Cytological examination of tracheal wash or bronchoalveolar lavage samples offers a convenient means of diagnosing inflammatory, infectious and, to a lesser extent, neoplastic disorders involving the lower respiratory tract of dogs and cats. Both procedures are relatively safe and easy to perform, and are minimally invasive. This article outlines the techniques for obtaining quality cytological specimens from the lower respiratory tract and describes basic interpretation of cytological findings, which should take into account the history, clinical findings and any radiographic abnormalities that may be present. It is also important to recognise when a sample is nonrepresentative (eg, one that is contaminated by oropharyngeal material during collection) in order to avoid misleading cytological interpretation and culture results.
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