Use of cytology for diagnosis in veterinary dermatology

01 September 2011
11 mins read
Volume 2 · Issue 7


Skin complaints can cause intense pruritus and discomfort for the patient and are one of the most common reasons for presentation of an animal at the veterinary clinic. Cytology (the microscopic examination of cells and their structure) is a vital tool for the diagnosis of such cases. The information cytological evaluation reveals about cells and organisms and their relationships allows the veterinarian to make clinical decisions. Repeat cytology can monitor the response to therapy.

The role of the veterinary nurse may include collecting and processing samples for cytological evaluation, however, veterinary nurses can expand on these skills and learn how easy and rewarding it is to perform basic cytology. Utilizing the veterinary nurse to perform in house cytology allows the veterinarian more time to deal with prolonged history taking, thorough clinical examination of the animal and discussion with the owners.

In house cytology provides quick results for the client, improved patient care and also generates revenue for the practice. For the nurse it provides an opportunity for the building of expertise, interest and confidence, making them more valuable to the practice. Access to relevant courses and current text is an integral part of developing these ancillary skills. Comparing results with the lab and colleagues is another great way to learn.

In veterinary medicine the role of cytology as a diagnostic tool continues to increase. Cytology is a minimally invasive way to obtain a reliable tissue diagnosis (Rick and Cowell, 2008).

The purpose of cutaneous cytology performed in house by a nurse is to identify bacterial, fungal (yeast) or parasitic organisms as well as to identify and describe infiltrating cell types, neoplastic cells, or acantholytic cells. This information allows the veterinarian to assess the significance of such organisms and cell types and their relevance to therapy.

Collection of such samples may involve plucking hair, making tape preparations, preparing smears made from wound or otic swabs, impression smears made from direct contact with the tissue itself and shallow or deep skin scrapings. The techniques and materials needed for these will be outlined in this article. The methods for preparation of these samples for microscopic evaluation will also be covered.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting The Veterinary Nurse and reading some of our peer-reviewed content for veterinary professionals. To continue reading this article, please register today.