Which is the best microscope for a veterinary practice?

Introduction - Why your practice needs a microscope

If you’re anything like me, you almost dread using the practice microscope. It was likely purchased in the 1800s or at least it usually feels that way. Many practice microscopes are hand-me-downs from decades ago and were likely the cheapest on the market then too.

A vet microscope is a relatively cost-effective way of improving in-house lab investigations and case management, providing immediate results and facilitating swift treatment for your patients. With a little staff training to ensure proper use and care of the practice microscope, it can increase revenue and patient care within the practice. For the purpose of this review, we focus on the compound microscope for its broad usage within veterinary practices.

In the past two decades an increased range of models have become available with broad price ranges to suit every budget. I recommend that you purchase the best microscope you can afford, and if your boss can’t bear to throw the old one away then relegate it to parasite detection.

Anatomy of a Microscope

  • Ocular lens(es)
    • Set within the eyepiece tube, this is the part you look down through. Standard magnification is 10X.
  • Diopter adjustment
    • This allows you to make corrections to the image so the user does not need to wear glasses while using the microscope.
    • It can also compensate for differences in vision between the eyes.
  • Head
    • Houses the ocular lenses.
  • Arm
    • Connects the base to the head providing support.
    • Used to carry the microscope.
  • Revolving turret
    • Houses the objective lenses. Allows movement of the objective lenses depending on the magnification required.
  • Objective lenses
    • These are used to visualise the specimens. Most microscopes have three of these lenses with powers 40X-100X that rotate as required.
  • Mechanical stage with controls, aperture and stage clip
    • The stage holds the specimen with clips holding the slide in place and controls to facilitate movement of the stage.
    • The aperture is a hole within the stage that allows light from the source to reach the specimen.
  • Scale
    • There are two scales on the microscope stage, consisting of a main scale and smaller Vernier scale. One is horizontal and one vertical, always read the horizontal first. These work like coordinates for a specific position on your slide to highlight an area of interest.
  • Coarse and Fine focus adjustments
    • These allow focus of the image on the slide.
  • Diaphragm/Iris
    • This sits below the stage and is adjustable to control the amount of light hitting the specimen.
  • Condenser
    • This uses lenses to focus light from the light source/illuminator onto the specimen sample.
    • This plays a role in achieving clear and focused images at high magnifications.
  • Light source
    • This is located within the base to capture light.
  • Base
    • Supports the microscope and houses the light source.
  • Rheostat
    • This is a dial that is usually located on the base of the scope to allow adjustment of the light intensity from the source.

How to choose a microscope for a veterinary practice

Some key things to consider when selecting the best microscope for your practice:

  • What are your practice needs (urinalysis/parasitology/clinical pathology etc)?
  • How much do you expect to use the scope?
  • How many people are likely to use the scope and is it easily set up, used and robust?
  • Ensure the highest objective lens is suitable for oil immersion if required.

Our two recommended microscopes for vets :

Optico N120MT-SP ADVANCED Trinocular Microscope

Specifications:

Optico Advanced Veterinary Laboratory Microscope

    Pros

    • Sturdy and robust
    • Budget friendly

    Cons

    • None, this microscope is perfect for most veterinary clinics.

    Key Features

    • Abbe Condenser with numerical aperture (NA) of 1.25
    • LED-LUX illumination system provides comfortable and colour-correct images
    • Trinocular head

    Nikon Eclipse E-100 Binocular Microscope

    Specifications:

    • CFI45 Infinity Optical System
    • Eco-Illumination
    • Binocular
    • Objectives at 4X, 10X, 40X and 100X
    • Abbe Condenser

      Nikon Eclipse E-100 Binocular Microscope

      Pros

      • Sturdy
      • Bright and clear images
      • LED Eco-Illumination system is IR-free to prevent eye-strain

      Cons

      • None, this microscope is perfect for most veterinary clinics.

      Key Features

      • Optional accessories available to meet more specialised requirements
      • Suitable for phased contrast, bright and dark field microscopy
      • 60,000 hours lifetime to reduce frequency of lamp changes with low power consumption
      • Upper limit stage stop to prevent damage to specimen slides and objective lenses

      Getting the best out of your new scope

      Set-up

      • Ensure you’re in a comfortable position.
      • Place slide on the stage and secure in place.
      • Turn to the lowest magnification objective lens.
      • Set iris diaphragm either opened up or closed down depending on the sample investigated.
      • Turn rheostat down low.
      • Turn on the microscope.
      • Manipulate eyepieces so you can comfortably see just one image using both eyes.
      • Use coarse focus to move the stage until you see the image on the slide.
      • Use fine focus to ensure the image becomes clear.

      Storage

      • Keep your microscope on a sturdy bench out of the way of other equipment with a stool to allow comfortable use.
      • Cover with a dust cover when not in use and keep dry.
      • Don’t store the microscope in direct sunlight.
      • Never touch the lenses with your fingers as oil traces smudge and can even damage the glass.
      • Always clean oil from the 100X objective after use.
      • Store the microscope away from chemicals and high humidity areas.
      • When moving the microscope, grip the arm with one hand and use your other to support the base. Always hold the scope upright.
      • Never bump the microscope against anything.

      Tips on Use

      • Wear gloves if using staining solutions or immersion oils.
      • Methodically examine the slide to ensure complete examination.
      • When moving to 100X oil immersion, simply move the objective lenses halfway and apply a single drop of immersion oil before moving the 100X lens in place.
      • Use the Vernier scale to record an area of interest for later.
      • Use a coverslip if necessary to enhance the image quality.
      • Always clean the lenses after use with a lens cleanser and lint-free tissue.
      • Have your microscope serviced every 6-12 months.
      • Never touch the bulb with your bare fingers as this can shorten its lifespan.
      • Always clean organic matter from your microscope after use.

      Will our practice use a microscope enough to justify the cost?

      The short answer is yes! Once you've given consideration to what your practice is likely to most use a microscope for will help you to select the best one for you. And once you have a good scope that's a pleasure to use, you'll definitely realise that there's more cases you'd like its assistance with than you originally thought. You might find that you actually enjoy microscopy (shock!)

      Some of the veterinary procedures your practice may use a scope for include:

      • Parasite screening and worm egg counts
      • Urinalysis
      • Assessing semen quality
      • Assessing oestrus in breeding bitches
      • Smears (blood, lesion impression etc)
      • Skin scrapes and hair plucks
      • Faecal worm egg counting

      Conclusion

      Choosing a practice microscope isn’t as simple as pointing out the cheapest one and making do for the next 10 (or 50) years. When you’re selecting a microscope, consider what your practice will use it for most, and how often it’s likely to be used as not all microscopes are created equal. Go to trade shows or discuss your requirements with manufacturers and suppliers to ensure you’re getting the product you need. Review microscopes and some manufacturers may even provide trial periods for you to test out your selected scope.

      Almost as important as choosing the right scope is investing a little capital and time on ensuring the staff using the scope know how to use it properly and its proper maintenance to provide your clinic with an excellent, cost-effective diagnostic tool that may pay for itself in just a few months if used frequently.

      If you need help on which microscope to buy for your practices, talk to us. We have an expert who can guide you throughout the process, please click on the chat box or contact us.

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