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Blood Sampling Home

This microsite provides information on blood sampling from animals to help laboratory staff choose the most appropriate technique for removal of blood in an humane and efficient manner. The original material was collated by GlaxoSmithKline and donated to the NC3Rs. It has been edited and expanded with assistance from colleagues from the Institute of Animal Technology, academia, industry and animal welfare organisations.

Removal of blood is one of the most common procedures performed on laboratory animals, e.g.:

  • for analysis of biochemical, metabolic, toxicological or immunological parameters
  • for examination or culture of micro-organisms 
  • for production of antibodies 

Use of a technique appropriate for the purpose and the species, by a trained and competent member of staff, is essential for ensuring that any pain, distress or discomfort is kept to a minimum. Minimisation of such adverse effects is important for scientific as well as ethical and legal reasons, since they can cause biological changes which may affect the blood sample, and hence the validity of the research results and the number of animals used to achieve the scientific objective.

The microsite contains information on surgical, non-surgical and terminal methods, including removal of blood from veins, arteries, by cannulation, by cardiac puncture and by decapitation, as appropriate for the species. It aims to assist with refinement by:

  • Setting out general principles for refinement of blood sampling - these should be read first
  • Highlighting advantages and disadvantages for most of the available techniques
  • Highlighting potential adverse effects and control measures
  • Collating references for further reading
  • Presenting images and video for training purposes (new video clips added January 2009)
  • Presenting decision trees for sampling from the mouse and sampling from the rat and information on safe blood sample volumes

Inclusion of a particular technique in this microsite should not be seen as endorsement of its use by the NC3Rs. In the UK, it is for individual researchers, in conjunction with the Home Office Inspector, NVS, NACWO and other members of the ERP, to decide the most appropriate site, volume and frequency of blood sampling, and these should then be detailed in the project licence. The choice of technique will depend on several factors, including:

  • the purpose of the blood collection
  • the need for an arterial versus venous sample
  • the duration and frequency of sampling
  • the impact on animal welfare
  • the health status of the animal being bled
  • whether the sample is taken as part of, or as a, terminal procedure
  • the potential for stress-induced effects on biochemical and haematological parameters
  • the training and experience of the staff involved

This microsite now includes information on refining the use of vascular catheters (added July 2009).

For information on automated blood sampling and the 3Rs, see the article by Holmberg and Pelletier on our main site (added May 2009).

Blood sampling from large animals (e.g. dogs) for DNA collection can be avoided with Oragene-ANIMAL from DNA Genotek, Inc. The DNA is collected non-invasively via a sponge that absorbs saliva in the mouth.

The NC3Rs welcomes your views on this microsite, so that it can be expanded and improved. Please send any comments to




  • DIGIRES (2005), Digital Resources for Veterinary Trainers
    Open Link


  • A good practice guide to the administration of substances and removal of blood, including routes and volumes. 
    Open Link
    View PDF

  • Biological effects of blood loss: implications for sampling volumes and techniques. 
    Open Link

  • Removal of blood from laboratory animals and birds. 
    View PDF (131KB)