Diagnosing animal diseases

Diagnosing a disease an essential part of disease management and prevention. Specialized laboratories across the nation are dedicated to animal health just as hospital laboratories are dedicated to human health. Disease must be controlled whether it is affecting a pet or an entire flock of animals. A small outbreak of disease can spread and hinder the entire population. It is the duty of an animal disease diagnostics lab to diagnose a disease in a timely manner to prevent the spread of disease.

The first step in disease diagnostics is for the producer or owner to submit the affected animal to the lab. It is important for the producer to bring in the deceased animal soon after death to provide accurate results. Once at the laboratory a veterinary specialist such as a pathologist, microbiologist, or serologist, can perform a necropsy on the animal. A necropsy is the examination of the body after death. This includes dissecting the animal. The specialist examines every part of the animal inside and out to find a possible cause of death. The specialist also takes samples of the body tissues and fluids to be further tested. A specialist tests the body or bacteria samples to find a pathogen. A pathogen is a disease-causing agent. Once the cause of disease has been identified the specialist reports his or her findings to the animal owner and veterinarian. The owner and veterinarian then create a treatment plan.

Animal disease diagnostics is an important step between the cause and cure of disease. The cause of death is vital information when deciding a treatment plan for other animals. The importance of animal disease diagnostics can be seen within the lab’s mission statement.

For example, the mission of the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostics Laboratory at Purdue University “is to aid in the prevention, control, and eradication of animal diseases for the state of Indiana, to provide prompt and accurate diagnostic services, and to add to the wealth of the state by working with local, state, federal, and international partners to meet current and future needs.”

Animal disease diagnostics laboratories serve to improve animal health not only for production purposes, but for the entire area they serve. A laboratory’s priority is to diagnose whatever comes into their premises, no matter if the specimen is a pet alpaca or a flock of turkeys.

Animal disease diagnostics laboratories do not tend to be the most recognized area of animal production but they are essential to animal health. It is important for not only animal producers, but also consumers to be aware of this resource. Whether a toy poodle suddenly dies playing in its backyard or a young calf dehydrates from severe diarrhea, any animal owner can use an animal disease diagnostics lab to gain understanding of why this happened and how to prevent similar circumstances. Without disease diagnostics, food and animal safety would not be as reliable.

Learn about diseases that can spread between humans and animals