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Diagnostic Laboratories

Lab staff member analysing test results at a computer

The staff in the Clinical Pathology Laboratory provide a friendly, expert and rapid-turnaround service for all diagnostic tests in their discipline.  Our Veterinary Clinical Pathologist is board-certified by the ACVP, ECVCP, and RCPath; the lab is approved for training Residents in Clinical Pathology, four of whom have been boarded. Staff analyse ~15,000 samples annually for comprehensive, clinical chemistry and haematologic profiles, and report the results out by email on the same day as sample receipt.  Any special tests not available in-house are referred to a professional, external lab.  Assistance is provided with interpretation of test results, where needed.

The samples analysed are received not only from the UCD Veterinary Hospital, but from veterinary practices all across Ireland.  Most samples come from dogs, cats, horses and dairy cattle, but also from swine and other ruminants.  The Lab has also processed samples from laboratory animals and livestock from a wide variety of academic and government-funded research projects.  Many samples have also been tested for zoo animals and wildlife, with some memorable cases including species such as the badger, squirrel, rhinoceros, giraffe, snow leopard, Asian lion, okapi, tapir, mangabey, and many of the great apes.  The samples received into the Lab are a valuable resource for teaching our students.  

State-of-the-art methods, technologies and reagents are used for testing, and the data is collected and reported from a custom-designed, laboratory-information management-system. In addition to blood-based testing, ~1,000 tissue or body fluid samples are analysed annually by cytologic photomicroscopy for diagnosis of causes of lumps or bumps, fluid accumulations, and tissue pathology.  Haemostasis, urinalysis, blood gas analysis and a wide range of bespoke diagnostic test kits are routinely performed or used.

The staff are also active in teaching Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Nursing students about Clinical Pathology.  As part of their work, staff in the Lab have also validated and introduced novel diagnostic methods for lymphoma, pancreatitis, and cardiac disease, and continue to work on these, and on diagnosis of feline infectious diseases.

 For information on specific tests available, please consult the UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories Catalogue - 2024

 The Clinical Pathology Laboratory can be contacted by phone on (01) 716  6161 or by email (opens in a new window)ucdvetlab@ucd.ie

Lab Contact Numbers
  • Clinical Pathology (Haematology, Biochemistry & Cytology): (01) 716 6161
  • Endocrinology: (01) 716 6137
  • Microbiology: (01) 716 6173
  • Parasitology: (01) 716 6168
  • Histopathology: (01) 716 6162
  • Post Mortem (necropsies): (01) 716 6126
General Enquiries
  • Telephone: (01) 716 6136
  • Email: ucdvetlab@ucd.ie

The UCDVH provides an in-house Endocrine Service, with twice weekly (Tuesday Thursday) analyses. These results are interpreted individually by specialist staff members, under the supervision of Professor Carmel Mooney, RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Medicine (Endocrinology).  Emergency samples can be accommodated by contacting the Laboratory.

Cortisol, thyroxine, and canine thyroid stimulating hormone (cTSH) are the most frequently requested hormone assays in small animal practice.  They are primarily used in the investigations of feline hyperthyroidism, canine hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism and hyperadrenocorticism.  They also play a major role in assessing the adequacy or otherwise of therapeutic intervention.  A progesterone assay for bitches is now also available in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories.  It is most commonly indicated for predicting the timing of ovulation to optimise effectiveness of mating. Multiple blood samples are required, starting once the bitch has started bleeding, marking the start of the pro-oestrus phase of the cycle. Progesterone concentrations cannot be used for determination of pregnancy but are useful when there is a suspicion of ovarian remnant syndrome.   

Accurate interpretation of hormone results relies more on knowledge of the specific characteristics of the assay and the individual animal from which the sample has been taken, than on the actual assay reading achieved.  Each individual result generated by the Laboratory is specifically interpreted by an accredited Specialist in Endocrinology or Reproduction.

Further information on Endocrinology Protocols and the submission of samples can be found in the UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories Catalogue - 2024

All endocrinology samples should be addressed as follows:

Endocrinology Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, D04 V1W8

  • Telephone: (01) 716 6137 / (01) 716 6161
  • Email: ucdvetlab@ucd.ie

The UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories provide a comprehensive bacteriological testing service.  In addition, we test for fungal pathogens and provide presumptive identification of these organisms.  Selected virological tests are available.

Microbiological testing methodologies have recently been expanded and upgraded. Since March 2015, we have been using the VITEK 2 Compact System (BioMérieux). This investment means that our bacteriological testing procedures are among the most rapid and advanced in Irish veterinary diagnostic laboratories. The system can both rapidly identify bacterial organisms and provide quantitative results [minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC)] for antibiotic therapy. Once the organism has been isolated and is available for testing, identification of pathogens can be completed in as little as two hours.  Previously, identification and susceptibility testing required overnight incubation, i.e. a further 18 hours following isolation.  In addition, the availability of the MIC values allows the clinician to more accurately select the most appropriate antimicrobial compared with using simple ‘susceptible’ or ‘resistant’ data provided by disk diffusion methods.  

The Guide to Vitek Antibiotic Susceptibility Test Reports explains the interpretation of VITEK reports.

Click here for further information on the VITEK system.

Contact information for the Microbiology Laboratory:

  • Telephone: (01) 7166173
  • Email: ucdvetlab@ucd.ie
Bacteriology/Mycology Sample Submission

The following information deals with the safe submission, receipt and processing of specimens sent to the Diagnostic Bacteriology and Mycology Laboratory. Samples are sent from a variety of internal and external sources, and it is imperative that they are handled in a safe manner to ensure limitation of risks to operating staff, in addition to ensuring sample preservation.

Packaging & Labelling Your Sample(s):

  • Important: Please adhere to packaging guidelines as described in the UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories Catalogue - 2024
  • No visible sign of external contamination of the sample container should be evident
  • All samples should be labelled as to the origin of specimen
  • All patients should be off antimicrobial therapy for 3 days at least, if possible, for culture of samples to be of use
  • Important: All bacteriology/mycology samples should be addressed as follows: Bacteriology/Mycology Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, D04 W6F6

Sample Containers:

  • All swabs should be submitted using charcoal transport media swabs, if possible
  • Urine should be submitted in sterile universal containers as soon as possible. Catheterised or samples taken by cystocentesis are less likely to be contaminated
  • Faecal samples should be submitted in screw capped sterile containers
  • Body fluids / aspirates should be submitted in sterile screw capped plain tubes, without delay
  • Contact the Laboratory when considering request for blood cultures, as special culture bottles must be used

Our Morphological Pathology Service is staffed by a team of board-certified Veterinary Pathologists (Royal College of Pathologists [RCPath] and European College of Veterinary Pathologists [ECVP]) and highly experienced, qualified technical staff.  Typically, the service carries out over 1500 biopsies and 600 post-mortem examinations annually on companion and farm animals as well as exotic (including zoo) species.  Facilities include a large, state-of-the-art post-mortem room and a diagnostic laboratory fully automated for tissue processing and staining.  The laboratory participates in the Cellular Pathology Techniques Quality Assurance Scheme run by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), UK.  A computerised data management system dispatches diagnostic reports by e-mail.

Biopsy submissions

A number of simple steps can maximise the ‘diagnostic return’ from a biopsy.

A Histopathology Submission Form (2024) containing the following information should accompany the sample:

  • Case signalment – species (breed), sex, age
  • Clinical history – concise details of duration of problem and any therapy attempted
  • Description of the lesion - location, distribution, size, consistency etc.
  • List of potential differential diagnoses, thoughts or concerns regarding the case
  • Name, phone number and e-mail address of the referring veterinarian

The sample should contain an adequate and representative amount of tissue.  It should be <1cm thick in one of its dimensions with a volume of tissue: volume of formalin 1:>10. Place the biopsied tissue in 10% buffered formalin immediately after biopsy or at post-mortem examination. Do not wash, freeze or allow tissues to dry out prior to fixation. Use wide-necked, leak-proof, screw capped plastic containers.   

Correct Packaging is Very Important (and a legal requirement)

    • The sample container should be placed inside a strong secondary container with enough absorbent material to absorb leaks
    • The outer box should be marked ‘Biological Substance Category B’ and a UN 3373 label attached
    • Volumes of fixative should be less than 500ml per package
    • Place the address of the laboratory and the sender's address on the outer box
    • Full packaging instructions are available under the 'Submission Information' section below

We also provide further immunohistochemical assessment techniques to confirm or ‘fine-tune’ diagnoses through strategic links with other academic and commercial laboratories.

Addressing Your Submission

Deliver To: The Pathology Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, D04 W6F6

Submissions for Post-Mortem Examination (Necropsy)

Following the death of a companion or farm animal, ascertaining the cause of death can provide useful and sometimes vital information, as well as affording a form of closure for the animal owner. Identifying the cause of death can serve as an important ‘audit’ of the clinical diagnosis, as well as confirming or ruling out disease potentially affecting other ‘at risk’ animals. Cases should be submitted as soon as is practicable after death, and the body should be kept as cool as possible without freezing it. The provision of a concise, relevant clinical history, as highlighted previously for biopsy submissions, is also essential.

Submission for cases for post-mortem examination also yields an invaluable educational dividend in that this material is used to illustrate and explain disease processes to our veterinary undergraduate and postgraduate students.

For information on specific tests available please consult the UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories Catalogue - 2024

Due to Health and Safety restrictions, bodies submitted for postmortem examination cannot be returned following postmortem examination. Selected tissues may be retained for the purposes of teaching and research unless the owner has specifically requested.  For more information on this, please see our Post Mortem Tissue Retention - Frequently Asked Questions (2024)

The Parasitology Laboratory is staffed by two board-certified Veterinary Parasitologists (EVPC European Veterinary Parasitology College) and highly experienced, qualified technical staff.  It provides a full parasite diagnostic-service capable of diagnosing parasites from domestic and wild animal faeces or tissue samples.  Specialist advice on animal parasitic diseases is given to the agricultural industry and veterinary profession.

Parasite Control

Despite the availability of effective drugs, parasites still remain an important health issue for both domestic farm animals and pets.  The common and often indiscriminate use of anthelmintics has led to the development of anthelmintic resistance, which has become a significant problem in all farm animals.  The old approach of repeated blanket treatment to control parasites is no longer sustainable.  Changing weather patterns, combined with different housing and grazing systems used in Irish farms, necessitate a more tailored parasite control programme.  This involves regular monitoring of parasite exposure in conjunction with a more strategic treatment approach.

Further information on parasite control can be found on the following websites:

Services Available

The routine parasitology diagnostic tests available include:

  • Qualitative and quantitative (McMaster) centrifugation flotation techniques for nematode eggs and protozoal (oo)cysts
  • Baermann technique for recovery of lungworm larvae
  • Sedimentation technique for recovery of trematode eggs
  • Examination of skin scraping for the identification of external parasites

More specialized services are also available, such as:

  • Parasite identification
  • Nematode larval cultures
  • Antibody detection in serum for Neospora caninum (indirect fluorescent antibody test), Toxoplasma gondii (latex agglutination test) and Angiostrongylus vasorum (IDEXX AngioDetect)
  • Detection of antigens in faecal samples for Giardia and Entamoeba histolytica
  • Equine Occult Blood
  • Faecal egg count reduction tests for the detection of anthelmintic resistance
  • 4Dx Tickborn pathogens: Heartworm (Dirofilaria), Lyme, Enrilichia canis/ewingii, anaplasma phagocytophilum/platys 

Further information on available tests and sample submission can be found in the UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories Catalogue - 2024

Contact the Parasitology Laboratory
  • Telephone: (01) 716 6168
  • Email: ucdvetlab@ucd.ie

Submission Forms
Courier Service

Our Nationwide Veterinary Specimen Courier Service will collect your clinical samples from your practice and deliver them directly to our laboratories here in UCD.

  • Free in Dublin (same day delivery)
  • €9 Nationwide (next day delivery)
  • Temperature regulated vehicles
  • P650 compliant containers
  • Freephone: 1800 252 967 (ROI)
  • Please contact us directly on (01) 7166136 for courier information relating to post mortems under 15kg nationwide

For further information on this service, please see our Courier Guide

Packaging & Labelling Requirements

All samples should comply with the appropriate instructions: (PI) 650

All Biological Substances should follow a basic triple packaging system:

  • Primary Container: containing the specimen should be clearly labelled, watertight and leak proof. Containers should be wrapped in sufficient absorbent material, should breakage occur, and placed in a secondary container
  • Secondary Container: should protect the primary container and be secure, leak proof and watertight, with adequate protective cushioning material should multiple primary receptacles be used
  • Outer Shipping Package i.e. rigid box: place the secondary receptacle in an outer shipping package, with suitable cushioning that protects it and its contents from physical damage and water etc. For carriage, the marker illustrated below should be displayed on the external surface of the outer packaging on a background of a contrasting colour and should be clearly visible and legible. The width of the line should be at least 2mm; the letters and numbers should be at least 6mm high. The smallest external dimension of outer packaging should be not less than 100mm

 UN3373 biological substance

  • Each package should be clearly labelled with the words “BIOLOGICAL SUBSTANCES
  • The secondary or outer packaging must be a rigid container
  • For liquids: the primary receptacle should be leak proof. The secondary packaging should be leak proof. All of the above instructions apply also. The primary receptacle or the secondary packaging shall be capable of withstanding, without leakage, an internal pressure producing a pressure differential of not less than 95 kPa (0.95 bar)
  • For solids: the primary container should be siftproof. If several primary containers are used and placed in a single secondary container, they should be individually wrapped, separated to prevent contact between them and securely cushioned. The secondary container therefore should be siftproof

Note: These regulations should be strictly adhered to.  Please also see our Packaging Checklist

Further information on packaging and labelling requirements is available from any of the UCDVH Laboratories. 

‌The UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories Catalogue - 2024 also contains detailed information on submitting a sample to our Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories.

The UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories Catalogue - 2024 is a guide to our services - we provide a rapid in-house diagnostic service for the UCD Veterinary Hospital and an external, fast, friendly and highly accurate diagnostic service to veterinary practitioners around Ireland.

UCD Veterinary Hospital

UCD Veterinary Sciences Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 6000 | Location Map(opens in a new window)