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Superficial post-mortem changes

The necropsy should be performed as soon after death
as possible, since post-mortem decomposition sets in
rapidly, especially in hot weather. A cadaver may take
any thing from one hour to twenty-four hours to cool
down. This depends on ambient temperature and
exposure to rain and wind. At times a post-mortem rise
in temperature is noticed for several hours. This is due
to the continuation of tissue metabolism after death and
also failure of heat dissipation mechanism, like
circulation and respiration. Sometimes, a veterinarian is
expected to give his opinion regarding the time of death.
This may be possible to determine it approximately by
noting post-mortem changes such as cadaveric lividity,
rigor mortis and other signs of putrefaction as
mentioned below:

1. Cadaveric lividity (hypostatic congestion):

Cadaveric lividity is common in a large animal like
elephant. These are irregular livid patches noticed in the
subcutis of the side upon which the animal has been
lying. These livid patches may be differentiated from a
haemorrhage by the fact that the surface of a
haemorrhage is elevated on account of the blood
escaping through walls of the veins into the adjacent
connective tissue, whereas in the livid spots such
elevation does not take place since blood remains within
the veins.

2. Rigor mortis:

This may set in immediately after death. It may be
delayed by 4 to 24 hours or even longer. In weak and
emaciated animals rigor sets in earlier and is less
pronounced than in healthy and well nourished. Usually
it appears within 1-4 hours after death and lasts for
16-18 hours and, at times, even up to 48 hours
depending upon the ambient temperature. Rarely it may
pass off within 3 hours.

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