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NC3Rs: National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research
Guidance

Blood sampling: Rabbit

Approaches for sampling blood in the rabbit, covering non-surgical and terminal techniques.

General principles

You should read the general principles of blood sampling page before attempting any blood sampling procedure.

Marginal ear vein/artery (non-surgical)

Technique

Removal of blood from the marginal ear vein or artery is one of the most common and least invasive methods of talking blood from a rabbit. This technique can be used with all strains and for single and repeat samples. Use of the artery is normally used for larger volume samples or for arterial blood, but carries a greater risk of haematoma and bruising.

Slides and video for sampling from the central ear artery are available on the Norecopa website.

The rabbit should be restrained and it can be helpful to wrap the animal in a large cloth to avoid inadvertent movement. Restraint can cause stress, therefore the duration of restraint should be minimised. Local anaesthetic cream (e.g. EMLA cream) can be applied to the site 30 minutes prior to blood sampling. Blood is taken from the tip of the ear, away from the base of the ear. Serial blood samples can be taken by moving towards the base of the ear on the same vein and by alternating ears. The ear should be warmed in order to dilate the vessel. This can be done by gently stroking; it should not be necessary to use a heat lamp. The dorsal surface of the ear should be clipped.Please note that hair removal by shaving with a scalpel blade is no longer recommended as it removes the epidermal layers of the skin. Aseptic technique should be used. Anaesthesia is not necessary but may be used on welfare grounds for animals that are difficult to hold.  The vein is normally occluded distally (away from the animal) before the needle is inserted.

Depending on the size of the rabbit and the frequency of sampling, 0.5 - 10 ml of blood can be collected. Up to eight samples can be collected in any 24-hour period, depending on sample volume and scientific justification. In order to minimise damage to the ear the number of attempts to take a blood sample should be minimised (no more than three needle sticks in any one attempt).

Blood flow should be stopped before the animal is returned to its cage or pen by applying finger pressure on the soft tissue placed at the blood sampling site for approximately two minutes.

Summary

Consideration Recommendation
Number of samples Up to eight samples may be taken in any 24-hour period, depending on sample volume.
Sample volume 0.5 - 10 ml, depending on the size and strain of the rabbit.
Equipment 19G - 23G butterfly needle, depending on the strain and size of the rabbit.
Staff resource Two people: one to restrain the rabbit and the other to take the blood sample.
Adverse effects
  • Bruising/haemorrhage <1%
  • Infection <1%

Resources and references

  1. Pekow CA (2012). Basic Experimental Methods in the Rabbit. In: The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster, and Other Rodents (Eds. Suckow MA, Stevens KA and Wilson RP), 1st edition. Academic Press.
  2. Talcott MR et al. (2015). Techniques of Experimentation. In: Laboratory Animal Medicine (Eds. Anderson LC, Otto G, Pritchett-Corning KR, Whary MT), 3rd edition. Academic Press.
  3. Suckow MA et al. (2010). Experimental methodology. In: The laboratory rabbit (Ed. Suckow MA), 2nd edition. CRC Press.
  4. Parasuraman S et al. (2010). Blood sample collection in small laboratory animals. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics 1(2): 87-93. doi: 10.4103/0976-500X.72350

 

Cardiac puncture (terminal)

Technique

Cardiac puncture should not be used if the peritoneum needs to be lavaged to harvest cells, as this technique can cause blood to escape into the peritoneal cavity.

Cardiac puncture is a suitable technique to obtain a single, large, good quality sample from a euthanised rabbit or a rabbit under deep terminal anaesthesia if coagulation parameters, a separate arterial or venous sample or cardiac histology are not required. It is appropriate for all strains of rabbit.

Slides and video of this technique are available from the Norwegian Reference Centre for Laboratory Animal Science and Alternatives.

A sample of 60 - 200 ml of blood can be obtained depending on the size of the rabbit and whether the heart is beating. Blood samples are taken from the heart, preferably the ventricle, which can be accessed either via the left side of the chest, through the diaphragm, from the top of the sternum or via a thoracotomy. Blood should be withdrawn slowly to prevent the heart collapsing.

Summary

Consideration Recommendation
Number of samples One
Sample volume 60 - 200 ml, depending on the size of the rabbit.
Equipment 19 - 21G needle
Staff resource One person is required to take the blood sample.

Resources and references

  1. Suckow MA et al. (2010). Experimental methodology. In: The laboratory rabbit (Ed. Suckow MA), 2nd edition. CRC Press.
  2. Pekow CA (2012). Basic Experimental Methods in the Rabbit. In: The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster, and Other Rodents (Eds. Suckow MA, Stevens KA and Wilson RP), 1st edition. Academic Press.
  3. Parasuraman S et al. (2010). Blood sample collection in small laboratory animals. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics 1(2): 87-93. doi: 10.4103/0976-500X.72350

 

You should read the general principles of blood sampling page before attempting any blood sampling procedure.

Five needles with empty syringes on a pale blue background