Typical Medical Conditions Found in Animal Abuse and Neglect Cases

Although almost any veterinary medical condition is possible in animal abuse and neglect cases, some of the more common veterinary findings associated with abuse and neglect are as follows.

Embedded Collars or Tethering Chains/Ropes

Documentation of this condition can be quite telling. The details of the animal’s initial presentation should be documented. Information such as the percentage of the neck circumference involved, the width and depth of the lesion, the extent of the treatment required to remove the collar/ chain, and so on. Pictures should be taken of all aspects of the neck and collar/chain. The depth of the lesion once the collar/chain has been removed should also be recorded. The normal, resting circumference of the neck and the circumference of the collar should also be noted. Pictures should be taken throughout the removal process. If surgery is required, documentation of the procedure with photographs and videos would be beneficial. Postoperative photographs showing the sutured wound or the open wound, if the wound is left to heal by secondary intention, should be taken. Periodic photographs taken during the healing interval should also be taken (see Figure 16.5a-d). Periodic physical examinations during the healing process are appropriate. Consideration should be given to remeasuring the neck circumference once the healing process is complete. If this is done, documentation of any change in body weight and/or body score should be noted at the same time. Photographs of the lesions and stages of healing should be taken both with and without appropriate scales for measurements.

Overgrown Nails/Hooves

Each paw/hoof should be examined closely during the initial physical examination. If the paw is overgrown with matted hair such that the condition of the nails is not immediately visible, then documentation, including photographs, starts with the condition at initial presentation, removal of the matted hair, and the presenting condition of the nails under the mats. Photographs should be taken of the entire paw/hoof and then each nail. The use of a scale such as a ruler or calipers in photographs is appropriate to give perspective on the extent of the overgrowth (Figure 16.6a-c). When the nail is removed, documentation of the size of the excess amount removed with a ruler for scale is beneficial. If the nail was embedded into the paw, the lesion caused by the nail in the skin should also be photographed. If the overgrown/embedded nails are severe enough to affect the gait of the animal, a video of the animal walking may help demonstrate the discomfort/pain the animal was enduring due to this condition.

(a) Dog #1 with embedded collar,

Figure 16.5 (a) Dog #1 with embedded collar, (b) Dog #1 with embedded collar, dorsal view, (c) Dog #2 postop photograph after surgery to remove embedded collar, (d) Dog #2 postop photograph after surgery to remove embedded collar.

If the overgrowth is of an equine hoof, radiographs may be beneficial, if not essential. Depending on the severity of the lameness caused by the overgrowth, the findings of the radiographs may determine the appropriate final disposition of the animal. Severe overgrowth of the hoof of an equine can be associated with severe deterioration of the hoof and possibly rotation of the coffin bone. This rotation results in severe, unrelenting pain for the animal without extensive veterinary and farrier intervention. Even with extraordinary measures, some of these animals cannot be made comfortable. Therefore, full assessment of this condition, including radiographs, should be done early in the case.

Developmental Abnormalities from Chronic Malnutrition

Young animals may show clinical signs related to chronic malnutrition or nutrition not suited to their life stage. Hoarding, overcrowded, underfunded rescues or shelters, and puppy mills often result in the animals enduring intense competition for limited resources. In these situations, the young animals may not be able to secure sufficient food. These animals may be stunted, have soft or brittle bones, and/or have sparse, abnormal hair coats due to insufficient or improper nutrition.

Although technically not a developmental abnormality, the neonate may not be afforded the opportunity to survive, as dams (female dogs) and queens (female cats) commonly cannibalize their young when in high-stress, low-resource housing situations. Under normal husbandry conditions, a queen or dam may neglect or even cannibalize a sickly neonate. However, in hoarding or other high-stress situations, cannibalism can reach the point of killing most (if not all) of the young animals.

(a) Goat with overgrown hooves, (b) Mid-range photograph of goat with overgrown hooves, (c) Close-up of overgrown hooves with scale

Figure 16.6 (a) Goat with overgrown hooves, (b) Mid-range photograph of goat with overgrown hooves, (c) Close-up of overgrown hooves with scale.

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