Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Zoological Pathology Program

Based in Chicago, the ZPP is a unique collaboration between the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and a number of private and public entities. The program was started in 1993 with the goal of improving animal health by providing comprehensive diagnostic services to three Chicago institutions: Brookfield Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Shedd Aquarium.

Today the program serves these core institutions and a great many more, from federal wildlife agencies to zoos and conservation organizations on three continents. The program has earned an international reputation for excellence in diagnostic service, education of residents and veterinary students, contribution to worldwide conservation efforts, and original scholarship.

ZPP contributes to wildlife conservation and ecosystem health through the study of wildlife disease. Sound diagnostics, education and research directly promote the health and welfare of zoological collections and free-ranging wildlife. By investigating how disease impacts individual animals and populations,threats can be mitigated or better managed. Additionally, knowledge of wildlife diseases can have profound implications for understanding similar diseases in domestic animals and even humans.

Conservation of species and ecosystems requires a multifaceted collaborative approach, and ZPP has numerous national and international collaborators. ZPP faculty have also taught in international training courses to improve local capacity for on-site disease monitoring.

Moreover, ZPP serves as an interface and link between zoological institutions, wildlife parks, veterinary and human medical fields, and the private sector.

News Zoological Pathology Program News

[swimming dolphin]

Researchers Link Dolphin Deaths to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

May 20, 2015 / Research News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Dolphins found stranded on Gulf of Mexico beaches following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill were much more likely to have severe lung and adrenal gland damage “consistent with petroleum product exposure” than dolphins stranded elsewhere and prior to the spill, researchers report. One in five dolphins from the spill zone also...


Team Studies Immune Response of Asian Elephants Infected with a Human Disease

Jul 16, 2014 / Research News

Findings suggest a faster and more reliable way to diagnose TB in captive elephants Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism that causes tuberculosis in humans, also afflicts Asian (and occasionally other) elephants. Diagnosing and treating elephants with TB is a challenge, however, as little is known about how their immune systems respond to the infection. A new...

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  • Zoo Path Faculty

  • Diagnostic Services and Submission Form

    The ZPP is a full-service diagnostic pathology laboratory, specializing in zoo, exotic and wildlife diseases. ZPP provides gross necropsy, full histopathology (including special stains and immunohistochemistry), electron microscopy and cytology services to our clients.

    As a unit of the University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, ZPP is fully accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. Diagnostic pathology is provided on a contract-supported basis to zoos, aquaria, wildlife agencies and other partner institutions.

    A recent addition and growing component of the program’s service is its Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, which offers a variety of PCR-based assays available on a fee-for-service basis.

    PCR based assays often provide greater sensitivity than traditional microbiological techniques and can be utilized for testing a variety of samples, including fixed tissues. Because PCR assays test for the presence of pathogen nucleic acids (DNA or RNA), the same assay, once validated, can be used in a wide variety of species. Assay development is geared towards our clientele’s needs and new tests are constantly being developed.

    Information on currently offered ZPP-MDL tests, submission guidelines and fees can be found on our submission form. You can also directly contact the laboratory at

  • Scholarship and Research

    Advancing the field of zoological and wildlife pathology through research is a priority for ZPP. ZPP research interests are wide ranging and the program has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals.  ZPP faculty are scientific advisors to and experts for a variety of national and international conservation organizations, and contribute to the field of veterinary pathology through service to the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.

    Examples of Ongoing ZPP Research Projects:

    • Atoxoplasma infections in passerines
    • Nanniziiopsiaceae fungal infections in chelonians
    • Urogenital tumors in free-ranging California sea lions
    • Risk factors for stress & gastritis in cheetahs
    • Tuberculosis diagnostics for elephants
    • Heart disease in great apes

    ZPP residents also contribute to original scholarship through their involvement in the MS program.  Selected recent resident publications:

    • Delaney MA, Terio KA, Colegrove KM, Briggs MB, Kinsel MJ. Occlusive fungal tracheitis in 4 captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Vet Pathol 50(1): 172-6, 2013.
    • Kagan RA, Kinsel M, Gloor K, Mylniczenko ND, Langan JN, Farina LL, Terio KA. Morphologic evidence suggestive of hypertension in Western gray kangaroos (Macropus fulginosus). Veterinary Pathology. 46: 977-984, 2009.
    • Landolfi J., Terio K.A. Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Fishing Cats (Prionailurus viverrinus): Pathology and Expression of Cyclooxygenase-1, -2, and p53. Veterinary Pathology. 43:674-681, 2006.
  • Training Programs

    Residency Program

    ZPP offers a three-year residency training program in anatomic pathology. This program provides the training and experience to prepare residents for careers in zoo, wildlife, avian and or aquatic animal pathology. Residents will be eligible for the anatomic pathology certification examination of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) and for a master’s degree upon successful completion of the program.

    This training program provides exposure to an extraordinary array of species from zoological institutions, local and national wildlife agencies as well as training in domestic animal pathology. Ph.D. training may be pursued after the completion of the three-year residency.

    Residents spend the bulk of the first year studying domestic animal pathology in the University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Department of Pathobiology in Urbana. Residents then rotate to the Chicago area for the final two years to study mostly non-domestic animal pathology. Graduates of the program work in a variety of settings including academia, zoological institutions, private diagnostic laboratories and government agencies.

    Position announcements are typically posted in late summer on the ACVP website for positions starting on or about August 1 of the following year. ZPP residency program inquiries can be directed to Dr. Karen Terio at

    Please note the ZPP residency application process is separate from the application process for the anatomic pathology residency offered by the Department of Pathobiology.

    Applicants wishing to apply to both programs must submit two separate applications.

    Externships for Veterinary Students

    Three- to six-week externships are offered for third- and fourth-year veterinary students interested in gaining exposure to all aspects of zoological pathology. Externs conduct gross necropsies and microscopic evaluation of diagnostic cases in conjunction with residents and staff pathologists. Background reading and research for diagnostic cases is expected of externs as is participation in weekly gross and histopathology seminars. Special projects arising from case materials may also be pursued.

    Daily schedules are determined by the current day’s caseload. Whenever possible, participation in necropsies is the priority. Teaching sets of classic non-domestic animal gross and histologic lesions are available for study as are copies of important published papers and literature. The ZPP has a full library of reference texts and archives of case material that are available for individual study if interest and time permit.

    To apply, students are asked to send a copy of their CV, letter of interest, requested externship dates, and names of three references (letters are not necessary) to Dr. Karen Terio at

    The externship program is highly competitive; available slots are often filled as far as one year in advance.

    Externship positions are not open to graduate veterinarians. Housing is not provided, although there are several low-cost options in the area.