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Cheek Swab Sample Collection Instructions:

Please read "Concerns and Caveats"

As of March 1 2019 OptiGen will no longer provide cheek swab collection kits for testing. We strongly advise clients to obtain the swabs themselves. Often veterinarians will have "cytobrushes" or they can be acquired through a local pharmacy or online as "sterile cotton tipped applicator sticks".  Contact OptiGen by email or phone & we will happy to mail you swab kits for no extra charge. Alternatively, if you would like to order cheek swabs from a commercial source, these are readily available at .

Regardless of how you procure them, all Cheek Swabs used for OptiGen testing MUST:

  • Be STERILE – Cotton, polyester, or nylon tipped applicators.
  • Be individually wrapped or have 2 sterile swabs per package and the package must be intact and unopened.
  • Have a wooden or plastic handle that is at least 6 inches long. There are shorter (3 inch) swabs that are NOT acceptable. (Q-Tips are NOT acceptable.)

Test Request Form 

Complete the Test Request Form with all the required information on the dog to be tested. If more than one dog is being tested at the same time, complete a form for each dog even if they are from the same litter.
 Both the owner of the dog and either the person who swabs the dog's cheek or the witness of the swab collection must sign the form affirming a match of the dog with the PERMANENT ID# and the Cheek Swab SAMPLE. 

You may want to copy the completed form for your records.

Cheek Swab Sample Collection Instructions ***(Cheek Swabs NOT ADVISED for unweaned puppies)***

***Tests not suitable for cheek swabs: CLAD, Cystinuria, PK, & rcd1-PRA

  Prior to Collection/Preparations:
  • The dog to be sampled should not eat or drink for at least one hour prior to having the sample collected. This is to reduce the chance of contamination.
  • The dog should be isolated from other dogs, toys and other possible sources of oral contamination for at least several hours, preferably one entire day, prior to sampling. This is to reduce the chance of dog to dog contamination.
  • Just prior to sampling, check the dog’s mouth to see that no food or other material is obviously present. If there is, clean/rinse the dog’s mouth to remove it and wait another hour before collecting the sample.
  •  The person taking the samples should avoid touching the inside of the dog’s mouth. Disposable latex gloves will help reduce contamination by the handler.
  •  If more than one dog is being sampled, the person doing the collections must wash hands or change gloves between collections.
  • Never allow the sterile swab to touch anything except the inside of the dog’s mouth or the inside of the package that it came in.  Especially never allow contact between swabs from different dogs.
  • Prepare a clean surface on which to place the opened swab package, or have the witness hold the open package and the second swab while you are swabbing the dog.

How to Collect the Cheek Swab Samples:

1.   Use two swabs per dog.

2.   Label the swab packets with the dog’s call name, the owner’s last name, permanent identification or registration number (if applicable) and collection date.

3.   Label a standard paper (letter size) envelope with the same information as in #2.

4.   Open the swab package at the handle end (NOT the collection tip end) and carefully peel the package away to within about an inch of the end.  Remove the first swab. Do not touch the collection tip of the swab.

5.   Do not allow the tip of the swab to touch anything other than the inside of the dog’s mouth and the inside of the packaging.

6.   While holding the handle end of the swab, insert the tip along the inside of the cheek. Rotate the collection tip along the inside of the cheek for about 20 seconds. Pushing on the outside of the dog’s cheek while rotating the swab will firmly press it between the gum and cheek and will enhance cell collection.

7.   Hold the swab while it air dries for several seconds.  Do NOT blow on the swab.

8.   Reinsert the tip of the swab into the closed end of the package and remove the second swab (if there are 2/package). If your swabs came in plastic containers instead of paper sleeves, put the swab directly into the labeled paper envelope; DO NOT use the plastic container.

9.   Repeat the above steps on the other cheek with the remaining swab (i.e. 2 swabs/dog).

10. Place the packaged swabs in the labeled paper envelope (NOT a plastic bag).  Do NOT put the test request form in the envelope with the swabs.

11. OptiGen requires signatures on the test request form by the owner and by either a witness or the person collecting the sample if other than the owner. Two signatures are required in order to proceed with testing.

12. Send the sample and completed test form following the Ship Sample instructions.


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OptiGen®, LLC · Cornell Business & Technology Park · 767 Warren Road, Suite 300 · Ithaca, New York 14850
Tel: 607 257 0301 · Fax: 607 257 0353 · email: or
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