General info for vets

We are a dynamic, customer focussed business providing an extensive, high quality range of laboratory tests across the species. We were the first lab in the UK to offer state of the art quantitative real-time PCR assays, and we continue to be market leaders in this field. We are an ECVCP approved training laboratory, and our qualified clinical pathologists and pathologists work with specialists at our Small Animal and Equine Referral Hospitals, providing practical, up to date advice to Veterinary Surgeons.

We offer a full range of diagnostic services with our clinical pathologists available throughout the day to provide on the spot advice for tricky cases. If you would like to consider using us as your main laboratory, contact us to find out more about our courier service and loyalty discounts.

If you require any further information or advice on a case, please email us at including the lab id or animal information (Name, Species, DoB etc). We aim to reply within 24 hours.

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ProfilesInfectious Disease QPCRs

Acarus PCR Tests Feline Genetic Tests

General FAQs


Bone Marrow Aspirates

In the first instance, if you are at all unsure whether this is the next step, then do contact the clinical pathologists here. We, the other clinicians at the University of Bristol and Langford Vets are always ready to discuss haematology results and the processes involved in cancer staging before you take the samples.


Persistent non - regenerative anaemia
Persistent bicytopenia
Neutropenia or thrombocytopenia where there is no obvious cause after investigation
Abnormal cells in circulation that cannot be explained
Staging of neoplasia, especially of types which often metastasize to bone marrow
Persistent hypercalcaemia that is significant and unexplained
Testing for certain organisms such as Leishmania or FeLV

Although these are the most common reasons for examining bone marrow, we can sometimes gain some information on iron stores, regeneration of red cells in horses and FeLV status in cats. There are often sensitive ways of investigating these problems without resorting to bone marrow: please call us if in doubt.

Samples Needed

A haematology (EDTA and smear of venous blood) on the day of sampling are crucial to make sure that the fast, dynamic of supply from the marrow and the peripheral demand for the cells is understood and appreciated. Changes such as left shift and toxic change in neutrophils can completely alter the interpretation of a depleted marrow: equally, a non regenerative anaemia in the blood of an animal that has been anaemic for a week or more can help the clinical pathologist make a diagnosis of an immune mediated disease. The cost of the haematology is included in the cytology for just this reason.

Where the haematology illuminates the cytology, histopathology provides an exceptional and necessary view of the overall cellularity of the marrow, the behaviour of cells and the only chance of observing fibrosis, cytologically normal cells behaving aberrantly, megakaryocyte numbers and special stains for further discrimination. The three methods of examination are complementary and individually irreplaceable.

Common problems

No blood submitted, no smears submitted

EDTA marrow aspirate only submitted - degeneration in morphology is rapid, especially in hot weather. Post mortem samples must be taken immediately. Samples for PCR only (e.g. for FeLV provirus only) are likely to be more robust.

Marrow smears un-smeared - allowing marrow to trickle without smearing the slides makes the samples too dense to see the individual cells.

Formalin fumes affecting cytology staining - please do all you can to separate cytology slide and the marrow core sample. Separate plastic bags are a minimum. Allow cytology slides to dry before packing.

Core biopsy too small or of cortical bone only - white, dense samples are less likely to yield information. In some cases, attempts from more than one site may be needed.

Sampling Sites

This is very much a matter of personal preference. The iliac crest may be easy in large dogs, but many people prefer to sample from the humerus.


Do you still close for long periods over Christmas?

No, we close for normal Bank Holidays such as Christmas Day and Easter Day, but we remain fully staffed and open for business the rest of the normal working week.


I've received my results and I'm not sure what they mean - how do I get advice?

Our Clinical Pathologists and Anatomic Pathologists are very happy to help you. Please call the Laboratories Reception on 0117 394 0510 and they will put you through.



Genetic FAQs

What new genetic tests can you run?

You can find out about our latest tests here and a more detailed list of our genetic tests here


Why does one of my Breeders need me to send in their genetic tests?

International Cat Care run some “negative genetic registers” and the GCCF run some “active registers”. For cats to be placed on these registers the sample (mouth swab or blood sample) MUST be taken by a vet who confirms the cat’s identity using its microchip number. The microchip number must be written on the submission form AND sample.

We have a dedicated submission form for this purpose, which both the owner and vet must complete. The certificate will state that the cat’s identity was confirmed by a vet and you can use this to register the cat with the ICC negative or GCCF active registers.

If a breeder DOES NOT want their cat to go on these registers then they can take a mouth swab and submit it directly to the lab.


Where can I find out more about genetic tests in cats?

Our Breeder pages have a lot of information. For a more detailed discussion please see an article in our Feline Update Archive.


Can you test a cat’s parentage?

We do not currently offer this service, however we recommend using
Animal DNA Diagnostics



Histopathology FAQs

Whats the difference between a small and a large biopsy?

For charging purposes, we consider a small biopsy sample to be anything less than the size of a small Satsuma (smaller than 5cm diameter).  The charge for processing and reporting on such a sample is £41.00 + VAT, which includes 1 to 3 tissue samples. Each additional tissue is £10.00 + VAT per site.

Anything larger than >10cm in one dimension, e.g. mammary strip/spleen or complex samples requiring assessment of multiple surgical margins and/or extensive decalcification (e.g. mandibles, maxillae, limbs) are large biopsy samples and carry a charge of £104.00 + VAT.

Do I need to pay extra for special stains?

Yes, for Liver histology, including copper and collagen stains £60.00 + VAT.
Copper, GMS, Warthin-Starry stains are £21.00 + VAT each.

Can you do Immunohistochemistry?

Yes, we are able to request immunohistochemistry to further define the nature of a tumour.  This would be most often used to immunophenotype lymphomas (i.e. T- or B-cell type) or to define the histogenesis of a soft tissue sarcoma. 

Note that we will often suggest that immunohistochemistry might be helpful when we report to you on the HE-stained section, but we will only request immunohistochemistry if you confirm that your client would like to proceed with the technique. 

Note that immunohistochemistry generally takes up to 2 weeks before results are available as the specialist laboratory that performs the techniques will batch samples for processing.

How do you charge for multiple tissues from the same case?

For multiple tissues from the same case (e.g. three separate skin masses removed from one dog; or a selection of samples of different organs taken from a post-mortem case), we charge the standard price for the first three tissues (e.g. £41.00 + VAT for small samples) and then an additional £10.00 + VAT for each tissue thereafter.

So, for example, sending six small samples from a case would incur a charge of £71 + VAT (£41.00 + (£10.00 x 3)). 

How do you evaluate the margins?

Evaluation of margins is based on the principle of giving you the most possible information for the most reasonable price for your client.  The most common situation is an elliptical excision of skin surrounding a central nodular skin mass.  In this instance we would take a cross-section through the entire central narrowest margin (to evaluate both narrow lateral margins and the deep margin) and a second section through one of the two long margins (to evaluate that lateral and deep margin).

The charge for this would be £41.00 or £104.00 + VAT, respectively for small or large samples.

If you wish us to examine specific margins, these should be clearly indicated by supplying a photograph or diagram of the sample showing the margins you wish examined. Remember that we will not have the benefit of knowing which way the specimen is orientated in the animal, so you should indicate this by (for example) placing a suture to show (for example) which is the cranial end of the sample.

Why do I need to send a history?

A clinical history greatly assists our pathologists in their interpretation and diagnosis.  The more that we know about the clinical presentation, the site of lesion and the gross appearance of the tissues that have been biopsied, the more we can help you decide on the appropriate treatment and prognosis for a case.  It is often very helpful to send us a digital image, showing a lesion in situ, and such images could be submitted either by e-mail or as a hard-copy print-out.

How long will it take?

A standard small biopsy sample (e.g. a skin mass up to 2 cm diameter with surrounding marginal skin) that is well-fixed will be trimmed and placed into a machine for automated processing. The following morning the tissue will be blocked and the sections cut and stained for review by the pathologist the next day.  As long as a fixed sample reaches us by 3pm a turnaround time of around 48 hours should be possible.  So, for example, if you send us a sample on a Monday that arrives in the Tuesday morning post, you should have a result by Thursday evening.

Can I send in bones/hooves/claws?

Yes, we are able to deal with these specialized samples, however they will require a relatively long period of processing and results may not be available for many weeks.

This simply relates to the fact that in order to work with these tissues (particularly bone and tooth) the tissues need to be decalcified by immersion in buffer which softens the tissue so we can cut it to size for sectioning. 

We will always attempt to sample areas of adjacent soft tissue within the normal time frame to provide a preliminary report.This process also applies to small samples of this type of tissue.  For example, a core biopsy of bone would also require a short period of decalcification, and so even though the sample is very small, it will generally take an additional day (48 – 72 hours) for results to be available.

My old lab could process samples in 48 hours - why can't you?

We can process small bone samples, such as bone marrow core biopsies, within 48 hours, but for larger bone samples we often band saw the sample once fixed, then use a slower decalcification procedure which better preserves any soft tissues that are present, which therefore allows for more accurate assessment of the soft tissue components of the sample/tumour.

Can I get my results by email?

Yes.  Many of our clients currently have reports e-mailed to a hospital e-mail account set up to receive laboratory reports.  We strongly encourage this as it provides a much more definitive means of tracking reports than sending them by fax, when it might be possible that your fax machine is out of paper, or engaged in telephone mode.

For our overseas clients, email is the preferred method of reporting.

If you would like to receive your results by email, please contact us with the correct email address.

Do you accept samples from other countries?

Yes, we hold an importation licence to allow diagnostic samples to be received from numerous other countries and have an established international client base.  If you are a new client, please contact us to ensure that your country is included in our licence.

Where are my results?

Please do not telephone us to ask about results until after the 24 hour turnaround period for routine, small and well-fixed samples.  Please refer to the FAQ above related to the time it will take to process large, unfixed or bony samples.

Please also check your e-mail box or fax machine before telephoning!

Whats the best way to send a histo sample?

This depends entirely on the nature and size of the sample, but the general principles are to ensure that containers of formalin are well sealed (purpose designed screw cap plastic containers are best – please do not use narrow-necked pill bottles or glass jam jars!), surrounded by absorbent material and then enclosed in a sealed plastic ziplock bag, before placing that bag into the outer packaging for postage.

Remember that the ideal fixation protocol is to place a sample in a volume of formalin that is ten times the volume of the sample.

For most smaller samples (e.g. skin punch biopsies, small excised masses, endoscopic biopsies) it is adequate to simply send the sample in the container of formalin in which they have been fixed.  Small endoscopic biopsies might travel better contained within a plastic histocassette.

For larger samples, you might consider selecting specific areas of interest rather than sending an entire organ.  Whilst we would prefer to see the whole organ (e.g. spleen), or at least a photograph of it, in practical terms we realize it is not always possible to ship such large samples and will rely on you for selecting areas of interest.