While we will accept submissions from animal owners, it is strongly recommended that for maximum value, all submissions to the laboratory be made through and with the assistance of practicing veterinarians. The veterinary practitioner can evaluate animal health problems, determine suitable laboratory submissions, interpret laboratory results and recommend and implement necessary treatment. Results of laboratory work will be returned to the submitter or veterinary practitioner unless otherwise requested.
Laboratory cases that require special consideration by our professional staff will be assigned to the case coordinator. This system insures that your case is handled professionally by a coordinator who is familiar with the entire situation as presented, rather than the portion that is seen only in his or her area of specialty. They will keep you informed of results as they become available, and will compile all of the work performed to a concise conclusion. When testing large numbers of animals, please contact the laboratory in advance so media and staff can be available to insure a timely turn-around of your test requests.
Mail and courier service shipments are received daily at the Fort Collins laboratory usually before noon. Samples received on Saturday are held and can be refrigerated by our central receiving area until Monday. Please properly package and label those items needing refrigeration. Consult the "Test Schedule" section for when submissions need to reach the laboratory for the quickest turn-around time.
Always include a history
Please provide as much history of the situation as possible. By clearly defining the problem that you are trying to evaluate, the laboratory can better suggest the most effective and sensitive tests in pursuit of a particular diagnosis. This information is best conveyed to the laboratory on the request form that you fill out when submitting an animal specimen. In general, more information is better than less information. The more complete the historical and clinical information, previous diagnostic results, and questions to be resolved on the submission form, the easier it is for the laboratory to choose the most effective and efficient course of evaluation for your specimens. If you have questions on a confusing or persistent problem, feel free to contact the laboratory at (970) 297-1281 for suggestions on how to most effectively approach your diagnostic dilemmas and make the best use of the laboratory’s capabilities.
In order to provide you with the most effective and efficient test results some common mistakes should be avoided that can hinder or interfere with diagnosis:
To avoid these, and other common errors, please read the following carefully.
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 as soon as possible. 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.
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. Please see our website for detailed information on shipping regulations or contact the laboratory.
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 pre-paid mailers for your convenience.
Use transport media when appropriate to preserve samples during shipment. Transport media are available upon advance request for anaerobic cultures, campylobacter cultures, trichomonas cultures, mycoplasma cultures, viral isolation. See the "Test Schedule" to determine if special transport media will be required.
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.
CBC's 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.
Proper submission forms are critical and they need to be fully completed for the best results. Results are only as accurate as the information with which we are provided. Every aspect of a submission is critical. Several types of forms are used, official, general, and a few other forms specific to certain tests.
The most commonly used form is for general diagnostic work, the Fort Collins General Form, Rocky Ford Form, and Western Slope Form, respectively. Please include all owner, animal, sample and veterinarian information. This information is important for tracking disease trends and incidence by area. Do not forget to include your phone, fax number and e. mail address. Computer files are not always immediately accessible, so this information is needed on each and every submission.
Submit a complete history. This includes the animal identification, breed, age, sex, the date the samples were taken and the type of sample(s) submitted. Be sure to note clinical signs, treatment, duration, morbidity and mortality in the group, previous laboratory test results and description of affected tissues. If related work has previously been submitted, please include the date it was submitted and the diagnostic laboratory number if you know it. Please indicate differential diagnoses suspected. On the bottom half of the form, please indicate the tests to be performed. On the blank line to the left of the choice note the number of samples to be tested.
Obtain your results at Results Online. If you don’t yet have a login, follow the instructions.
Is there significance from negative results?
Most assuredly there are! The importance of negative results on a particular case are often overlooked because we have a tendency to focus on the fact that we do not have a definitive diagnosis in hand. This should not blind us to the fact that important information has been gained from the diagnostic evaluation and that this information may suggest other diagnostic avenues to be pursued. For example, the lack of evidence for an infectious cause of abortion is tremendously useful in that it tells you that common abortifacient agents (that are often communicable) are not likely to be the cause of your problem.
Problems incurred due to incomplete information, inappropriate submissions, significant autolysis, or samples obtained late in the course of disease, certainly can prevent or hinder obtaining a definitive diagnosis. However, problems that are less easily addressed include the contribution of many genetic, toxic/metabolic, and environmental factors that do not produce significant or specific lesions that are not easy to detect by routine diagnostic methodology.
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