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Black-footed Cat Skin Biopsy Protocol


The single most important factor in taking a skin biopsy sample is the proper cleaning of the sample site.  The tissue must be sterile.  Bacteria or fungi kill the cultures.   

Materials Needed

  • straight-edge razors
  • 70% alcohol
  • clean gauze
  • sterile forceps and scalpel
  • biopsy vials (provided by CRES – see below)
  • permanent marker


    • Moisten the biopsy area with 70% alcohol (no antiseptic such as mercurochrome or ioprep can be used).
    • Use the straight-edge razor blade to shave the area closely so that all hair is removed from the skin.
    • Use gauze drenched in 70% alcohol to clean the shaved spot very, very thoroughly.  Continue cleaning with fresh gauze until no more dirt comes off on the gauze.  Finish cleaning by drenching the area again with the alcohol.
    • Get the biopsy vial ready and loosen the cap.  Be sure that the media is clear and pink.  If it is cloudy or yellow, it is contaminated and cannot be used.  Select another biopsy vial.
    • Using the sterile forceps and scalpel, grasp a piece of skin from the center of the shaved area and cut off a full thickness of dermis about the size of a small bean or pea. Place the biopsy immediately into the biopsy vial and close cap tightly.
    • Using a permanent marker, label the biopsy vial with the species name, gender, date, animal identification number (ISIS# and/or house ID) and biopsy location.
    • The sample is now ready to ship at room temperature.  Exception:  if the sample is collected on a Friday, the sample should not be shipped until the following Monday.  Please refrigerate the skin biopsy (2-8°C) over the weekend.  DO NOT FREEZE.  DO NOT SHIP FROZEN OR WITH ICE PACKS.
    • Before sampling a second animal, sterilize the forceps in alcohol.  Use a new straight-edge blade and scalpel.  This will prevent cross contamination between samples.
    • Ship samples by way of Federal Express overnight to: Marlys Houck, CRES, 15600 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, CA  92027-7000.  Please call the lab at (760) 747-8702 x 5716 or 5725 to provide us with the FedEx tracking number and the expected arrival date of the package.  If needed, you may use our billing number:  3024-9498-3


If there are any questions regarding this protocol or if you need to request fresh biopsy vials, please call: Marlys Houck, Associate Researcher Cytogenetics (760) 291-5454 or the Genetics office (760) 747-8702 x 5716 or 5725.

581705 White Oak Road
Yulee, FL 32097 USA

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