Cephalic vein

Technique

Dogs can be trained to sit calmly on a table for blood sampling. They will remember receiving a reward (e.g. food treat) after the procedure, which can make them easier to handle on subsequent occasions.

Blood samples can be collected from the cephalic vein which is superficial and easily accessible. The technique is quick and appropriate for taking small blood samples. Blood is collected from the forelimb, starting distally (near the paw) and working proximally (away from paw). Where multiple samples are taken, the use of the forelegs should be alternated. A temporary cannula can be used for multiple samples taken over a short period of time (more than four samples from one vein in a 24-hour period). An aseptic technique should be used, including clipping the hair around the sampling site. Blood should not be taken from a vein that has been used to administer intravenous drugs.

Dogs can either be restrained manually or using a sling. A non-slip mat can help hold the dog steady. Animals should be acclimatised to restraint and the sound of the clippers before being used in experiments.

2 - 5 ml of blood can be collected per sample and, depending on sample volume and scientific justification, normally no more than eight samples in a 24-hour period; more frequent sampling can cause the forelegs to become bruised. The number of attempts to obtain blood should be minimised to a maximum of three needle sticks for each sample. Bleeding should be stopped, before the dog is returned to its pen, by finger pressure to the sampling site for approximately 30 seconds.

Summary

Number of samples No more than eight blood samples (four from either leg) should be taken in any 24 hour period.
Sample volume 2 - 5 ml
Equipment 21G or wider needle
Staff resource Two people are required to take the blood sample; one for restraining and raising the vein of the dog, and one for taking the blood sample.
Adverse effects
  • Infection <1%
  • Haemorrhage <1%
  • Swelling <1%
  • Clipper rash can occur if the hair is not clipped carefully with well-maintained clippers. 
Other Stress associated with the technique can be minimised by training and acclimatising the dog to restraint and the sound of the clippers beforehand. A reward (e.g. food treat) should always be provided after the procedure.

Resources and references

Cephalic vein sampling in other animals

This technique is only appropriate for use in the dog

All blood sampling techniques in the dog

Click here for information on jugular vein blood sampling in the dog