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Practical avian venipuncture: how to take blood from birds

01 September 2012
8 mins read
Volume 3 · Issue 7


The avian case load is increasing in veterinary practice, and there is a higher expectation on the clinician to perform accurate diagnostics and treatment. This paper discusses the various sites, and methods for venipuncture in the avian patient, and which methods are currently most appropriate. General reference to the benefits of or indication for performing avian venipuncture, as well as associated risks is included. Particular comparison is made between the use of the jugular vein, the ulnar vein and the medial metatarsal vein. Reference to the benefits and negatives of each site is made, as well as indication of the most practical method to achieve restraint and collection. Support staff in the veterinary clinic trying to improve avian case management will find this useful as an aid for best practice for venipuncture.

Birds are rapidly becoming important members of the household. As a results seeking veterinary attention for pet birds has become more common place. With the increased avian case load in veterinary practice (author’s experience) the need for in house examination of avian blood samples has also risen, and become an important diagnostic aid. With clinics treating birds more regularly collection methods have progressed from the quick and easy toe claw clip to the more diagnostically appropriate venipuncture (Krautwald-Junghanns, 2007). Venipuncture in avian species may be intimidating to begin with but with practice the process becomes almost as easy as routine venipuncture in a dog or cat. Simple blood analysis of a smear, packed cell volume (PCV) and total protein (TP) is a quick, simple and cost-effective diagnostic method that can be completed in house by veterinary support staff.

Venipuncture is necessary to obtain a diagnostically relevant sample, free of contaminants and collection artifacts that occur with the more traditional toe claw clip (Fudge, 2000). Toe claw clip samples are not as diagnostically useful, because the sample will be capillary blood rather than circulating blood which would provide differing results (Kramer and Harris, 2010). Blood obtained from toe claw clipping is often tainted with contaminates such as epidermal cells or fecal matter even with cleaning of the clipping area that could affect biochemistry results or provide false positives to pathogen detection (Morrisey, 1999). The blood from this collection method also tends to clot before enough is collected due to slow blood flow because of the laceration of capillaries rather than a vein and can stress the bird unnecessarily while trying to milk the blood out. The toe clip method is also painful when the clip is performed and with the squeezing of the toe to milk the blood. For all these reasons this is not an acceptable method for collecting blood from birds.

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