Macroscopic findings of RHD during post-mortem examination

A diagnosis of RHD cannot be made from macroscopic examination alone. Histopathology is necessary. In many cases, the macroscopic appearance of the internal organs does not match the histopathological changes (Harcourt-Brown et al. 2020). Macroscopic lesions of RHD may be subtle (as in the above photo), variable, or absent although some findings are highly suggestive of RHD. These include:

  • Blood-stained fluid at nares
  • An enlarged pale or congested, mottled liver.
  • An enlarged spleen.
  • Pulmonary haemorrhage and oedema that may extend into the trachea so it is filled with a foamy exudate that may be blood-stained.
  • Free blood in the abdomen or retroperitoneal spaces.
  • Ecchymotic haemorrhages on the serosal surfaces or in the lungs.
  • Petechiae may be seen in the muscles, including the heart.
  • Icterus may be evident on the pinnae or sclera. NB: Yellow fat without evidence of icterus anywhere else is not significant. It signifies a genetic disorder

Some images of macroscopic findings in rabbits that died from RHD are shown here. Further information can be found by clicking on the image.