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What is Cytology?

Cytology is an examination of a sample using a microscope. The sample is first processed so that certain features are easier to see under the microscope. In veterinary medicine, it is most frequently used to look at material collected from an animal's ears or skin to try to determine what might be causing symptoms.

Scientist using microscope

Common Cytology Findings


Yeast and Fungi


White Blood Cells

Red Blood Cells

Skin Cells

What do the cytology values mean?

The technician looks at the sample under a microscope to see if there are any cells, microbes, parasites, or bugs present. If they see any of these things, they count how many they see and report the number. Because they are looking at a magnified image, they cannot see the entire slide. So they count what they see in several areas and report a range. The magnification used determines how large the area is that they see. That is why the range includes either /LPF (low powered field) or /HPF (high powered field) after it.

What does a cytology report for a healthy animal look like?

Animal ears and skin are not sterile, so it is normal to see some spherical (cocci) shaped bacteria and yeast in a sample. Some skin cells are also generally present in samples. Mites and other parasites should never be seen. Rod shaped bacteria and blood cells should not been seen either. 

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