General Instructions

Toxins suspected of being related to animal deaths or illnesses are often linked to farm or industrial chemicals; metals or metalloids; and natural toxins, such as toxic plants and aflatoxins. 

Toxicology problems related to farm animals are usually related to the misuse or mismanagement of farm chemicals or to consumption of plant materials, feed or grain that contain toxins. Storage sites for agricultural chemicals, trash dumps or burn sites, and improper placement or handling of farm chemicals are sources of potential toxins. Feed manufacturing errors can result in intoxications by excessive amounts of approved feed additives.

Small or companion animals can also be poisoned by ingesting toxic plants, but poisonings with insecticides, rodenticides, and antifreeze are most common. Poisoning of wild animals with baits laced with insecticide is also encountered.

If poisoning is suspected in animals that are still alive, submit feed representative of that most recently consumed, and any suspect chemical, bait or plants found in the animal’s environment. If poisoning from ingestion of pet food is suspected, submit pet food in the original package and from the bowl of food most recently consumed. Follow a similar procedure for other animal feeds. If the animal vomits, submit the vomitus for analysis.

For animals that have died, submit the entire animal to the laboratory for necropsy. If necropsy is performed at the veterinary practice, submit 50 gram (size of a chicken egg or larger) samples of liver and kidney, and the stomach contents. Also submit feed (1 to 2 pounds or 1 quart) representative of that most recently consumed, and any suspect chemical, baits or plants found in the animal’s environment.  Package each sample separately and label. Double bag each sample for shipment to the laboratory. Submit a full set of tissues for histopathology (see Histopathology).

For plant identification submit the entire plant including flowers, seed pod and roots. Submit fresh specimens wrapped in paper, not plastic, and refrigerated.

For examination of hay for blister beetles, submit two or more slices from a bale, or enough loose hay to fill a 13-gallon garbage bag.


Unfortunately, there is not a single test or test panel to easily identify a wide variety of toxins. Please review the list of available tests and required samples to select the most appropriate tests and submit the correct samples. If no tests are selected on the submission form, tests will be performed at the discretion of the case coordinator.