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User Guide

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New Quick Guide Factsheets

• Bovine Sample Guidelines

• Ovine Sample Guidelines

• Porcine Sample Guidelines

• ISU VDL User Guide

• ISU VDL submission forms



General Submission Guidelines

Specimen Submission

  • The VDL only accepts specimens referred by a licensed veterinarian.
  • The VDL does not accept submissions for disposal purposes only.
  • The appropriate submission form must accompany all specimens. Download VDL submission forms here.
  • See individual sections for complete instructions on packaging and shipping specimens.

Specimens should be sent to the following address:

Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Iowa State University
1600 South 16th St
Ames, IA 50011-1250
Download an address label pdf

Submission Forms

Submission forms are legal documents designed to be concise, yet complete. The information requested is needed to determine which laboratory tests are appropriate, to minimize your laboratory testing charges, and to produce your results as quickly as possible. Please be as specific as possible in your testing requests.

Download ISU VDL Submission Forms here.

  • Diagnostic Examination Submission Form - use for all submissions except serologic assays and requests for rabies examinations.
  • Serum Submission Form - use for routine serum assay requests. NOTE: Serum samples submitted to comply with EIA, Brucellosis , and PRV Disease Programs require special submission forms. Call 515-284-4140 to request EIA and Brucellosis Disease Program forms. Call 515-281-5155 to request PRV Forms.
  • Toxicology / Nutrition Forms
  • Rabies Examination Form - NOTE: If additional tests are desired, it is necessary to attach a completed Diagnostic Examination Submission form, as well.

These submission forms may be downloaded or ordered from the lab.

Requests for specialized testing will be managed on an individual basis in consultation between the referring veterinarian and the receiving diagnostician, and with the approval of the laboratory director. Please call the VDL at 515-294-1950 for information if you have questions concerning a particular submission.

Export Cases

Submitters should clearly indicate on the submission form that the testing is for export purposes.  Clearly indicate the specific test(s) needed, including the agent, test type, the number of passages needed if virus isolation is requested, and any special requirements imposed by the importing country.

See a Best Practice Export Guide here.

Guidelines for Packaging Specimens

The goals of packaging are to protect the specimens from temperature extremes (freezing and heating) and to protect persons who may come into contact with the package from exposure to infectious agents. For this reason, it is extremely important to prevent leakage of specimens. Neither commercial carriers nor the U.S. Postal Service will deliver containers that leak. Leak-proof specimen containers, abundant icepacks with chilled fresh specimens, and an insulated leak-proof transport container lined with a plastic bag are required.

Check with your local post office or commercial carrier for current requirements of the Department of Transportation for shipping biological diagnostic materials. These include specifications for approved package liners and exterior labels.

  1. Label all samples with the owner's name in waterproof marker. Please do not use stick-on labels as they often come off. Be sure the contents of the box, as well as the outside of the box, are identified.
  2. If multiple cases are submitted in one box, package each case separately to ensure that all samples are assigned to the proper case. This is especially important if the package includes multiple serology submissions.
  3. Place tubes in serum shipping boxes (i.e., brucellosis boxes) or similar boxes with dividers to separate tubes from one another. Do NOT package loose blood tubes in crumpled paper or styrofoam bits.
  4. Enclose sufficient ice packs to preserve the quality of fresh tissues. This should be at least a 2:1 ratio of ice to tissues. If available, insulated styrofoam-lined containers should be used.
  5. Plastic leak-proof jars can be used for formalin-fixed tissues. Whirl-Pak® bags are excellent for holding fresh tissues. Squeeze the air out of the bag, then fold the end over several times before bending over the tabs. Double-bagging tissues improves the biosecurity of the specimen.
  6. If inside packages have the potential to leak, line the box with sealed plastic bags to prevent leakage. Pack with absorbent materials to soak up spills should they occur. All specimens should be packed in a manner to avoid leakage or breakage, and to withstand the trauma of mailing. Shipping agencies may choose not to deliver leaking packages because of new Department of Transportation regulations on shipment of potentially biohazardous materials. In addition, a special permit may be required for interstate transportation of certain veterinary viruses within the United States. Practitioners are referred to published federal guidelines and regulations for details pertaining to packaging, labeling, and interstate shipping of infectious agents (Title 42 CFR Part 72; Title 49 CRF Part 173.386-388).

Delivery of Specimens

Choose a method of transportation that will ensure timely delivery to the laboratory. We receive U.S. Mail and UPS deliveries Monday through Friday. Other commercial carriers deliver as needed. Upon request, shipping cartons will be returned at the submitter's expense.

To be sure that samples receive prompt and proper care, schedule their arrival during standard business hours. Always consider the potential impact of holidays and weekends on shipping schedules before sending packages by commercial carriers. Personal delivery by the owner is often appropriate. Download a map and directions to the VDL for your convenience.

After-hours emergency service

After-hours emergency service is available on weeknights, weekends, and during University holidays by calling our on-call student at 515-290-1969 who can assist and also provide access to diagnostic pathologists and toxicologists.

After-hours Submissions

Samples delivered to the ISU VDL after-hours can now be placed directly in a refrigerator located inside the VDL submission door foyer.

After entering the foyer, follow the procedure below for leaving samples in the refrigerator for submission:

  • Paperwork MUST accompany the submission. If you do not have paperwork completed, please do so with the forms provided and place the submission form with the samples.
  • Place the sample into the refrigerator.
  • Log your submission on the log sheet provided. Please fill out as much information as possible, so we can contact the submitting veterinarian if there are questions.
  • If you have questions, concerns or submission does not fit in the refrigerator, please contact the after-hours on-call student at 515-290-1969. 

Testing Schedule

Our goal is to provide accurate results and timely service.  However, some diagnostic assays are not performed daily and/or testing schedules may change.  If your case involves testing animals for export, testing show animals, testing animals to be sold, and/or testing a large number of samples, please contact the VDL (515-294-1950) prior to submission to verify the availability and turnaround time of specific assays.  A phone call will often shorten turnaround time by providing us time to prepare for testing prior to receipt of samples.

Biosecurity and Disease Control at the VDL

Admission of unauthorized persons to the post mortem room is prohibited.  Diseased animals with a multitude of infectious agents are handled on a daily basis by the laboratory and we wish to avoid transmission of disease to your clients' animals.  Diagnosticians will discuss case histories outside the post mortem area.

Reporting Results

All submissions received by the VDL are assigned an accession number (case number).  The referring veterinarian will receive an email or FAX listing the species received, the owner, the VDL accession number, and diagnostician(s) in charge of the case.  

Results are reported only to the referring veterinarian.  When calling to inquire about a case, please be prepared to provide the VDL accession number.  If requested, preliminary and/or final results may be FAXed to the referring veterinarian.  The charge for FAX reporting of results is $1 per fax.  Final reports are mailed to the referring veterinarian. 

The VDL laboratory information management system (ISULIMS) provides Internet access to laboratory results.  A user name and password may be obtained that will allow access to reports and to a running total of charges for each case as soon as each test is completed and approved.  This allows continuous access to diagnostic results, which can be printed for your files or saved as an Excel spreadsheet.  To sign up for this service, please call the lab at 515-294-1950.

Reportable and Quarantinable Diseases Policy

Several infectious or contagious diseases are considered reportable and/or quarantinable under current regulations.  As required by law, these diseases are reported to the responsible state or federal agencies.  If you are uncertain about the reporting status of a disease, please contact the office of the State Veterinarian.  Notifiable diseases include any livestock or poultry disease designated as a ‘Foreign Animal Disease’ by the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Veterinary Services (USDA, APHIS, VS) and also the following:

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy Rabies
Brucellosis Scabies (cattle or sheep)
Chronic Wasting Disease Scrapie
Encephalomyelitis (horses) Swine dysentery
Equine infectious anemia Trichomoniasis
Johne's disease Tuberculosis
Pseudorabies (any species) Vesicular stomatitis
  West Nile Virus
Avian influenza Newcastle disease
Infectious encephalomyelitis Paramyxovirus infection
Infectious laryngotracheitis Psittacosis – ornithosis


Consultation and Interpretation of Results

The VDL faculty and staff are available for assistance with sample and test selection, as well as to offer tips on preservation and transportation of specimens.  The VDL can assist in interpretation of results, but the final diagnosis and plan of action are the responsibility of the referring veterinarian.  Additional animal health expertise and information is available through Veterinary Medicine Extension (515-294-3837) and faculty in Food Supply Veterinary Medicine (515-294-3837).  Refer to Contact Information for additional information. 


See ISU VDL current fee schedule here.

The VDL is authorized to charge fees to users of laboratory services.  User fees support the wide range of diagnostic services offered and supplement state funding.  All fees are billed to the submitting veterinarian.  Please consult the printed fee schedule, the VDL website, or call the VDL for current charges. 

The submission form should be used to indicate specific tests or procedures requested by the referring veterinarian.  If multiple tests are requested and/or the diagnostician is instructed to use their own judgment in requesting tests, then an indication of monetary limitations should be provided by the referring veterinarian.  Requests for specialized or non-routine testing will be assessed on an individual basis in consultation between the referring veterinarian and the receiving diagnostician, and with the approval of the laboratory director.

Invoices and Payment of Fees

Along with the final report, you will receive an invoice showing the case charges.  At the end of the month, a statement is sent from the University Accounts Receivable Office showing each invoice number and the charge.  You are encouraged to keep the invoice received from our laboratory for cross-reference on the billing from Accounts Receivable.  Payment is due on the 15th of the month.  A 1.0% finance charge is added after 30 days.

VISA, MasterCard and Discover credit cards are now accepted as another form of payment.  These transactions can be made in person or by telephone during normal business hours. 

Returning of Bodies and Cosmetic Posting

No animal carcasses body parts or ashes will be returned/released to veterinarians or animal owners.  Arrangement for pickup by authorized crematory service is an option.  No cosmetic necropsies will be performed on animals/bodies submitted to the laboratory for necropsy/testing.

Please call the Laboratory Director with questions and additional details relating to these policies.

Return of Biological Agents to Submitter

Rapid changes in livestock production and disease management coupled with the fast pace of technology in medicine and diagnostics, have resulted in increased requests for the return of biological agents.  The VDL will return isolates either to the submitting veterinarian or to a third party laboratory, e.g., for use in the manufacture of immunizing agents.  Because of issues of safety, efficacy, and ownership, the VDL is required by the University to obtain a signed release form prior to providing agents to the submitter.  Release forms can be faxed to you and the VDL will accept a faxed, signed copy in return.  There is a fee for providing isolates (see the VDL fee schedule here ). Following a request for a virus isolate, 7-10 days is required to propagate sufficient virus for transfer.

If you anticipate multiple requests, we can issue a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will cover all agents requested within a specified time period.  Then with each request you will receive a statement confirming transfer for the specific agent to which the transfer agreement will apply.  You can request it from the VDL.



Download the ISU VDL 
   User Guide