Sample collection and packaging

Regardless of how you intend to deliver your samples, ensure they are properly collected and packaged.

Avoid common pitfalls

  • Collect your sampleĀ beforeĀ post-mortem autolysis. Specimens for histologic evaluation and fluorescein angiography testing require optimal preservation of cellular and tissue integrity. This means that specimens for these types of tests should be harvested as soon after death as possible (preferably within minutes) and should be preserved and shipped appropriately.
  • Avoid obtaining a specimen too late in the course of disease. Sampling of tissues late in the course of a disease process may be too late to detect the primary pathogens involved in creating the initial insult to the affected tissues – this is particularly true in bovine respiratory disease.

Recommendations by sample type

Clinical pathology

CBCs need to be run within 30 hours of collection and should be submitted in an EDTA tube accompanied by fresh blood smear. Chemistry panels are run on serum with the clot removed as soon as possible after blood collection and prior to shipment. Slides for cytologic analysis should be prepared as aspirates or imprints and carefully packaged and shipped unfixed, unstained, and with care not to expose slides to formalin fumes.


Use transport media when appropriate to preserve samples during shipment. Transport media are available upon advance request for anaerobic cultures, campylobacter cultures, trichomonas cultures, and mycoplasma cultures. Please contact us for current pricing and shipping costs.

Fixed tissue

Package fixed tissue in leak-proof containers surrounded by absorbent material. This is especially important for our continued service because of concern regarding shipment of and exposure to chemicals such as formalin. In addition to public safety, fresh tissue accidentally exposed to formalin is non-diagnostic for many laboratory procedures. Parafilm insures against leakage on most containers. If time is allowed for tissue to fix properly before mailing, only a small amount of formalin needs to be shipped with the sample. Label individual tissue containers with veterinarian, owner, animal ID and type of specimen. Please do not use narrow necked containers as it is very difficult to remove fixed tissue from them. We supply fixative-filled jars in prepaid mailers for your convenience.

Fresh tissues or other specimen submissions

Package fresh tissues in inner leak-proof containers such as Whirlpaks. Surround these with enough absorbent material to soak up any spills and ship in a leak-proof, well-insulated outer container. Include several ice packs to keep the tissues cold until their arrival at our laboratory. Make sure samples are properly identified.

Package intestinal samples, or other samples known to contain bacteria or viruses, carefully to avoid cross contamination of other fresh specimens.


Submit samples for serology in sterile tubes. Serum should be cleanly separated from the clot. Paired serum samples give a more definitive diagnosis on many serologies. Generally, the first should be taken at the onset of symptoms (acute) and the second should be taken two weeks later (convalescent).

See “Test Schedule” for the specific recommendation on test(s) being requested. If it is recommended that you submit paired sera, use the following guidelines. The acute sample may be held (please spin it down and save frozen serum) at your clinic until the convalescent is drawn; then send them both to the laboratory. Be sure they are dated accordingly.

The acute and convalescent sera may also be submitted at the time they are taken, but be sure to label the tube and submission form with the date. Forms accompanying the acute sample should state that convalescent will follow (we recommend two weeks) and whether you would like the acute sample evaluated upon receipt or held until the convalescent arrives. Convalescent forms should indicate that acute sera was sent previously so that both samples can be run side by side for accurate titer comparisons.

Whole animal submissions for necropsy

When submitting whole animals for necropsy, recently dead, preferably untreated animals that exhibit signs typical of the disease problem, are the submissions of choice. Whenever it is practical, we prefer to examine two or three recently deceased animals that are affected. To encourage such submissions, a regular fee is charged for the first animal with a reduced, often minimal fee for the additional one or two submissions, providing these animals are in the same consignment and will not require specialized laboratory services.

Animals should be necropsied as quickly after death as possible. When size permits, the carcass should be placed in a refrigerator immediately. Do not enclose in a plastic bag until after the carcass is well cooled, as the bag will hasten autolysis from entrapped body heat. If there will be a delay in submission, the carcass may be frozen. Although refrigerated tissues are preferred, the frozen carcass will be suitable for some diagnostic procedures.