Necropsy Shipping Protocol and Recommendations for Sample Collection and Submission to UGA ZEAPS and IDL

The recommendations below for collecting and shipping samples to the UGA Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service for histopathology and necropsy services are general, loose guidelines, as there is tremendous species variability regarding size and anatomy.

To prevent postmortem autolysis and putrefaction, which lessen our chances of establishing a diagnosis, necropsies should be performed on deceased animals and samples collected as soon as possible following death. You may ship intact carcasses to us, or you may collect samples and send them to us for processing.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at [email protected] or 706-542-8092.

Biopsy Submissions

  • Histopathology samples should be placed in neutral buffered 10% formalin solution with a tissue:formalin volume ratio of at least 1:10, respectively, in a wide-mouthed, leak-/shatter-proof container. Tissues fixed for 24 hours in an appropriate amount of formalin prior to submission may be placed in a smaller container with a reduced amount of fixative for shipping.
  • Collect a complete set of both formalin fixed and fresh tissues. Choanal/oral and cloacal swabs can also be collected on avian and reptile species. You will ship the formalin-fixed tissues to us and freeze the set of fresh tissues at your institution in case ancillary testing is required later.
  • To ensure adequate formalin fixation, large tissue samples may be sectioned into representative samples 1 cm thick. Certain tissues (i.e. brain, heart for full examination, etc.) may be submitted whole but require longer fixation times.
  • Place small tissue samples in a plastic tissue cassette or wrapped in gauze. For small carcasses (i.e. small birds, amphibians/reptiles, small fish, neonates, etc.), the coelom/abdomen may be incised, the calvarium opened, and the carcass placed whole in formalin.
  • When biopsies from separate sites are submitted from one patient, each tissue should be submitted in a separate container and labeled appropriately.
  • See below for additional information on packaging and shipping.

Necropsy Tissues in a Bottle Submissions

  • Gross necropsies should be performed, and samples collected, promptly.
  • Please submit a complete set of formalin fixed tissues. It is also recommended that a set of fresh tissues are collected and frozen at the time of gross examination and stored at your institution, in case ancillary diagnostics are desired (e.g., microbial culture or toxicological testing).
  • Tissue samples (e.g., liver) should aim to be no thicker than approximately 1 cm, when possible, to ensure appropriate tissue fixation.
  • If the species is small (e.g., small reptile, chick, frog, small seahorse, or small fish), the entire formalin-fixed carcass can be submitted after the coelomic cavity and calvaria (when possible) are opened to allow for formalin penetration. The opercula should be removed prior to fixation for small syngnathids and fish.
  • Containers should be labeled with institution/clinic, patient and other relevant information, as noted above.
  • See below for additional information on packaging and shipping.

Whole Body Necropsy Submissions

  • You may ship intact carcasses to us.
  • Refrigeration prior to shipment is recommended. Carcasses should only be frozen if your shipment is expected to be delayed more than 24 hours.
  • Carcasses should be double bagged and labeled with patient information.
  • Place the double bagged carcass in a sealed, insulated container with absorbent material and sufficient ice packs to keep the specimen cool for approximately 48 hours. PLEASE DO NOT USE LOOSE ICE CUBES. There should be limited empty space inside the container to prevent excess movement during shipping.
  • See below for additional information on packaging and shipping.

Additional Packaging and Shipping Information

  • Tissues fixed for approximately 24 hours in an appropriate amount of formalin prior to submission may be subsequently submitted in a smaller container with a reduced amount of fixative or wrapped in formalin solution saturated paper towels, thus decreasing the size and weight of the container used for shipping.
  • Label all containers with the institution/clinic information, species and animal ID, date collected, and other relevant sample info. Use a pencil if there is a chance that the label will come into contact with formalin.
  • Double bag all formalin containers and other diagnostic samples separately. Formalin fumes can damage other samples including cytological samples and cultures.
  • Please include on the submission form all relevant institution/clinic information, species and animal ID, clinical history, manner of death, and necropsy findings (if known) and any other relevant information.
  • Paperwork should be included inside the package and protected by a zip-lock bag.
  • Please ship overnight to arrive Tuesday through Friday only. The UGA Infectious Diseases Laboratory and UGA ZEAPS do not accept packages on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays recognized by the University System of Georgia. We notify our clients in advance of these closings.
  • Specimens that cannot be shipped within that time should be refrigerated. If your shipment is expected to be delayed by more than 24 hours, the best practice is to collect a full set of tissues and ship a formalin-fixed set of tissues to us.
  • Fresh tissue samples should be stored in a freezer at your institution if ancillary testing is not immediately needed. Definitive diagnosis of infectious agents and toxins may require testing that cannot be performed on formalin fixed tissues (i.e. bacterial/fungal culture, virus isolation, fluorescent antibody testing, electron microscopy, etc.).

Suggested tissues to be collected by a trained practitioner include:

  • Brain and/or spinal cord
  • Heart
  • Lung (multiple sections from different lobes)
  • Liver (multiple sections from different lobes)
  • Spleen
  • Kidneys
  • Adrenal glands
  • Stomach
  • Small intestine
  • Large intestine
  • Lymph nodes
  • Urinary bladder
  • Thymus on young animals
  • Bone marrow
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Any affected tissue based on history, clinical signs and/or gross findings not listed above such as thyroid gland, reproductive organs, etc.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at [email protected] or 706-542-8092.

Improper Handling of Tissue

Improper handling or fixation of tissues can induce artifacts that may result in non-diagnostic specimens. Examples of improper handling include:

Failure to place tissues in formalin immediately after collection.

Unfixed specimens are subjected to dehydration, autolysis, and proliferation of saprophytic bacteria. Refrigeration slows but does not prevent these changes. Freezing can induce artifacts.

Inadequate fixation.

Using an inadequate volume of fixative or attempting to fix large specimens (i.e. whole kidney) will result in incomplete fixation and autolysis.

Improper fixatives.

Alcohol, disinfectants, and saline are unsuitable for transport or fixation of specimens for histopathology and usually result in non-diagnostic samples.

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