Specimen Reception update – more on getting the most from your diagnostic laboratory

Jim Fairles

Animal Health Laboratory, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON.                            

AHL Newsletter 2021;25(3):2.

Your relationship with your diagnostic laboratory is vital in the continuum of patient care. I wrote recently about this (1) with some excerpts from an excellent write-up by Dr. Belinda Thompson (now retired) from Cornell (2).  As a follow-up from this article, below are some questions that you may want to ask as you assess laboratory testing and how to minimize diagnostic error:

  1. Am I trying to rule out the worst-case scenario?  Am I trying to rule out all important scenarios?
  2. Does the diagnostic test requested reflect the problem list and differential diagnoses?
  3. Will I be able to use the results of each of the tests I have requested for decision-making/treatment/management changes?
  4. Have I considered which test is the best test (“fit for purpose”) if more than one are available?  Is there a reason to use more than one test for the same disease/condition?
  5. Do I have the correct specimen for each test?
  6. Have I collected every specimen that would be required?  If not, can they be collected?
  7. Have I handled each sample exactly according to the guidelines provided by the laboratory?  Do I know what those guidelines recommend?

AHL has many resources to help you with these questions – all are available on our website:


User Guide and searchable Fee Schedule (access to fees available to veterinarians and researchers by following the instructions on the website):




Labnotes – provide more detailed information on specific tests:


Previous AHL Newsletters – many updates on testing:


Diagnostic Plans (currently ruminant and small ruminant are available – more being added):



We are also glad to discuss any testing questions and concerns. Please feel free to reach out!   AHL

ahlinfo@uoguelph.ca        519-824-4120 extension 54530


1. https://www.uoguelph.ca/ahl/getting-most-out-your-diagnostic-laboratory-submissions

2. Thompson BS. On the journey for great diagnostics – Tips and tricks to let the magic happen. AABP, St. Louis, Sept. 2019.