Maedi visna virus and caprine arthritis encephalitis virus are closely related retroviruses that cause chronic inflammatory disease in small ruminants. The infections are characterised by insidious onset and slow progression. Diagnosis of infection is usually by serological testing. A variety of assays are available for this purpose, though the relative sensitivity and specificity of these assays has not been compared systematically. Here we review recent developments in laboratory diagnostic methods and their use in field diagnosis. The results suggest that a combination of ELISA and PCR might afford optimal detection of SRLV infection.