surfaces of lungs. Palpate bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes. Examine and palpate heart.

Pigs:

Head: Examine head and cervical muscles. Incise mandibular lymph nodes. Viscera: Examine and palpate mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen. Palpate portal lymph nodes. Examine dorsal and ventral surfaces of the liver. Palpate left and right bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes. Examine and palpate dorsal and ventral surfaces of the lungs. Examine and palpate heart. Carcass: Examine external and internal surfaces and incise any suspected abnormalities. Examine and palpate kidneys.

Poultry:

Examine external surfaces for dressing defects, bruises, and disease lesions. Palpate tibias for bone diseases. Examine internal surfaces, kidneys, and lungs in place. Examine viscera and palpate heart, liver, and spleen.

Horses:

Head: Examine surfaces. Palpate, incise, and examine mandibular, pharyngeal, and parotid lymph nodes; guttural pouches; and tongue. Viscera: Examine and palpate lungs and bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes, and incise any suspected abnormalities. Examine and palpate spleen, liver, and portal lymph nodes. Incise hepatic duct. Examine remaining viscera. Carcass: Examine internal and external surfaces. Palpate superficial inguinal or supramammary and internal iliac lymph nodes. Examine and palpate kidneys and diaphragm. Examine and incise the internal abdominal walls for possible parasitic cysts. Examine spinous processes of thoracic vertebrae, supraspinous bursa, and first two cervical vertebrae for fistulous conditions. Examine axillary and subscapular tissues of white and gray horses for melanosis.

Last full review/revision September 2013 by Charles M. Scanlan, DVM, PhD

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