Diagnosis of Poultry Diseases

​​​​​​​​​​​Poultry health hinges largely on a combination of breeding, environment, management and nutrition.

The Department's veterinary pathologists are stationed at the Animal Health Laboratory, Prospect (Launceston), where they provide a laboratory based disease diagnostic service.

Veterinary pathologists do not provide on-farm service. However, specimens can be forwarded to the Animal Health Laboratory by your local Departmental Veterinary Officer or your private veterinary practitioner.

In areas where veterinary services are unavailable, samples can be sent direct to the Animal Health Laboratory. Advice of a preferred (or closest) veterinarian is required as they will need to be involved in treatment and disease management once a diagnosis is made.

Selection of Specimens

Consultation with your private veterinary practitioner will allow the appropriate samples to be selected for submission.

Wherever practical, live, sick birds should be sent as specimens. The individual live birds selected should show symptoms similar to other affected birds in the flock.

Live birds should be forwarded in strong crates or boxes, with adequate ventilation. Containers are not returnable from the laboratories. However, plastic crates that can be effectively cleaned will be washed and disinfected at the Animal Health Laboratory and held for collection by the owner.

Smaller live birds should be dispatched in small boxes similar to the standard 50 size day-old chick box. It is essential to ensure that adequate ventilation is provided.

NB: Where there is a suspicion of possible zoonotic disease involvement (ie., a disease that is transferable to humans) please notify the laboratory prior to submission and instructions will be provided for safe transport of the birds. All samples submitted should be packaged appropriately for containment of infectious agents. See 'Packaging of dead birds' below:

Packaging of Dead Birds

Dead birds (preferably recently dead) should be wrapped in two individually sealable plastic bags and placed within a heavy duty styrofoam esky or water tight cardboard box or other suitable container. Adequate amounts of absorbent material should be placed around the specimen within the outer protective esky or box to absorb any leakage from ice bricks or samples

Wherever possible, all carcasses should be pre-chilled, but not frozen and sent together with freezer blocks in leak-proof containers.

Number of Specimens

It is generally advisable to send a number of specimens from the flock. A single specimen may show symptoms not typical of the major disease.
Poultry with a lowered resistance to disease may contract secondary infections which could, in the case of an individual specimen, obscure the primary or major disorder.

Poultry farmers should not wait until stock losses reach epidemic proportions before seeking advice. Specimens of sick birds should be sent early in an out-break. This will assist in obtaining an early diagnosis and allow prompt treatment and control.

​Information Required with Specimen

All submissions must be accompanied by either a laboratory advice note or if this is emailed by the veterinarian to the laboratory,  the name and address of the submitter and full details concerning the poultry flock from which the sample was taken. This information should be placed in an envelope attached to the outside of the container.
It is essential to ensure that full details accompany all specimens dispatched to the laboratory.

A report or identification/statement which includes the information below, should accompany live and dead birds submitted for post-mortem examination.

Details Required​

1.Name, address and telephone number or fax number of sender
2.Date of dispatch
3.Source and strain/breed of stock and age when purchased
4.Number of birds and flocks on farm
5.Number of flocks affected
6.Number of birds in affected flock(s)
7.Age of birds in affected flock(s)
8.Number of birds clinically affected and number of birds dead
9.Clinical signs shown by sick birds, (eg leg weakness / paralysis / nervous / diarrhoea / respiratory distress / ocular or nasal discharge / decreased egg production - if so by how much and over what period etc.)
10.Food consumption
11.Type of food (mash, crumbles, pellets, other)
12.Feed manufacturer
13.Vaccination history of affected flock(s) and farm generally (e.g. Mareks, fowl cholera, epidemic termor (avian encephelomyelitis), coryza, mycoplasmosis (MG) etc.)
14.Management (cage, deep litter, free range, slatted floor etc.).
15.Treatment(s) given - (how given - in feed, in water direct by injection etc.)
16.Any other information.

​​Submission of Specimens

​After consultation with your private veterinary practitioner, samples should be delivered or sent via a suitable courier or delivered to the laboratory​.

Please contact the laboratory by telephone (03) 6777 2111 or email specimenreception@nre.tas.gov.au for advice regarding transport of samples to the laboratory. 


Animal Health Laboratory - Specimen Reception

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