OBJECTIVE To identify historical and necropsy findings suggestive of neglect or abuse of dogs and cats by retrospective analysis of necropsy reports from a veterinary diagnostic laboratory.
DESIGN Retrospective cohort study.
SAMPLE 119 necropsy reports of dogs and cats.
PROCEDURES Necropsy reports from February 2001 to May 2012 were electronically searched to identify potential animal abuse or neglect cases. Cases were selected and categorized according to a previously proposed method for classification of animal abuse. Inclusion criteria included signs of neglect, nonaccidental injury (NAI; blunt-force or sharp-force trauma, gunshot, burns, drowning, asphyxiation, and suspicious intoxications), and sexual abuse. Poor preservation of cadavers, age < 6 weeks, and signs of chronic illness (eg, cachexia) or injuries consistent with history indicating natural or accidental causes resulted in exclusion. Variables of interest were compared between identified cases and a reference population.
RESULTS Prevalence of potential abuse cases, determined on the basis of all necropsies performed in the study period, was 73 of 8,417 (0.87%) in dogs and 46 of 4,905 (0.94%) in cats. Neglect and NAI were commonly identified in cats; NAI was most commonly found in dogs. Gunshot and blunt-force trauma were the most common NAIs in dogs and cats, respectively. Pit bull–type dogs (29/73 [40%]) were overrepresented in several abuse categories. Most cats (29/46 [63%]) were domestic shorthair, but no breed association was found. Most (41/71 [58%]) affected animals with age data available were ≤ 2 years old.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Approximately 1% of dogs and cats necropsied in the study period had signs suggestive of abuse. Medical findings alone are not necessarily indicative of abuse, but some findings can increase the index of suspicion.