A little while ago I put up a photo of this sheep, who was found dead one morning while I was at a farm on placement. Being the
nerd eager student that I am, I offered to do a necropsy. I offered a prize to the person who could guess what killed it, and unfortunately nobody guessed the cause of death!
The first thing I noticed about the animal was its empty intestines. Intestines that should have been full of digesting food and poo were completely empty! (See centre picture).
This was caused by a small growth at the start of the intestines which was forcing the intestines closed. The growth was a neoplastic tumour (cancer) that I suspect was benign (though I could not confirm with my available resources). It was a fibrous, elastic mass - almost like a bouncy-ball - about the size of a 50 cent piece, or whatever weird currency you foreign people use… You can see a picture of it cut in half in the bottom image.
The blockage at the opening to the intestines was also blocking other stomach compartments further up. Food was prevented from leaving the omasum (see post here) for so long that the food had formed a blockage preventing food from entering the final stomach compartment (the abomasum). This caused acid to burn away at the redness of the stomach that you can see in the middle right image.
As a result of having no food to digest the sheep would have been suffering from a significant lack of energy, therefore it would have mobilised its fat reserves. Fat is turned into glucose for energy in the liver and fat particles in circulation are lodged here, as well as in the kidney - which gives the diffuse pale discolouration in the images above.
Eventually, the combined lack of energy, proteins, vitamins, water etc. of the animal would have led it to collapse, at which point an opportunistic crow would have pecked at the soft fleshy tissue of the eye, causing a high-pain, high-stress event that would have been the final straw for this poor animal. Unfortunately, due to the placement of this tumour, and the extent of the damage, there would have been nothing that could have been done for this sheep had it been diagnosed before its death.
I hope you enjoyed learning about and through this case as much as I did, and if you have any more questions (like: “why the hell is the
green water balloon gall-bladder so huge”) please let me know!