Equine Pathology

The Pathology Unit of the IEC provides a round the clock service to horse owners and veterinary surgeons.

Each year the IEC typically undertakes approximately 600 post mortem examinations of which c. 70% are carried out free of charge to the horse owner. This free service (for foetuses and foals under two weeks of age) is possible because of the financial support received by the IEC each year from the Irish Foal Levy. The vast majority of the IEC’s annual Foal Levy grant is allocated to the Pathology Unit to facilitate this service.

Surveillance: The Pathology Unit provides post mortem, histopathological and other examinations required to determine immediate cause of death, to monitor patterns in disease incidence and to provide surveillance for the detection of exotic diseases. The detailed reports which it provides are often a key element of insurance or litigation claims.

Analysis of tracheal and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples assist in the investigation and diagnosis of horses with respiratory tract disease. A technique where bronchoalveolar lavage can be performed on a routine basis in practice was developed by the Head of the Unit, Dr. Ursula Fogarty. The technique is now widely used throughout the world.

Fertility Assessment: A significant facet of the work carried out by the Pathology Unit for the benefit of breeders is the histopathological examination of uterine tissue, placental membranes and aborted foetal material to assist in the assessment of mare fertility and foal health. It also collaborates closely with Weatherbys Ireland in the provision of its haemolytic foal screening service.
Research: The Pathology Unit participates in research and education programmes on a national and international stage including the development of new diagnostic techniques in the areas of reproduction and foal disease. The Unit also plays a role in the investigation and registration of pharmaceutical products. Non-equine diagnostic work is primarily carried out for the Department of Agriculture.

Post Mortem Examination

Carcasses or specimens for gross post-mortem examination can be accepted at the centre 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Carcass or specimen drop-off out of hours can be arranged by calling the IEC during office hours and at weekends using the on-call service. The on-call Pathology contact number is 087-995 9195.

Initial gross post mortem findings are relayed to the referring veterinary surgeon on completion of the gross post mortem within 24 – 48 hours of receipt of the case. On completion of additional testing as required, the written report is issued. This can take several weeks depending on the circumstances of the case and the testing required.

Please note that the final written report is sent solely to the referring veterinary surgeon.
When submitting a carcass / specimen for post mortem examination please ensure to supply the following information:


Sampling information:
1)   Samples for biopsy examination should be placed in 10% buffered formalin immediately after collection.
2)   Please ensure the request form has the following information:

3)  Turnaround time is usually within 10 days or sooner if specifically requested. Additional information or an opinion on the sample is always available on request. Sample bottles and formalin can be supplied on request.