Bad idea
Bad idea

Veterinarians send a large amount of samples to diagnostic laboratories, but even with the availability of today’s modern packaging, samples are still being sent in containers that burst, break or otherwise leak.

Vickie Cooper, DVM, MS, PhD, Iowa State University, says, “It has never ceased to amaze me my veterinary colleagues’ ability to use innovative forms of taping of sample containers. I don’t care if you used every piece of duct tape available, containers will leak by the time they get to us. Gauze tape still leaks. Packing tape leaks. Bubble wrap leaks.”

The type of container matters as well.

Cooper says glass is not a good choice. And forcing a big hunk of tissue into a small-mouthed container also makes it difficult for the lab staff to remove it.

“Syringe cases actually work pretty good, but if they’ve incubated without an ice pack, by the time they get to us without an ice pack it’s kind of like a champagne cork,” she says.

For example, Cooper says the feces submitted in this container with tape (see photo) was at the bottom of a 15x15 Styrofoam cooler with some ice packs on top of it and the paperwork.

“A double bagged Whirl-Pak, an exam glove double-bagged in a Whirl-Pak, screw cap tube inside a Whirl-Pak, even a red-top tube inside a Whirl-Pak would have been better.”

It’s always good to use some absorbent material when you submit things to the diagnostic lab. Cooper says if you drop your formalin fixed tissues in a bag of kitty litter, just enough to absorb, it works really well as an absorptive product.

“We are in the season at the diagnostic lab of fetal-cicles and formalin-slushies,” she says. “The UPS truck is not heated in the back. Particularly those of you who might do some mixed animal practice or we’re getting into the time of year where people are taking uterine biopsies on mares, if those freeze before they get to us we have nothing to look at.”

Cooper encourages veterinarians to put 1-1.5 ml of ethanol per 9 ml of formalin in the winter time.

“In a pinch, Everclear works great and you can use it in the holiday punch later,” she jokes. “In a real pinch antifreeze will work, and it will keep it from freezing.”