Quantitative bacterial cultures and cytological examination of bronchoalveolar lavage specimens in dogs

Dominique E. Peeters, Brendan C. McKiernan, Rita M. Weisiger, David J. Schaeffer, Cecile Clercx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cytology and quantitative bacterial cultures of lower respiratory tract secretions are widely used in human medicine to differentiate airway infection from simple bacterial colonization. A retrospective study was conducted to determine the usefulness of quantitative aerobic cultures and Gram stain intracellular bacteria counts from bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) specimens in dogs in diagnosing lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) and to determine whether chronic bronchitis is associated with marked bacterial growth in dogs. The threshold determined to define clinically relevant bacterial growth was 1.7 x 10(3) colony-forming units per milliliter of BAL fluid. We used this threshold and found that diagnostic sensitivity and specificity were 86% and 100%, respectively. With a threshold for infection of >2 intracellular bacteria observed in any of 50 fields, microscopic examination of Gram stain BAL preparations had a sensitivity of 71% and a specificity of 97% in establishing LRTI. There was a high correlation between bacterial morphology on BAL Gram stain and bacterial cultures. Combining the results of intracellular bacteria counts from the BAL Gram stain with those from the quantitative cultures, the sensitivity in diagnosing LRTI was 87% and the specificity was 97%. BAL quantitative cultures as well as quantitating intracellular bacteria on Gram stain BAL cytology were revealed to be useful in identifying LRTI in dogs. Chronic bronchitis does not appear to be associated with marked bacterial growth in dogs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-541
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of veterinary internal medicine / American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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