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Miller WH, Griffin CE, Campbell KL. Diagnostic methiods. In: Miller WH, Griffin CE, Campbell KL (eds). St Louis, Missouri: Elsevier; 2013

Ear cytology for the veterinary nurse

02 March 2020
8 mins read
Volume 11 · Issue 2
Table 1. Colour of otic discharge as a rough guide to the type of infection that may be present


Ear cytology is one of the most important investigative steps in all cases of otitis externa and lends itself well to input from the veterinary nurse. Stained and unstained samples are useful to assess the ear for the presence respectively of bacterial and yeast pathogens and ectoparasites. Sample collection can be easily achieved in the conscious dog and only a minimal amount of equipment is needed to take and interpret good samples.

While the colour, appearance and odour of an otic discharge can give strong clues as to the presence of and type of infection, visual inspection of the ear cannot replace cytological examination. It is impossible to decide on the need for further diagnostic tests or select appropriate therapy without undertaking cytology of the ear discharge. A cytology sample can be taken, processed and interpreted by any competent veterinary nurse. The results of cytology can then help in the selection of appropriate therapy by the attending veterinary surgeon.

Cytology is also important to assess the response to therapy and decide on the end point for medication. Therapy should not be discontinued until there is no evidence of infection or an inflammatory infiltrate on cytology. It is therefore important that cytology should be used to help in the initial management of disease and also to ensure that therapy has been successful and the infection has resolved.

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