McMaster Slide Test: Starting Out in DIY Animal Parasite Load Testing

McMaster Slide Test: Starting Out in DIY Animal Parasite Load Testing

The restrictions imposed during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic forced keepers of pet, domestic and rescued animals to carry out their own parasite load monitoring using the McMaster Slide Faecal Egg Count (FEC) test.

With veterinary practices and diagnostics mostly back to normal, many keepers continue to easily and cost effectively monitor their own animals. Here’s how to get started with only the most essential of veterinary laboratory equipment and an easy to follow McMaster Slide Counting Method.

Get Started In DIY Faecal Egg Monitoring

The McMaster Slide method of estimating the parasite load of an animal is made up of just four easy to understand and perform steps.

First, separate the worm eggs from a sample of the animal’s faeces. Second, find the eggs (oocytes) using a microscope and, third, count them. Finally, knowing both the weight of faeces sampled and the number of worm eggs counted, calculate the animal’s likely level of worm infection.

Egg Counting: What You Need – Flotation Solutions

Not as obvious as the microscope and McMaster counting slide, the Flotation Solutions are the key to the success of egg counting and identification. Flotation solutions are made to a standard or customer specified, specific gravity (SG) more usually known as density.

The fluid density is chosen such that faecal matter and other debris is more dense than the solution and so sinks. But the parasite eggs are less dense, and so float to the top making finding, counting and identifying them straightforward with the right equipment.

Egg Counting: What You Need – The Microscope

Essential to starting out on faecal egg monitoring is a microscope capable of ranging from 40-times (x40) to 100-times (x100) magnification. The Vetlab Premiere Range of microscopes are economical, easy to use and popular with diagnostic and teaching laboratories.

The microscope will be used to find and count the number of parasite eggs present in a small sample of animal faeces. With a bit of practice it’ll become straightforward not only to estimate the number of eggs, but even identify the likely species of worm causing infection.

Egg Counting: What You Need – The McMaster Counting Slide

The McMaster Counting Slide is the simple yet brilliantly adapted microscope slide used and relied upon by animal health practitioners since 1939. Made in glass or tough acrylic plastic, the slide is basically the carrier for a square cavity of known volume – usually 0.15ml.

After a sample of faeces, treated with a specific ‘flotation solution’ is placed in the McMaster Slide cavity and covered with a second, thinner slide. Parallel lines etched into this ‘cover slide’ create five equal divisions. Viewed with the microscope, the floating parasite eggs – just under the cover slip – can be counted and identified within each division.

Egg Counting: What You Need – The Simple Final Calculation

With a little practice, counting the number of parasite eggs seen within the grid lines of the McMaster Slide becomes a quick and easy routine.
As long as the Vetlab McMaster Slide Counting Method has been followed precisely, all that remains is to multiply the counted number of parasite eggs by 25 to get the number of eggs per gram (e.p.g.) of animal faeces.
For more information on the Vetlab McMaster Slide Count Method, veterinary laboratory equipment, ready-made or customised flotation solutions, search or click Vetlab F.E.C  Kits & Equipment


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Fantastic Beasts On The EDGE – Wookie Or Wapiti, Gecko Or Gruffalo?

Fantastic Beasts On The EDGE – Wookie Or Wapiti, Gecko Or Gruffalo?

A recent survey showed that people knew more about animals that have never existed – except in films, fables and stories – than they do about real animals on the EDGE of extinction.

Begun in 2007, Zoological Society London’s EDGE programme aims to raise the public’s awareness and concern for the Earth’s Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates – including corals, whose existence is, quite literally, on the EDGE.

Concerned that the public had little awareness of the world’s most endangered wildlife species, the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) EDGE programme put together a combined list of factual animals from nature, and fantastical beasts from TV, film and literature. 1000 people were then invited to view the list and tick off the animals they recognised, both real and imaginary.

Beasts of lore and legend

Fictional animals, including Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo (78%), Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (65%) and Hans Solo’s ‘Starwars’ side-kick, The Wookie (58%) all scored highly. Beasts of lore and legend, the Sasquatch (62%) and Unicorn (88%) also reached high double figures.

Among the least recognised animals were some of the world’s real yet most rare animals. The few hundred remaining hirola antelope (1%), the shoebill stork of central Africa (12%) and the beautiful Australian banded anteater, the numbat (1%) were among those almost unknown among those surveyed.

Globally Endangered mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates 

Begun in 2007, ZSL’s EDGE programme aims to raise the public’s awareness and concern for the Earth’s Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates – including corals, whose existence is, quite literally, on the EDGE.

Alarmingly, EDGE reports 32% of amphibian species, 12% of all bird species and 23% of mammals as being under threat of imminent extinction. Worse, two-thirds of mammal species on the EDGE currently benefit from little or no directed conservation effort.

Topping the list of mammals on the EDGE is Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi), proving that even celebrity is no guarantee of survival. Number 1 on the EDGE bird’s list is the giant ibis with only 200 remaining individuals. As for reptiles, this unwelcome title belongs to Archey’s frog. Almost indistinguishable from frogs that lived 150 million years ago, Archey’s is described as a “living fossil”.

Understanding where and why species come under threat

Championing the desperate plight of so many of the Earth’s strange and fascinating creatures, EDGE has not been without its successes. One of the least glamorous, but potentially most significant, has been the first ever identification and mapping of those areas of the world with the highest concentrations of EDGE species.

Published in open-access scientific journal PLOS-ONE, also celebrating its tenth anniversary, ‘Global Patterns of Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered Amphibians and Mammals’ will help conservationist understand where and why species come under threat, and to respond most effectively.

To find out more about our large range of veterinary products visit our website: or Telephone: 01798 874567

Britain’s Big Cats – Fact or Fiction Do They Have A Future?

Britain’s Big Cats – Fact or Fiction Do They Have A Future?

In the 5 years between 2010 and 2015, there have been 455 UK ‘big cat’ sightings reported from locations all the way from Cornwall to Cumbria. What kind of cat, no one’s really sure. But it’s generally considered likely to a lynx, panther, a puma or even a lion.

Loved by the press, the romance of each sighting gets a headline in the style of ‘The Beast of Bodmin’, ‘The Pershore Panther’, ‘The Hull Hell Cat’, ‘The Dartmoor Lynx’ and, as recently as August 2017, the ‘Wakefield Wildcat’. Norfolk tops the big cat league with 57 sightings followed by 28 in Devon and Cornwall – including five allegations of farm animals killed by big cats.

Theories include the abandonment of pets 

With so many reports, it seems plausible that at least some of them must be genuine; though how such animals arrived in their UK habitat and how they survive remains a bit of a mystery. Theories include the abandonment of pets that outgrow their welcome, deliberate releases and unintended escapes.

Some sightings, however, do have an explanation. In July 2016, a two-year-old Carpathian lynx called Flaviu chewed its way out of its wooden pen just hours after arriving from Port Lympne Zoo to roam free on Dartmoor for more than 3 weeks.

Big cats are likely to make a comeback to Britain’s wild places

Whatever they are and however many there might be, it seems increasingly likely that one species of big cat may be about to make a comeback to Britain’s wild places. The Lynx UK Trust, formed in 2014, aims to emulate the success of European reintroduction projects in selected regions of northern England and southern Scotland.

Hunted out of the UK around 700AD, lynx have been reintroduced in northern Germany, where an initial introduction of 14 animals in 2000 has grown to a population of up to 100.

Concerns exist around the impact of lynx on other wildlife

The proposed project is not without its critics. Concerns exist around the impact of lynx on other wildlife, farm livestock and interaction with domestic and feral cat populations. It is, however, unlikely that any lynx population would be large enough to constitute a disease risk to domestic cats. It’s more likely that domestic and feral cat diseases, including Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and the coronavirus causative of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), would pose a threat to the success of any attempt at lynx reintroduction.

Attempting to calm the fears of its detractors, The Lynx Trust UK has offered to provide safeguards such as disease biosecurity, livestock loss compensation, satellite tracking and even ‘guardian animals’. Apparently, for all of their acclaimed ‘top predator’ status, lynx are afraid of llamas.

To find out more about our large range of veterinary diagnostic test kits visit our website: or Telephone: 01798 874567

Making A Great Blood Smear Slide – Reviving a Lost Art

Making A Great Blood Smear Slide – Reviving a Lost Art

Blood smears used to be a regular veterinary laboratory practice. Despite the domination of automated haematological and cytological analysis, this basic skill still has a place in the modern vet lab.

Well-made blood smear slides are quick, cheap and informative. Making a quality smear begins with a fresh venous blood sample immediately and gently expressed into a veterinary blood tube containing EDTA, heparin, citrate or similar anticoagulant.

Why is cleaning the microscope slide essential? 

New, clean microscope slides are essential. Re-used slides have microscopic scratches where blood cells accumulate and residual detergent adversely affecting cell structure and distribution.

Placed one-third of the way along the microscope slide, a droplet 5 to10 microlitre is normally sufficient blood. Held at an angle of about 450 to the first slide, the short edge of a second is placed next to the droplet, and gently drawn back to touch it such that blood spreads along the line of contact between the two slides.

Gently and smoothly pushing the angled slide away from the droplet draws the blood along the first slide, finishing with the angled slide lifted quickly up and away from the now gradually thinning and thumbnail-shaped smear.

How to ensure your blood smear technique is successful

Left to air-dry and fixed with a quick dip into 100% alcohol, the appearance of a ‘feathered edge’, where blood cells are evenly distributed and only one cell thick, will prove the success of your blood smear technique.

Depending on the purpose of the preparation, appropriate staining regimes could now be undertaken to reveal cell morphologies, parasite invasions or disease-related irregularities.

Microscopy, using low power objectives (4X – 10X), will help assess the quality of the preparation and show the best areas for examination with higher power (20X – 40X) objectives. Placing a dry microscope coverslip over the smear will often help to improve visual clarity.

Higher magnification

Where higher magnification is needed, oil immersion objectives (100X) can be used without the need for a mounting medium or coverslip. Oil immersion lenses need careful cleaning, which is why a veterinary microscope like the Vetlab Premiere 250, capable of 1600X magnification – even without oil, is such a desirable instrument.

A simple blood smear slide will often provide sufficient information for diagnostic interpretation, or at least direct the busy veterinary laboratory scientist quickly and cheaply toward the most appropriate course of further analysis.

What Makes A Great Veterinary Diagnostic Lab

What Makes A Great Veterinary Diagnostic Lab

Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories are key contributors to the quality of care given by veterinary practices and surgeries. What should you look for in choosing the vet lab to analyse your samples?

Range of Services

A complete diagnostic lab will offer a spectrum of diagnostic services, including haematology, biochemistry, microbiology, parasitology and post-mortem pathology. There will be an overlap in the range of vet laboratory equipment necessary for these services; such as with centrifuges, and microscopes, but there’ll also be a requirement for some specialist apparatus.
Check your vet laboratory offers the range of services you need and that they can deliver your results in the time-frame that meets your needs.


Diagnostic reports need to clear, concise, accurate and unambiguous. The results of diagnostic testing will be a critical piece of evidence in the design of a treatment or procedure. If a report can’t be understood on first reading, then time will be lost and an animal’s welfare may be put at risk.

Ask to see a few sample reports and check that what they appear to say is what they mean to say.


A quality diagnostic service ought to be able to prove its competence with certificates of accreditation. ISO 17025 is the key quality standard for testing and diagnostic laboratories. The standard assures clients of a testing facility’s management, proficiency, competence, methodology and calibration.

Look for evidence of accreditation on your lab’s paperwork and website. If you’re not sure, contact UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service or your professional veterinary organisation.

Sample Submission and Reception

However good a testing laboratory might, ultimately it’s only as good as the quality of the samples submitted for testing. If you’re sending samples to a veterinary laboratory, make sure you’re familiar with their sample reception and handling protocols.

Choose the correct blood tubes or pathology containers for your samples. Make sure they contain the appropriate preservatives or meet the necessary storage and transport requirements. Track your samples so you can prove continuity, and make sure your sample will arrive at the lab during its normal opening hours.

EBVM Boosts Animal Health In Everyday Consultations

EBVM Boosts Animal Health In Everyday Consultations

Evidence Based Practice (EBP) is driving measurably improved patient outcomes in human medicine and surgery. Evidence Based Veterinary Medicine (EBVM) is having a parallel impact on diagnosis and treatment in both large animal and pet animal veterinary practices.

EBVM is all about making the best decisions and learning from them for the future. Evidence-based decisions draw on the practitioner’s clinical expertise, the most relevant academic sources and research, the individual animal’s history and on the values and expectations of the animal’s owner.

Evidence will be gained from the ailing animal and from careful questioning of the animal’s owner

It’s easy to see how this approach works when a vet is presented with a sick or injured patient requiring immediate attention. Evidence will be gained from the ailing animal and from careful questioning of the animal’s owner or keeper. Other resources and expertise can be gathered and combined with the vet’s own knowledge and skill to design the most appropriate course of action leading to a satisfactory outcome for all involved.

For most vets, maintaining and monitoring the health of well animals, rather than responding to emergency situations, makes up the greater portion of their daily round. Surveys by the Centre for Evidence Based Veterinary Medicine and Nottingham University showed that routine healthcare consultations account for one in three appointments in small-animal practices.

EBVM principles could have crucial benefits

The reason for healthy animals visiting a veterinary surgery include vaccination, parasite prevention, keeping an animal from coming into season (oestrus) or registering a new client animal – often a puppy or kitten. The CEVM found that applying EBVM principles to these everyday consultations could have crucial benefits to the continuing health and well-being of animal patients.

Non-emergency meetings provide a more relaxed and stress-free opportunity for veterinary professionals to gather evidence of an owner’s personal observations, values and expectations. It’s also an opening for the vet to discuss the range of expertise, laboratory resources and veterinary diagnostic tests available while the animal is well, and if the worst should happen.

An evidence-based approach requires a healthy, honest relationship between vets and pet owners. Reassuring owners that their vet has the support of a modern, well supplied and equipped veterinary laboratory will help build the bond of trust in which a pet owner or animal keeper is more likely to invest their own, critically important evidence.

Raccoon Dogs: Unusual Pet Or Uncontrollable Pest?

Raccoon Dogs: Unusual Pet Or Uncontrollable Pest?

Cute and appealing they may look. But what are the consequences of keeping unsuitable pets when they become too much for a home to handle?

Perhaps the UK’s most notorious species invasion is the ferret-like North American mink. This voracious hunter is devastating wildlife in all regions of the UK except the furthest reaches of northern Scotland, Eastern England and North West Wales.

The UK’s next uninvited animal guest looks set to be the East Asian raccoon dog. Named from facial markings that resemble the bandit mask of the American raccoon, this native of South East Russia, China, Mongolia, Korea and Vietnam is more properly defined as a kind of wild dog.

Finland struggles to evict an estimated 250,000 unwelcome animals

Also known as the mangut or tanuki, raccoon dogs – scientific name Nyctereutes procyonoides, have already spread through Europe as far as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia where Finland struggles to evict an estimated 250,000 unwelcome animals.

Unchecked by natural predators such as wolves and the European lynx, raccoon dogs will eat practically anything that moves; devastating small mammal populations, ground-nesting birds and amphibians. Fast breeders, they quickly out-compete native foxes and badgers for space and habitat.

They are cute and appealing but they are not pets

Already present in the UK as household pets, the bandit-faced critter’s notoriety is set to increase – the RSPCA already picking up runaways from locations as far apart as North Wales and Dartford in Kent. More escapes and abandonment is feared as owners discover just how bad a pet a raccoon dog really is. Quoting an RSPCA senior scientific officer: “They are cute and appealing but they are not pets, they are wild animals. They need a lot of space and a very specialised diet and they are also smelly.”

Potential carriers of rabies, raccoon dogs are not yet banned under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act but abandoning, releasing or letting one escape risks prosecution under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Controlling unwelcome animal invaders

Controlling unwelcome animal invaders, like the raccoon dog, is even harder when the culprit is microscopic but no less of a threat – not only to Britain’s wildlife, but to our commercial and domestic animal welfare and to human health. Many tick and insect-borne diseases, including leishmaniasis and anaplasmosis can spread to animals and humans from pets infected while travelling abroad with their owners.

The EEC and UK Pet Passport schemes help to ensure that animals travelling across international borders are healthy and disease free. But spotting these microscopic invaders back home, and protecting the health of people and pets, depends on responsible owners building a strong relationship with their vets and veterinary laboratory where diagnostic testing can help oust an unwelcome guest before it becomes an uncontrollable invasion.

EBVM: Five Good Questions For One Good Answer

EBVM: Five Good Questions For One Good Answer

Even before it had a name, Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine was nothing new to vets looking for the best outcome for their patients and clients. EBVM is simply the formalisation of a vet’s everyday decision making.

One example of what happens in the absence of evidence-based principles is the prescribing of antibiotics to treat the symptoms of cold and flu; a practice made even harder to break by the demands of the patient that the doctor ‘do something’. With evidence-based medicine, every action – or withholding of action, might be summed up in five key-stage questions:

Observation: ‘What’s up?’ While there is no substitute for experience, there’s also no substitute for diligence. Careful questioning of the client, practical experience in knowing what to look for – in the surgery and under the veterinary microscope, together with veterinary diagnostic testing, will build up a picture of what’s really up.

Vets will take into account the welfare of the animal

Intention: ‘What good?’ This is where clinician and client focus what they want to achieve. Clients will have in their minds what the vet should do for their animal – and sometimes how it should be done. Vets will take into account the welfare of the animal before, during and after any intervention prior to embarking on a course of action.

Choosing the treatment

Information: ‘Says who?’ More information or guidance is often needed, but who to trust? Choosing the treatment most likely to match the desired outcome means critically evaluating the source and content of scientific, statistical and clinical data, trials or advice. Information must be soundly based on tested and proven fact rather than unquestioned tradition or something ‘heard on the grapevine… somewhere.’

Action: ‘What to do?’ In Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine, answering this question comes surprisingly far down the list bringing with it the assurance of a course of action most likely to achieve the intended outcome.

Reflection: ‘So what?’ This is where your experience becomes part of the body of evidence. It might be an experience that guides only your future actions, those of your immediate colleagues or has an impact on the wider veterinary profession.

The precise interpretation of Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine will, no doubt, be subject to revision under its own rules of assessment and application. Vets will require more and more information, not less. Vets will need and expect the level of convenience, speed and reliability from their veterinary data systems they already get from their veterinary laboratory diagnostics.

Going Equipped Gets The Best Veterinary Samples

Going Equipped Gets The Best Veterinary Samples

Collecting samples, preserving them and getting them back to the veterinary lab in prime condition is vital to accurate and reliable diagnosis. Fortunately, this crucial part of a field vet’s work has never been so well resourced.

Swabs – standard and mini-tip are probably the simplest and cheapest means of collecting samples for veterinary testing. Even so, it’s essential to use the right swab for the job. Plain Swabs allow the collection of a wide range of samples while Charcoal Swabs and Amies Transport Media Swabs help stabilise and preserve some types of sample. Fortunately, the affordability of even the more specialised and less frequently used swabs means that a stock of the full range can be included in every vet’s field kit.

Collecting and preserving samples

Vets in the field often need to collect and preserve blood samples for transport back to the lab. Choosing the right container for a critical blood sample is essential to maintaining the quality of the sample, and the reliability of subsequent diagnostics. Anticoagulant tubes ensure that blood samples arrive at the lab clot free, while preservative treated tubes inhibit sample degradation. At the practical level, each type of tube is clearly colour coded with plenty of label space for recording important details.

Less invasive is the collection of surface material from an animals fur or skin. A sterile scalpel blade and 70% alcohol solution is all that’s needed for collection of dandruffs, peripheral lesion scrapings or hairs with roots. Spread directly onto the pre-prepared dermatophyte culture medium, Vetlabs’ Mykodermoassay kit quickly and reliably diagnoses any dermatophytosis caused by ringworm.

Preservation often requires a potentially hazardous fixative 

Sadly, a vet in the field often needs to collect internal samples from an animal that has died from its illness. Here it’s vital that organs or other tissues samples are safely and securely recovered, preserved and transported for diagnostic testing. Preservation often requires a potentially hazardous fixative such as Buffered Formalin. Fortunately, tough and durable Pre-filled Histology Pots, with wide openings and secure closures, now provide a safe and secure solution to the problem.

Advances in Veterinary Diagnostics mean that many samples can now be reliably tested on site rather than taken back to the lab, and many more new tests are sure to appear. However, for as long as laboratory testing is needed, whether on swabs, in plain universal containers, blood tubes or in specialist transport media, the importance of convenient and secure sample collection and transport will be paramount a long time to come.

Healthy Outlook for Animal Health Spending

Healthy Outlook for Animal Health Spending

Consumer Spending on Animal Health Increases Globally

Consumer spending on animal health and animal health products worldwide is set to exceed £23 billion before the end of the decade. Market experts forecast a global year on year growth of around 8% in spending on veterinary medicines, veterinary diagnostics and animal health care over the next four years.

Increasing desire for companion animals in the home

This boom in demand for veterinary services and veterinary products reflects a global increase in population and per-capita income as developing countries aspire to achieve western diets and lifestyles. Higher demand for meat and milk products, accompanied by a rising desire for companion animals in the home, is pushing nations such as China and India into the league of big spenders on veterinary products and services.

In developed countries, increased spending on commercial animal vet services is driven by growing concern for animal welfare backed up by statutory veterinary testing, recording and immunisation. Heightened appreciation of the psychological and therapeutic advantages of pet ownership, and the trend toward regarding pets as family members, has driven up spending on companion animal welfare.

So much potential for spending on veterinary treatments

Across the UK, spending on veterinary medicines alone exceeded £617 million in 2015 – a growth of 60% in just 10 years, with companion animals accounting for 55% of the market last year. With so much potential for spending on veterinary treatments and interventions, the importance of achieving savings through timely and accurate veterinary diagnostics is paramount for veterinary practitioners and pet owners alike.

Infections that can cross the animal-human frontier

And it’s not just saving money on a treatment that makes time efficient and cost effective veterinary diagnostics more important than ever before. The natural consequence of more and more commercial and companion animals is more and closer contact between animals and people. What scientists call ‘zoonotic diseases’ – infections that can cross the animal-human frontier, may exploit this close contact to evolve increased resistance – even immunity to traditional pharmacological interventions. Left undetected and untreated, infectious agents – including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasitic organisms pose a risk of becoming persistent in host animals and transmissible to human populations either by contact with infected animals or the consumption of infected animal products.

This is a time of growing necessity as well as growing willingness for governments, organisations and individuals to invest in animal health and welfare, and for veterinary professionals and veterinary laboratories to take a lead in the detection and diagnosis of zoonotic infections in commercial and companion animals.