Sample and specimen submission

Samples must be submitted through a licensed veterinarian or a provincial laboratory. Samples and specimens submitted by animal owners are not accepted. For each submission a submission form needs to be completely filled out, with only one owner per form. The submitter is responsible for the correct choice of requested tests, for filling out the submission form correctly, and for submission of accurate diagnostic sample material. All samples need to be submitted in sterile, wide mouth, leak proof, screw cap, plastic containers and need to be clearly labeled with the owners name, animal species, and collection date. Gloves or glass containers are not suitable containers. For shipping the sample container needs to be placed in a suitable secondary leak-proof container (e.g., sealed plastic bag) with absorbent material. For each shipped sample a submission form needs to be included. Samples should arrive at the laboratory within 1-3 days.

Samples and specimens submitted for testing including agents isolated and intellectual property that can arise from processing become the property of UPEI. Arrangements should be made in writing at the time of submission if there are issues or concerns.


Collection and submission of fecal samples

Preferably, fecal samples should be collected from the rectum. If material is collected from the ground, it should be from the top of a freshly passed deposit. Avoid deposit areas in contact with the ground. Care must be taken with samples collected from the ground to avoid collection of fecal samples of neighbourhood or stray animals. Only collect samples which can be positively identified as relevant to the animal in question.

For herd samples, every animal in the herd should be sampled. However, for a reliable evaluation of a herd, 10-25% of individuals can be sampled. When samples of individuals cannot be identified, such as in group housing, take random samples and clearly label them as such.

A minimum sample size is 5 to 10 grams. Preferably, submit a “tennis ball” size sample. Store the specimens in a refrigerator until shipping. DO NOT FREEZE FECAL SAMPLES.

If large gravid segments of cestodes or whole adult helminths are observed make note of these on the submission form.

Most parasites (except some protozoans) are detectable and easily identifiable in fecal samples examined 3 days after collection, if the samples have been refrigerated in the meantime. If more than 3 days may elapse between collection and examination (or the samples cannot be refrigerated), mix equal parts of 5% formalin and feces and make note on both the primary container and the submission form. This will prevent parasite development, especially the hatching of eggs. This procedure should not be used if the diagnostic technique depends on living parasites, such as the Baermann technique.

Some developmental stages of protozoan parasites are too fragile to withstand transport by courier. Testing ideally should be done at the practitioner’s own laboratory, by examining saline wet-mounts of fresh warm feces. As an alternative a sample delivered shortly after passage (within 30 minutes) to the diagnostic laboratory can be examined.


Submission of samples for serological and antigen testing

A minimum of 1 ml of fresh serum, plasma, or whole blood is needed for a single test. If several tests need to be performed or for Profile Tests submit a minimum of 2 ml serum, plasma, or whole blood. Use sterile, leak proof blood tubes only and store samples in a refrigerator until shipping.


Submission of ectoparasites and helminth specimens

Ectoparasites (lice, keds, ticks, and fleas) for identification should be submitted in a humid environment (add wet paper towel to container). Helminths for identification should be submitted in physiological saline. If ectoparasites or helminths cannot be submitted shortly after collection they should be preserved in 70% ethanol. It should be noted on the submission form where specimens were collected on the host or which organ they were found in in sufficient detail. Indicate on the submission form if saline or 70% ethanol was added to specimens. Lots from different hosts should not be mixed.


Submission of skin scrapings

Skin scraping samples should be collected freshly using a scalpel blade from the periphery of a lesion or at the predilection site until capillary hemorrhaging occurs. The scalpel blade with the sample should be transferred into a leak proof, sealed plastic container and stored in a refrigerator until shipping.


Submission of other samples

  • Eggs of pinworms can be collected by placing clear adhesive tape on the anal region.
  • Lice and superficially dwelling mites can be collected from dried exudate and skin debris, scraped into a specimen jar.
  • Ear mites can be found easily with an otoscope. They can be removed from the external ear with a cotton swab, which can be placed in a container and submit to the laboratory.
  • Poultry mites do not remain on the host in daylight. The bird’s environment (bird nests, roosts, and nearby cracks and crevices in housing structures) must be examined. Collect and contain specimens and submit to the laboratory for identification.
  • Some surface feeding mites in dogs and other hosts can be collected by vigorously brushing the host over a plastic sheet. Mites and debris will accumulate on the sheet and can be transferred to a container. Alternatively clear adhesive tape samples from several areas of the skin can be collected.


Interpreting results – grading system

A high egg count may indicate a high number of parasites but a low number of eggs does not necessarily indicate a low number of parasites. A grading (non-quantitative) system is used as follows:

  • +: 1-100 eggs, oocysts, or cysts on a slide
  • ++: 101-300 eggs, oocysts, or cysts on a slide
  • +++: 301 and greater number of eggs, oocysts, or cysts on a slide