Culture and Sensitivity


Culture and sensitivity is a laboratory test designed to help your vet to know which bug (e.g. bacteria) is causing an infection, in order that they can give the most appropriate treatment. It will usually involve taking a swab and then sending this away to a laboratory for the bugs to be grown and then examined to see not only which bugs are present, but which treatments they are likely to respond to. Here’s a more detailed outline of the process:


1. Your vet will take a swab from the affected area. A swab is like a long cotton bud – the bugs are picked up on the bud and this is then placed in a sterile tube to be transported to the laboratory.

2. At the laboratory the bugs are transferred onto a plate containing a material to help them grow (it is a bit like a jelly and contains nutrients).

3. After several days the plate is examined to identify which bugs are present and how many there are.

4. If the bugs are bacteria, antibiotics can then be tested on them to see which antibiotic stopped the bacteria growing the best. This information is given to your vet, which helps them to make a decision about what is the best treatment to use.

There are many different types of bacteria that can infect our animals, as well as the ones that live on or in them normally - the healthy, commensal “good” bacteria e.g. in the intestines. Certain antibiotics are more effective against some bacteria than others; treatment is more likely to work if your vet knows which antibiotic to use. The type of bacteria present may also give your vet an idea of the severity of the condition, how likely it is your animal will get better and how long this may take (the prognosis).



Disclaimer:  This website has been designed to offer information surrounding the use of antibiotics and infection control for pet owners.  It does not replace advice from your veterinary surgeon.  If you believe your pet is unwell or you have any questions relating to their treatment, please always contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.