From hummingbirds to bears, there is often something interesting (and a bit gory) on the steel tables in the necropsy laboratory.
Stacie Nellor handed a stainless steel bowl up to the first person in the front row of the viewing gallery. In the bowl was a feline abdomen that contained a large tumor. The specimen was passed among a group of two dozen students while Nellor explained the source of the cat’s abdominal bleeding: a rare disease called Factor XI Deficiency.
Nellor is a fourth-year veterinary student working in the necropsy lab where, among other things, she performs animal autopsies (called necropsies) under the supervision of a pathologist. Nellor saved the cat’s remains to present at the Wednesday morning necropsy rounds. The rounds are open to any student or staff of the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, and sometimes visitors on guided tours attend as well.
The necropsy lab is one of the busiest services at the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (OVDL). In addition to educating students, pathologists perform necropsies for veterinarians, pet owners, and farmers, and work closely with many government agencies from Oregon Public Health to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dr. Rob Bildfell is an OSU professor, a board-certified pathologist, and supervisor of the necropsy service. In his twenty years at the lab, he has seen a wide range of interesting cases involving many different species, and a lot of those came from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
From big bears to tiny hummingbirds, ODFW is interested in knowing why animals have died. “Typically they send us species that are of interest to their clientele, like deer, elk, and ducks,” says Bildfell. “Or they may be concerned about disease transmission when an animal has had contact with humans, like a wild rabbit that a Good Samaritan has tried to help.”