Blood sampling rabbits

11 top tips to help you collect the perfect blood sample

Blood sampling rabbits


11 July 2017

Rabbits are more popular than ever as pets and with the thirst for knowledge from their owners (and access to Google!), it’s no wonder their expectations are much higher than ever before.

When it comes to investigating a problem and making a diagnosis, blood sampling has become a routine part of the procedure. Being able to take a blood sample efficiently and effectively is imperative, so this month we have some advice on collecting some blood.

Our 11 top tips on taking a blood sample

  1. Low volume – luckily many of our in house blood machines and external laboratories only require small volumes of blood to carry out a full profile. Sometimes as little as 0.5ml will do. In general it’s safe to up to 1% of the animals body weight in blood, equivalent to 1ml for 100g.
  2. Reduce stress – take the patient to a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of the practice. Stress can alter the levels of glucose, creatine kinase and AST, producing aberrant or misleading results.
  3. Expert handling required – always use the best person available to hold the patient. Your assistant will need to be experienced at holding the rabbit firmly without restricting the animals breathing. A poorly held patient is at risk of severe spinal injury.
  4. EMLA cream – apply the analgesic cream (containing lidocaine and prilocaine) liberally to the skin for at least 45 minutes before sampling. This will reduce the likelihood of the rabbit jumping as the needle is introduced through the skin. When using the marginal eat vein, apply the cream and cover using a padded bandage to ensure the cream is in good contact with the skin.
  5. Compression afterwards – rabbits tend to have fragile veins that can be easily damaged, risking leaking and haematoma formation. Always apply compression after venipuncture to avoid this occurring.
  6. Care with clotting – rabbit blood tends to clot easily. Be aware of this when sampling and get the blood into the tube quickly. Pre-heparinising the needle and syringe can be used, but take advise from the lab first to check it wont interfere with the results.
  7. Care with clipping – rabbit skin is thin and can be easily torn or damaged. Use safe sharp clippers.
  8. Start distally – try taking a sample from the more distant part of the vein. That way if you are unsuccessful, you can select an area more proximal on the same vein.
  9. Small syringe – choose a 1ml or 2ml syringe rather than a 5ml syringe. You’ll create less negative pressure and will therefore be less likely to cause collapse of the vein.
  10. Small needle – in most situations a 25G or 23G needle will suffice.
  11. Select your vein – you’ll have a choice of preferred sites. Most of us will have one that we are more familiar and successful. The jugular, cephalic, marginal ear and lateral saphenous veins are the most common sites available.