Book:The Laboratories of Our Lives: Labs, Labs Everywhere!/Labs by industry: Part 4/Veterinary

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6.5 Veterinary

Iranian cat in clinic.jpg

Veterinary laboratories are to animals as clinical reference/diagnostic labs are to humans. These labs are designed with many of the same instruments found in a human diagnostic lab, with slight variations, and they conduct both clinical (serving the patient) and public health (serving the population) activities. Veterinary labs are found in the private, government, and academic sectors and provide many different services, including (but not limited to)[1][2][3]:

  • diagnostic consultation
  • toxicology
  • DNA profiling and testing
  • disease surveillance
  • educational outreach

But how do veterinary laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

The most obvious way veterinary labs impact our lives is via the animals we care for. From hamster to elephant, a veterinary laboratory is responsible for diagnosing disease in animals, aiding veterinarians in the treatment process. They also work behind the scenes, investigating cases of food-borne illness and disease outbreaks in animal populations, allowing quicker action against at-fault food manufacturers and potent disease vectors. Without these laboratories, feed, rescue, and companion animals of all types would face worse outcomes, and our edible meat sources would more often be contaminated, putting human health at risk as well.

6.5.1 Client types

Private - These labs provide third-party analysis and consultation services for animal owners and other veterinary labs.

Examples include:

Government - As previously mentioned, many universities lump veterinary science programs with agriculture programs. You see some of this carry over to the government-run laboratories conducting animal health and disease diagnostic activities, typically though the government's agriculture department. Despite animal science as a scientific discipline arguably being more closely aligned with agriculture science than veterinary science[4], those government animal health labs are typically overseen and operated by veterinarians (see examples).

Examples include:

Academic - At least in the United States, academic veterinary laboratories typically act as both teaching labs for students and as diagnostic or disease tracking facilities for paying clients and the public. Those providing third-party services will also be accredited by one or more associations such as the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.

Examples include:

6.5.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? avians, biological specimens, cadavers, canines, DNA, exotic animals, equines, felines

What sciences are being applied in these labs? clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, cytopathology, genetics, hematology, histopathology, immunohematology, immunology, parasitology, pathophysiology, reproductive biology, surgical pathology, toxicology, virology

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Acute contact, Acute oral, Acute toxicity, Allergy, Amino acid analysis, Antimicrobial, Bioaccumulation, Bioburden, Blood culture, Blood gases, Blood typing, Biophysical profile, Calorimetry, Characterization, Chronic toxicity, Colorimetric, Complete blood count, Compliance/Conformance, Cytopathology, Detection, Electrolyte and mineral panel, Genetic, Genotype, Hematocrit, Hemoglobin, Immunoassay, Immunofluorescence, Immunohistochemistry, Infectious disease, Kidney function, Lipid profile, Liver function, Metabolic panel, Minimum bactericidal concentration, Minimum inhibitory concentration, Neurotoxicity, Nutritional, Osmolality, Osmolarity, Parasitic, pH, Proficiency, Protein analysis, Protein characterization, Red blood cell count, Sensitization, Specific gravity, Subchronic toxicity, Thyroid function, Urine culture, Wildlife toxicology

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

artificial insemination equipment, autoclave, balance, biohazard container, biosafety cabinet, centrifuge, chromatographic, clinical chemistry analyzer, colorimeter, desiccator, dissolved oxygen meter, dry bath, fume hood, homogenizer, hotplate, incubator, magnetic stirrer, microcentrifuge tube, microplate reader, microscope, multi-well plate, orbital shaker, PCR machine, personal protective equipment, pH meter, Petri dish, pipettor, powered air purifying respirators, refractometer, spectrophotometer, syringes, test tube and rack, thermometer, urinalysis device, veterinary table, water bath

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the veterinary industry?

While taking a pet to the veterinarian and having a biological sample analyzed is expected and ordinary, many people tend not to also be aware of the public health role many government and academic veterinary laboratories play. Described as veterinary public health (VPH) by the World Health Organization, the veterinarian makes "contributions to the physical, mental and social well-being of humans through an understanding and application of veterinary science".[5] Noah and Ostrowski break this concept down into six core domains in the Merck Veterinary Manual[6]:

  • Diagnosis, surveillance, epidemiology, control, prevention, and elimination of zoonotic diseases
  • Laboratory animal facility and diagnostic laboratory health aspect management
  • Biomedical research
  • Health education and outreach
  • Production and control of biologic products and medical devices
  • Governmental and legislative activity

6.5.3 Informatics in the veterinary industry

The idea of using computers and software in veterinary laboratories isn't a new one; the American Veterinary Computer Society (today the Association for Veterinary Informatics [AVI]) was founded in the early 1980s to address such an idea.[7] However, the application of informatics in the veterinary world arguably hasn't seen the same level of adoption as in clinical medicine. Associations like the AVI are helping to promote the expansion of veterinary informatics research and implementation in veterinary laboratories and offices, and universities such as Indiana University are offering specialized animal informatics programs that "will help students use technology to better understand animal behavior and develop tools to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for animals."[8] Finally, entities such as Fetch dvm360 provide continuing education conferences to veterinarians on many veterinary informatics topics, including improving compliance, therapeutics, and clinical practice management.[9] Other applications of informatics in the veterinary lab include the development of diagnostic decision assistance systems, drug information systems, and electronic medical record systems.[8]

6.5.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading


  1. "The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensic Section". University of California - Davis. Retrieved 30 June 2022. 
  2. "Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System". Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries. Retrieved 30 June 2022. 
  3. Sirois, M. (2014). Laboratory Procedures for Veterinary Technicians (6th ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 448. ISBN 9780323243575. 
  4. Flanders, F. (2011). Exploring Animal Science. Cengage Learning. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9781435439528. 
  5. "Veterinary public health (VPH)". Zoonoses. World Health Organization. Archived from the original on 21 June 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2022. 
  6. Noah, D.L.; Ostrowski, S.R.. "Role of the Veterinarian in Public Health/One Health". Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck & Co., Inc. Retrieved 30 June 2022. 
  7. "About AVI". Association for Veterinary Informatics. Retrieved 30 June 2022. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Animal Informatics". Indian University Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. Retrieved 30 June 2022. 
  9. "Fetch dvm360". MultiMedia Animal Care, LLC.