The effect of 24- and 48-hour storage at room temperature on automated total nucleated cell count (TNCC), differential cell count (DCC) and cell morphology was assessed, and the effect of initial total protein concentration on canine and feline body cavity effusion samples (2 to 5 ml) was evaluated. At 24 and 48 hours, TNCC and absolute numbers of neutrophils, macrophages and small lymphocytes were significantly decreased and numbers of unrecognisable cells were significantly increased. Neoplastic cells and intracellular bacteria identified in fresh samples were missed at 24 and 48 hours. The initial total protein concentration was associated with an effect on percentage of unrecognisable cells and small lymphocytes over time. Change in TNCC over time would have resulted in misclassification of the effusion type in four of 47 samples.
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