The Veterinary Pathological Museum in Vienna
By Ass. Prof. Dr. Gerhard Loupal
The basement of the Banquet Hall is where one of the largest collection of veterinary pathological specimens in the world is located.
More than 4500 specimens are displayed in glass cabinets. Many of these specimens date back to the first quarter of the 20th century and are thus of not only scientific but also historic value. It is of great significance that the collection includes organ abnormalities arising from illnesses which have long been eradicated in Central Europe or have at least become rare (i.e. glanders, cattle plague, foot-and-mouth disease, tuberculosis).
Veterinarians must be able to recognise such illnesses even after having never actually seen them during their training. After all, in times of globalisation in animal trade as well, we must expect the return of eradicated diseases.
It is for this reason that the museum fulfils important objectives in veterinary medical education, as these abnormalities can at least be shown in the form of specimens. Aside from the bone samples and the calculus collection, the organs are kept in tightly closed glass jars filled with a preservative solution. Thus they can be viewed from all sides.
The colour is, of course, affected by the fixing solution, however, one still gets a good idea of what the abnormalities would actually look like.
The museum is basically organised according to organ systems. There are, however, several cabinets in which important diseases are displayed with all organs affected by the disease. There are also cabinets with deformities in which a broad spectrum of the atrocities of nature are exhibited. These could serve to warn of the grave consequences of careless handling of teratogenic agents such as radioactivity.
Calculus is the development of stones inside living bodies, such as the gall stones often seen in human medicine. Within the animal kingdom, there are many such types of processes. They can develop in almost any hollow organ such as the intestine, the urinary tract, ducts of glands, etc. Hundreds of stones of different sizes and origins are displayed, from the football-sized intestinal stone of several kilograms from the large intestine of a horse to the gravel from the urinary bladder of a cat.
It is often quite difficult to believe that the many stone formations are pathological products removed from the body of an animal and not found somewhere in nature. The collection of specimens with diverse tumours is also quite large, which occur especially in animals allowed to reach old age, such as our companion animals.
During open house at the University of Veterinary Medicine and during various tours, visitors have always been fascinated by the museum. The specimens are also used in the courses offered at the Institute of Pathology and Forensic Veterinary Medicine although the time schedule for courses does not offer much opportunity for intensive use of the museum.
There is room for improvement in this respect. The museum could also be implemented in the field of post-graduate education. Finally, scientific use of the museum is a further possibility. The wet specimens are actually still suitable for histological examinations.
Even if the museum includes a number of "monstrosities", as is to be expected from a pathological museum, it also offers a closer look at the diversity of pathological processes. Knowledge of the multitude of possible abnormalities leads one to appreciate more the miracle of life.
Visiting the museum is only possible after prior arrangement. Guided tours take place during Open Campus Days.
Dr. Barbara Richter, Dipl.ECVP
Phone: +43 1 25077-2424
Institute of Pathology
1210 Vienna, Veterinärplatz 1