There has been recent emphasis on developing better methods for detecting diseases of zoonotic and veterinary importance. This has been prompted by an increase in human disease agents detectable in environmental samples, the potential for bioterrorism, and the lowering of international trade barriers and expansion of personal travel, which are bringing previously considered exotic diseases to new geographical localities. To appreciate the complexities of developing detection methods and working with environmental samples, it is appropriate to review technologies currently in use, as well as those in development and presently limited to research laboratories. Discussion of parasite detection would not be possible without including methods for parasite sampling, concentration, and purification because it is often necessary to process large sample volumes prior to analysis, and no reliable methods are available for significantly amplifying parasites in vitro. Reviewing proven methods currently in use will provide a baseline for generating, accepting and implementing the more sensitive and specific methods under development today.