Pathology and Cytology

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Field Post Mortem and Laboratory Post Mortem examinations

Post mortem examinations must be carried out as soon as possible after death. If delayed, the carcase should be kept cool but not frozen (e.g. refrigeration for small animals; at least shade or cover with wet sack for large animals).

For PM submissions to the laboratory, the animal should be submitted live or as soon as practicable post death. If there is a delay (more than 6 hours) in submitting the whole animal, the carcase should be kept cool (<5°C).

For cases where death has occurred over 12 hours ago, or when submitting the animal after 2pm on a Friday, the duty pathologist must be contacted on (03) 6777 2111 prior to submission.

A complete range of specimens should be collected. For further information re: field PM examination or collection of samples refer to the Field Post Mortem Examination LabFact sheet ​ or contact the laboratory.

Collection of samples

Bloods, fluids and tissues collected at post-mortem are to be stored appropriately (between 2 and 8°C) prior to submission to the laboratory. Please note that blood collected after death is unsuitable for haematology or clinical chemistry.

For histopathology

Tissues are placed in at least ten (10) times their volume of neutral buffered formalin

Tissue slices should be not more than one (1) cm thick. (Brains submitted under the NTSESP should be submitted whole.)

Containers should

  • be leak proof;

  • preferably wide-mouthed;

  • plastic rather than glass (glass jars can break and release formalin);

  • food containers e.g. jam, sauce and pickles etc. are not acceptable.


As soon as possible after collection, place sample on a clean microscope slide and air dry.

Suitable samples include -

  • Fine needle aspirate smears;

  • impression smears;

  • smears of blood or other body fluids;

  • scrapings and squash preparations.

Original fluid samples (e.g. joint fluid or fluids from body cavities) should also be submitted (if possible) in an EDTA tube.

Please note that fluid samples taken from animals which have been dead for over 1 hour or fluid samples that arrive at the laboratory more than 24 hours after collection are often of limited diagnostic value.​​ 


Animal Health Laboratory - Specimen Reception

(Postal) PO Box 46,
(Delivery) 165 Westbury Road,