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Estimating the Time of Death in Domestic Canines

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Because 36.1% of U.S. households have dogs, the time of death (TOD) of dogs at crime scenes can be useful to forensic investigators. However, there are few published studies based on postmortem changes in dogs. This study, conducted indoors in still air at approximately room temperature, monitored the postmortem reduction in rectal, liver, brain, and aural temperatures in 16 dogs for 32 h after death. Graphs of temperature reduction were prepared to estimate the TOD of dogs within the first 32 h postmortem. Sex, body mass, and hair coat density did not affect the rate of body temperature reduction, but increased body weight and volume slowed it. Rectal temperature was the most convenient, reasonable site for measuring body temperature. Vitreous humor potassium ion concentration [K+] was measured in both eyes at c. 1.5 and 7 h after death. Both eyes had the same [K+] when measured simultaneously, and [K+] increased after death.
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Keywords: body temperature; canidae; canines; dogs; forensic science; postmortem interval; potassium concentration; time of death estimation; vitreous humor

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Knoxville Crime Laboratory, 617 West Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37902. 2: Department of Comparative Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Tennessee, 2407 River Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996.

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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