The Toxicology Section offers bone marrow fat determinations on postmortem samples to assess the ante mortem nutritional condition of deceased animals. The percentage of fat in the bone marrow of animals is used in conjunction with other findings to diagnose starvation, because this fat depot is typically the last in the body to be depleted. Interpretations of results are provided by our toxicologist and/or analytical chemist.

Typical gross pathologic findings related to the diagnosis of protein calorie malnutrition and/or starvation include poor body condition; loss of skin turgor; dull hair or coat; sunken eyes; prominence of ribs, vertebrae, and pelvis; muscle atrophy; and serous atrophy of the fat. To assist the client in making a postmortem diagnosis of malnutrition and/or starvation, the current test uses a solvent extraction system to quantify marrow fat stores. The test (test code 70024) is available for all species of wildlife, livestock, and domestic pets. Reference ranges and the effects of storage conditions have been explored at the MSU VDL for adult bovine, canine, and equine bone marrows.

Sample Collection and Handling

The Toxicology Section suggests that for greatest accuracy this test be performed on animals that have been dead for less than 48 hours. The bone of choice is the femur. If possible, please split the bone before shipping to confirm the presence of bone marrow. Note that a charge will be added for samples found to lack marrow. Please pack the bone in a leakproof container and ship by overnight mail with ice packs.