Letters to the Editor

Humane handling of animals when obtaining blood samples

I was extremely gratified to see the recent letter by Dr. Romatowski1 and the response from Dr. Reynolds et al2 pertaining to more-humane, less-stressful methods for venipuncture for cats (and dogs). For much of the past 10 years, I and other specialists in behavioral medicine have periodically offered a laboratory session at the North American Veterinary Conference on humane handling techniques for dogs and have offered both lectures and extended laboratory sessions on humane handling, examination, and intervention for dogs and cats at the North American Veterinary Conference Institute course Clinical Behavioral Medicine. During these sessions, we show veterinarians how to teach dogs and cats to offer various body parts for examination and venipuncture, including cephalic venipuncture, without the necessity of picking up the entire limb or holding off the vein. We also teach veterinarians to train dogs to stand and remain calm during administration of IM and SC injections and to train cats to offer their necks for collection of jugular vein blood samples. In general, 21-gauge catheters are adequate for collection of blood samples from dogs and cats,3 although 23-gauge catheters can be used in puppies and kittens.

Blood samples that are obtained without stress or distress are typically of better quality. Venous stasis is an important factor when performing tests of coagulation function, and results of coagulation testing are highly sensitive to handling of the patient and the sample.3 Hemolysis of samples can adversely affect results of assays of bile acids concentration, CBCs (including measurement of hemoglobin concentration), and biochemistry and coagulation tests.4 Stress has a major effect on CBC results and on glucose concentrations, including glucose concentration in feline urine samples.4 Although we lack complete validation for all sample values across all species of importance in veterinary medicine, in a study5 involving human patients in which results of 43 hematologic and biochemical tests were compared for samples collected with a needle versus a butterfly catheter, only serum sodium concentration and WBC and platelet counts differed between sample collection techniques, and these differences were not significant.

If we wish to provide the best care for our patients, we need the best data and should acknowledge that humane techniques best produce these data. Clients are more willing to seek veterinary care and become partners in their pet's care if their pets are compliant and unafraid. Nowhere is this more evident than when caring for cats.6 As we progress in our understanding of neurodevelopmental and genetic effects on the behavior of cats and dogs, we should remember that we too affect their behavior. Perhaps if we understand that we can improve our diagnostic ability through more humane handling, attention to the patients' behavior may finally get the attention it deserves.

Karen L. Overall, ma, vmd, phd, dacvb

Glen Mills, Pa

  • 1.

    Romatowski J. Jugular venipuncture for blood sample collection in cats (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2012; 240:806807.

  • 2.

    Reynolds BS, Geffré A, Bourgés-Abella NH, et al. The authors respond (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2012; 240:807.

  • 3.

    Lippi G, Massimo F, Montagnana M, et al. Quality and reliability of routine coagulation testing: can we trust that sample? Blood Coag Fibrinolysis 2006; 17:513519.

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  • 4.

    Gilor S, Gilor C. Common laboratory artifacts caused by inappropriate sample collection and transport: how to get the most out of a sample. Top Companion Anim Med 2011; 26:109118.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Lippi G, Salvagno GL, Brocco G, et al. Preanalytical variability in laboratory testing: influence of the blood drawing technique. Clin Chem Lab Med 2005; 43:319325.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Rodan I, Sundahl E, Carney H, et al. AAFP and ISFM feline-friendly handling guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 2011; 13:364375.

  • 1.

    Romatowski J. Jugular venipuncture for blood sample collection in cats (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2012; 240:806807.

  • 2.

    Reynolds BS, Geffré A, Bourgés-Abella NH, et al. The authors respond (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2012; 240:807.

  • 3.

    Lippi G, Massimo F, Montagnana M, et al. Quality and reliability of routine coagulation testing: can we trust that sample? Blood Coag Fibrinolysis 2006; 17:513519.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Gilor S, Gilor C. Common laboratory artifacts caused by inappropriate sample collection and transport: how to get the most out of a sample. Top Companion Anim Med 2011; 26:109118.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Lippi G, Salvagno GL, Brocco G, et al. Preanalytical variability in laboratory testing: influence of the blood drawing technique. Clin Chem Lab Med 2005; 43:319325.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Rodan I, Sundahl E, Carney H, et al. AAFP and ISFM feline-friendly handling guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 2011; 13:364375.

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