Forensic Pathology

Dr. Stern studies minimally invasive veterinary autopsy techniques and cause of death of stray cats and dogs. He runs the veterinary forensic pathology service in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Adam W Stern

Adam W Stern

Professor – Veterinary Forensic Pathology
Phone: (352) 294-4077
Courtney Valerio

Courtney Valerio BVMS, MRCVS

Fellow – Veterinary Forensic Pathology
Phone: (352) 294-4123

The research program in the Stern Forensics Laboratory focuses on studying multiple aspects of veterinary forensics through use of the forensic autopsy and postmortem diagnostic imaging.  Unfortunately, victims of animal abuse are considered to be silent victims, as they are unable to tell us what happened.  In the laboratory, we are investigating methods that will better improve forensic death investigations, increase the detection of animal abuse, and convey veterinary forensic findings to the courts.  Currently, research efforts within the Stern Forensics Laboratory involve the investigation of mortality of community cats and dogs, study of vehicular trauma of wildlife and use of the minimally invasive veterinary autopsy as an alternative to the conventional autopsy (necropsy).  Additional studies are focused on the use of co-oximetry for the diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning, the postmortem use of ocular fluid as a substitute for serum, and evaluation of non-traditional techniques for estimation of the time since death.

Current Projects in the Stern Lab


Death Investigations of Cats and Dogs

There is limited information available pertaining to the cause of death and disease prevalence in stray cats and dogs.

Unfortunately, death investigations of a majority of stray cats and dogs found deceased in the community are unlikely to be performed, as many of these animals will simply be picked up by local public works departments and disposed of. 

Through our programs, A Dog Has No Name and A Cat Has No Name, we are currently investigating the cause of death of stray dogs and cats in order to obtain a better understanding of these mortality events. Some of the goals of this project include:

  • Provide veterinarians and the public a better understanding as to the cause of death of stray animals
  • Educate veterinary students and veterinary residents on how to perform forensic death investigations

Additionally, in some instances, animals are found to have died of unnatural causes. In these cases, we provide law enforcement with the forensic evidence needed to prosecute an animal crime.

Canned food

Composition of Pet Foods and Chews

In 2019, nearly $29 billion was spent on pet food, treats, and chews in the United States. Pet owners want to know what is in the products they feed to their pets.

The purpose of these studies is to use a combination of routine morphologic-based techniques (microscopy) and nutritional analysis to assess the composition of the foods and chews dogs and cats are given by their owners. Results of our analyses will be compared to the product labeling. Consumers should know what is in the foods they feed their pets so they can make educated buying choices.


in the news

New forensic programs investigate deaths of unclaimed dogs and cats

As the field of veterinary forensics continues to develop, a forensic pathologist at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine has created two programs, A Dog Has No Name and A Cat Has No Name, to investigate the deaths of unclaimed dogs and cats.