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Ear Cytology is the Standard of Care


Clients often seek treatment for their pet's ear infections because the symptoms of their discomfort are obvious. Ear infections are painful and tortuously irritating. What clients may not know is that under or untreated ear infections can cause ear drum perforation, permanent damage to the ear canal (stenosis) and deafness.


Otic (ear) medications prescribed to treat ear infections contain combinations of specific antibiotics, antifungals and steroids to address a particular population of organisms in the ear. These organisms must be identified with cytology in order for the Veterinarian to select the appropriate balance of medications.


The purpose of ear cytology is to identify bacterial or fungal organisms (yeast) and to assess the infiltrating cell types or the presence of otic parasites. Collection of samples for cytology are performed on nearly all patients with ear disease.

An ear cytology consists of three steps: 1. sample collection, 2. sample analysis, 3. diagnosis.

Sample Collection: Discharge from the ear canal is collected on a swab and transferred to a glass slide. The slide is fixed with heat and stained to highlight organisms under a high-powered microscope.

Sample Analysis: A trained technician evaluates the sample and identifies the organisms present and their quantities.

Diagnosis: The Veterinarian qualifies the results and prescribes the appropriate treatment.


Her cytology results let her know whether to prescribe antifungal therapy, antibiotic therapy and potentially steroids. Often the organisms present warrant a combination of medications.

Not only does cytology assist in diagnosis but also provides necessary data to monitor response to therapy and prevent premature cessation of therapy. Generally in two weeks after the initial diagnosis of otitis, the Veterinarian will perform a repeat cytology to ensure the therapy has reduced or cleared the infection. It's important not to skip this step- some infections can seem much improved symptomatically but will recur after the first course of medication.


A cytology is a simple, fast, and non-invasive procedure that provides the vital information your Veterinarian needs to keep your pet's ears happy, healthy, and hearing!







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