Jugular vein

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


Jugular sampling can be performed with manual handling when working with animals acclimatised to handling. Ferrets can be given treats during restraint to distract them, such as FerretviteTM or malt paste. This will help reduce stress and limit movement during the procedure. They can also be rewarded with treats after the procedure, to assist with training, if repeat sampling is expected. If animals have not been well handled, such as with juveniles, anaesthetic or sedation may be needed to enable safe venepuncture. Care should be taken with the choice of anaesthetic to ensure it does not impact on blood parameter being investigated. Any treats given to conscious animals also need to be checked to make sure they will not affect results such as blood glucose levels.

Sampling from the jugular vein is quick and simple as the vein is superficial and easily accessible. It is appropriate for small and large blood samples.

For manual restraint, wrapping the animal in a soft cloth or towel can assist to prevent twisting of the body and hindlimbs during the procedure. An assistant can then hold the wrapped body between their upper arm and body, whilst using their hands to assist with positioning of the forelimbs and head. The ferret’s forelimbs should be drawn downwards, and the head upwards, to gently expose the neck. Holding the forelimbs over the edge of a workbench can assist with this positioning. An alternative method is to position the ferret in lateral recumbency, with the forelimbs drawn towards the hindlimbs, and the head drawn away from them, to expose the neck. In either position, the person sampling should now be able to easily visualise the neck.

Fur should be shaved from the sampling site to allow better visibility and aseptic technique must be used throughout. The jugular vein is raised by compression in the jugular grove, just cranial to the thoracic inlet. The vein is situated more laterally than would be seen in the cat or dog but is still superficial. A 25-gauge needle would be appropriate in most cases, with 23-gauge being suitable in some larger males. Bending the needle 20-30o can help with placement into the vein. The skin is thick around the neck of a ferret meaning increased pressure may be required to puncture the skin, compared to other sampling sites. The needle can be placed cranially in the vein or caudally, depending on the positioning of the ferret and preference of the sampler. Pointing the needle up towards the head is generally the easier direction if the animal is in ventral recumbency, but if the animal is in lateral recumbency either direction can suit.

If blood does not flow once the needle is inserted into the vein, the head may have been drawn too far upwards, leading to flattening of the vein. Gentle lowering of the head should allow blood to flow easily. A maximum of 3 needle sticks should be attempted per sampling procedure. If after this, insufficient blood has been obtained, the animal should be released and given appropriate time to recover before any new attempt is made.

Pressure should be maintained at the jugular grove throughout sampling then removed once sampling is finished. The head should be lowered, and light finger pressure put at the sampling site immediately as the needle is withdrawn, to prevent bruising. Pressure should remain here for approximately 30 seconds.

The volume of sample taken will depend on the weight of the animal, sampling frequency and scientific justification. If frequent sampling is performed, always sample at the caudal aspect of the vein and work cranially. Alternate sides should also be used to limit bruising and aid recovery.

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Number of samples

Up to eight in any 24-hour period dependent on volume

Sample volume

2 - 4 ml depending on the size of the ferret.


25G (preferably 5/8" long) needle

Staff resource

Two people are required to blood sample; one for restraining and one for raising the vein and taking the blood sample.

Adverse effects

  • Infection <1%
  • Bruising 1-5%
  • Clipper rash can occur if the hair is not clipped carefully with well-maintained clippers


Stress associated with the technique can be minimised by training and acclimatising the ferrets to manual restraint and the sound of the clippers beforehand. A reward can be used during to procedure as a distraction and should be given after each procedure.

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Resources and references

  • Quesenberry K et al. (2020). Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery (4th edition). Elsevier Health Sciences.
  • Wolfensohn S and Lloyd M (2013) Handbook of Laboratory Animal Management and Welfare (4th Edition). Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Otto G, Rosenblad W and Fox J (1993) Practical venipuncture techniques for the ferret. Laboratory Animals 27: 26-29. doi: 10.1258%2F002367793781082322

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Jugular vein sampling in other animals

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

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All blood sampling techniques in the ferret

Ferret held by animal technician

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