Bone Marrow Fat Analysis as a Diagnostic Tool to Document Ante-Mortem Starvation Academic Article uri icon


  • Veterinary diagnostic clinicians are increasingly presented with emaciated animals involved in suspected neglect cases. A rise in public awareness and media attention towards animal welfare, combined with changes in legislation and a demand for a higher standard of evidence be presented in animal neglect cases submitted for prosecutions, have created a need for an objective measurement of starvation, particularly given the lack of quantitative assessments at post-mortem examinations. Bone marrow fat (BMF) is the final fat reserve to be mobilised for energy by a calorie-deprived animal during a state of emaciation. Percentage of BMF has been used to study starvation in several species and may provide an objective measure of ante-mortem body condition. This paper reviews the literature on the use of BMF analysis as a post-mortem diagnostic test for ante-mortem starvation. Beginning with a general overview of starvation and usual methods of assessment to describe animals in poor condition, the analysis of BMF is then introduced. Various methods of BMF analysis are discussed, as well as factors that influence the amount of BMF. This review also discusses the limitations of BMF analysis and makes suggestions where future research should be primarily focused.

publication date

  • 2019