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How to perform canine vaginal cytology

Canine vaginal cytology is a diagnostic test that can help determine the stage of a dog's estrous cycle. It is particularly helpful for breeders who wish to optimize the timing of mating. Here's how you can perform a canine vaginal cytology:

  1. Prepare Your Materials: You'll need a clean microscope slide, a sterile cotton swab or plastic pipette, and a staining kit (like Diff-Quik). Also, a microscope is needed for the examination.

  2. Collect the Sample: Gently insert the cotton swab into the dog's vagina, twirling it against the vaginal wall to collect cells. Be careful to avoid causing discomfort or injury. If using a pipette, insert it into the vagina and then gently aspirate to collect cells and fluid.

  3. Transfer the Sample to a Slide: Roll the cotton swab onto the microscope slide in a smooth, even motion to evenly distribute the cells. If a pipette was used, place a drop of the aspirated fluid onto the slide.

  4. Dry the Slide: Allow the slide to air dry completely. This ensures that the cells adhere to the slide and that the stain will be evenly distributed.

  5. Stain the Sample: Apply the stains from your kit according to the manufacturer's instructions. This usually involves sequentially immersing the slide in a series of solutions or dropping them onto the slide.

  6. Examine the Slide: Under the microscope, you'll observe the cells and identify their types. Start with a low power objective to scan the sample and then use a high power objective to closely examine the cells.

  7. Interpret the Results: The cell types present can help you identify the stage of the dog's estrous cycle:

    • Proestrus: Many red blood cells are present, along with increasing numbers of round epithelial cells.

    • Estrus: Red blood cells decrease and the predominant cells are large, cornified (flattened and scale-like) epithelial cells, which may or may not have a nucleus.

    • Diestrus: Red blood cells are absent or scant, cornified epithelial cells decrease rapidly and small, round, basal cells along with white blood cells (neutrophils) predominate.

    • Anestrus: Predominantly small, round, basal cells, with no or few neutrophils and no red blood cells.

Always remember that while vaginal cytology is a very useful tool, it should be combined with other signs and behavior of the dog to accurately determine the stage of the cycle. If the results are ambiguous or if you're unsure, it's best to consult with a veterinarian.


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