Sudden or unexpected death


  • Unnatural death - always to be investigated by the police.
  • Natural death if they have occurred suddenly in apparently healthy animals and under suspicious circumstances, vetero legal investications are needed. The possibility of death as a result of disease and injury together has to be kept in mind. In such cases, a veterinary practitioner should not certify the cause of death without conducting a postmortem examination even if there is a string evidence of the disease.


  • Natural causes producing sudden death are
  • Diseases of the cardio vascular system
    • Acute myocarditis - due to infections like enteric fever (Typhoid) Diptheria, pericarditis Fathydegeneration of the myocardium Rupture of a myocardial infact or aneurysm.
    • Left ventricular failure - associated with Aortic valvular disease, hyperthyroidism.
    • Right ventricular failure - associated with chronic emphysema and lung diseases.
    • Diseases of pericardium - Pericarditis.
    • Congenital abnormal conditions of the heart in calves.

Classification of Death

  • Vetero-legal deaths is ased upon the concept that the cessation of the vital function depends upon tissue anoxia, which is brought about by four ways.
  • Defective oxygenation of the blood in the lungs (or) anoxic anoxia is produced by
    • Obstruction to the passage of air into the respiratory tract as in
    • Obstruction in the passage of air down the respiratory tract as in
    • External compression of the chest and abdominal walls
      • Eg. on being buried under earth (or) debris.
    • Primary cessation of respiratory movements causing respiratory failure
      • Eg. Narcotic poisoning, electrical shock
    • Breathing in a vitiated atmosphere containing excess of carbondioxide or inert gases.
  • Reduced oxygen carrying capacity of the blood – Anaemic anoxia occurring in acute poisoning by
    • Carbon monoxide
    • Chlorates
    • Nitrites
    • Coal tar derivatives
  • Depression of the oxidative processes in the tissues – histotoric anoxia occur in acute cyanide poisoning
  • Inefficient circulation of the blood through the tissues – stagnant anoxia – occurring in death from
    • Traumatic shock
    • Heat stroke and
    • Acute and corrosive poisoning
  • All four types of anoxia produce circulatory failure and leads to death.
  • The postmortem finding in all forms of death of vetero-legal nature can be divided into two types.
    • Basic pathological haemorrhages and
    • Special pathological charges depending upon the particular type of death. Eg. Local injuries to the neck in throttling a strangulation.
  • The tissue anoxia induced, leads to circulatory failure. Hence, the fundamental pathological changes are uniform in all forms of death they vary in degree.
  • Sudden primary cardiac failure cause rapid death and the absence of visceral congestion when compared with death occurring slowly.
Last modified: Tuesday, 5 June 2012, 9:39 AM