vet laboratory

The Role of Veterinary Laboratories

The local veterinary practice is a familiar feature in towns across the UK, but behind the scenes, other scientific professionals are working in veterinary laboratories. They carry out vital veterinary pathology and research work.

This work investigates and diagnoses diseases in animals.

What is Veterinary Pathology?

Broadly, veterinary pathology covers:

  • Investigating diseases
  • Conducting research
  • Developing medicines.

Pathology is the study of disease. For veterinary pathologists, therefore, the focus is on surveillance, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases in animals.

Because they work in this field, veterinary pathologists play a key role in the development of effective medicines that are safe for animal use and provide essential research for animal-safe agrochemicals and chemicals.

There are two main types of veterinary pathologists:

  • Anatomical pathologists
  • Clinical pathologists.

Anatomical pathologists mainly work with animal body tissues, conducting biopsies and autopsies.

Clinical pathologists mainly work with body fluids, covering biochemistry, cytology and haematology.

Both types are closely involved in laboratory work. Anatomical pathologists perform autopsies on animals to determine the causes of disease and death. The tissues they examine during these procedures will be tested as samples in the laboratory.

Clinical pathologists look at changes in the body fluids of animals to diagnose and monitor diseases. They will examine biopsy samples under laboratory conditions and investigate conditions, such as abnormal cells in blood.

Anatomical and clinical veterinary pathologists work closely with vets for the identification and treatment of diseases and conduct important research that can help prevent diseases in animals and in humans.

What Services Does the Veterinary Laboratory Offer?

Veterinary laboratories offer a range of services connected to veterinary pathology.

These can include:

  • Diagnostic services
  • Forensic pathology
  • Research pathology.

Microbiological Diagnostic Services

Microbiological diagnostic services in a veterinary laboratory cover post-mortem examinations, histopathology (the microscopic examination of body tissue) and immunohistory (selectively identifying antigens in cells in sections of tissue).

Microbiological diagnostics include bacteriology, molecular diagnostics, mycoplasma diagnostics and environmental bacterial surveillance.

In providing bacteriological services, laboratories provide culture test results and offer screening for specific pathogens, including Mycoplasma, Clostridium difficile and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Some laboratories also provide specialist parasitology and entomology services. This includes the detection and diagnosis of tick-borne diseases.

Forensic Pathology

Forensic pathology includes detailed post-mortem examinations. These involve examination of all the major organs, including photographic documentation and histopathological examination.

Further forensic tests may also cover bacterial culture, parasitology, entomology and immunohistochemistry.

Research Pathology

Research pathology is a wide-ranging area of work and can cover:

  • Evaluation of tissue injury using quantitative digital image analysis
  • Optimisation of immunohistorical protocols on animal cell structures and tissues
  • Bacterial culture testing
  • Bacterial identification
  • Fungal identification
  • PCR testing.

Who Do Veterinary Laboratories Carry Out Work For?

In the industrial sector, veterinary laboratories deal mainly with toxicological pathology. This is an experimental branch of pathology that aims to identify risks and hazards of new and old materials to animals, as well as humans.

Laboratories working in this sector employ a broad range of skills and processes, including molecular techniques to discover levels of toxicology and how different toxic materials act.

Academic veterinary pathologists take part in research programmes into animal and human diseases and the mechanisms that drive them.

Commercial diagnostic practices provide their services to veterinary surgeries and practices. This requires rapid and highly accurate responses to ensure vets can provide a high standard of service.

What Makes a Veterinary Laboratory Effective?

Veterinary laboratories will usually offer a range of services, making sure they can provide a comprehensive diagnostic resource for their customers.

This range of diagnostic services covers essential areas of laboratory work, including biochemistry, microbiology, haematology, post-mortem pathology and parasitology. 

To support this range of specialist work, veterinary laboratories need the right equipment. This equipment includes:

  • Mixers
  • Centrifuges
  • Autoclaves
  • Infrared sterilisers
  • Aspirators
  • Incubators
  • Hotplates
  • Thermal cyclers
  • Plate readers and washers
  • Diluters
  • Stainers

and more.

Along with these essential, veterinary laboratories also depend on high-quality consumables and accessories, such as sample management systems, storage racks, and various specialised testing kits.

A good veterinary laboratory will be able to provide clear diagnostic results quickly and efficiently, using leading-edge equipment to deliver this level of service.

These laboratories play a critical role in disease control and prevention.

Specialist Veterinary Laboratory Supplies

Pro Lab supplies specialist laboratory equipment to microbiology labs in Europe and Asia. This includes our own ranges of dedicated storage and testing equipment.

To speak to our team, please call +44 (0)151 353 1613, email us at, or fill in our contact form, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

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