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Age assessment in puppies: Coming to terms with forensic requests

Modina, S.C., Andreis, M.E., Moioli, M., Di Giancamillo, M.
Forensic science international 2019 v.297 pp. 8-15
X-radiation, animal welfare, bone formation, forensic sciences, limb bones, public health, puppies, veterinarians, Italy
Age estimation in growing dogs is crucial not only in clinical practice but increasingly so in forensic practice as well. In the last few years, it has assumed great importance for correctly identifying the age of puppies illegally imported to Italy as well as to other European countries. Puppies are, in fact, transported when they are too young to be moved, which can cause both animal/public health and animal welfare issues. Therefore, the movement of animals within the European Community is governed by strict rules, and veterinarians are often required to evaluate the age of the imported puppies in a forensic scenario as accurately as possible. To date, X-ray evaluation of limb bones ossification centers (OCs) is generally accepted as a valid tool to assess the age of puppies. A wealth of information exists on this topic but it is not always easily available. This work is a historical review of the existing literature and proposes two tables illustrating the timelines of limb OCs appearance and closure, coming to terms with forensic requests to evaluate the age of a puppy. The timelines reported indicate the need to improve methodology to enhance the accuracy and to reduce the error in age estimation.