TECHNIQUE

Intravenous Access (Venepuncture) of Hedgehogs (Disease Investigation & Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords IV Injection

See also:

Description This page has been prepared for the "Hedgehogs: Health and Management" Wildpro volume, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog

Before performing any clinical technique, the associated legal and ethical considerations should be consulted, knowledge of the potential complications/ limitations/ risk should be gained, and the level of expertise and qualification required must be ascertained.

A detailed description of blood sampling is available. (See: Blood Sampling of Hedgehogs) Consult the pages in combination, as necessary.

A detailed description of fluid therapy is available. (See: Fluid Therapy for Hedgehogs) Consult the pages in combination, as necessary.

  • Intravenous access for injection and sampling can be difficult in the hedgehog (J15.21.w1, B284.6.w6), particularly with small individuals.(V.w26)
    • Consequently, intravenous injections and fluid therapy are not frequently administered in the hedgehog.(V.w26)
  • Intravenous access in the hedgehog requires general anaesthesia in the vast majority of cases. Access without general anaesthesia may be possible if the animal is unconscious or severely collapsed, however in these hedgehogs the peripheral perfusion will be poor.

Vein Selection:

  • Intravenous access may be from a number of veins, although the superficial veins of the hind limbs appear to be most commonly used.
  • The medial saphenous vein has been recommended as the vein of choice for intravenous access to blood sample the hedgehog. The hedgehog should be positioned lying on its back (in dorsal recumbency) with the hind limb in extension for the sampling procedure.(J3.151.w2)
  • Intravenous access is possible via the saphenous vein running approximately in the midline along the back of the hind limb. The hedgehog can be positioned lying on its belly (in ventral recumbency) with its hind limb extended.(V.w26)
  • The lateral or medial saphenous vein can be used for intravenous access for blood sampling.(B284.6.w6); superficial veins of the hind limbs can be used.(B151)
  • The lateral saphenous, a superficial vein can be used for intravenous injection or infusion.(J60.1.w1)
    • The vein can be visualised running across the lateral aspect of the hind limb as it passes over the stifle.(B150.w1)
Technique:
  • Ensure that all equipment is available prior to starting the procedure.
  • Ensure adequate restraint of the patient; usually requires general anaesthesia for the hedgehog. (See: General Anaesthesia of Hedgehogs)
  • Position the hedgehog for optimum access to one of the superficial veins on the hind leg (or for access to another vein, if preferred) and identify the required vein.
    • The hedgehog should be positioned lying on its back (in dorsal recumbency) with the hind limb in extension for access to the medial saphenous vein. (J3.151.w2)
    • The hedgehog can be positioned lying on its belly (in ventral recumbency) with its hind limb extended for access to the saphenous vein on the back of this limb. (V.w26)
    • The lateral saphenous vein can be visualised running across the lateral aspect of the hind limb as it passes over the stifle. (B150.w1)
  • Carefully clip and clean the injection site and disinfect with surgical spirit. Sterility is essential.
  • An appropriate needle size (gauge and length) and syringe size should be chosen, according to the preference of the operator. 
    • A 25 gauge, five-eighths inch hypodermic needle on a one millilitre syringe may be used for intravenous access in the hedgehog.(V.w26, V.w44)
    • A 27 gauge 1/2 inch needle swaged on to a one millilitre syringe has been described for blood sampling in the hedgehog.(J3.151.w2)
  • 'Raise' the vein by applying pressure, occluding venous return, therefore making the vein fill with blood.
  • Insert needle into the vein slowly and at a very acute angle, almost parallel to the vein.
  • Carefully check placement by withdrawing blood into the syringe very gently to avoid collapsing the vessel.
  • Release the pressure and stop raising the vein during the injection.
  • Begin injecting slowly through the needle.
  • Monitor the injection site for evidence of leakage, swelling or haematoma formation.
  • Check the patient for evidence of pain or discomfort if conscious during the injection, alternatively continue to carefully monitor the general anaesthetic.
  • Remove needle from the vein slowly and with care.
  • Apply pressure over the venepuncture site until clotting has occurred.
  • Clean any excess blood from the area after clotting has been achieved. 
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Intravenous access is used most frequently for the administration of emergency drugs, euthanasia solutions, blood sampling and less commonly fluid therapy. 
  • The intravenous route has been suggested for fluid administration to collapsed or unconscious hedgehog casualties on arrival. (J60.1.w1)
  • Fluid administration by the intravenous route can be performed using either a bolus or infusion.
  • Intravenous infusion is reported to be unpractical in hedgehogs because of the difficulties in keeping an intravenous catheter in place in the conscious hedgehog which folds it hind limbs as it curls into a ball. (B284.6.w6, V.w26) Catheterisation of hedgehog veins is not thought to be possible or practical because of their small size and fragile nature.(D92)
Notes
  • The manufacture's data sheet recommendations should be followed as to the recommended route and rate of drug administration (subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous).
  • Intravenous medications reach the blood stream directly, with rapid effect.
Complications/ Limitations/ Risk
  • Intravenous access for injection and sampling can be difficult in the hedgehog (J15.21.w1, B284.6.w6), particularly with small individuals.(V.w26)
    • Consequently, intravenous injections and fluid therapy are not frequently administered in the hedgehog.(V.w26)
  • Intravenous injection can be very difficult in hedgehogs, particularly if veins are very small or collapsed.
  • Intravenous infusion is reported to be unpractical in hedgehogs because of the difficulties of keeping an intravenous catheter in place in the conscious hedgehog, which folds its hind limbs as it curls into a ball.
  • General anaesthesia is generally required for intravenous injection in the hedgehog.
  • Requirement for physical and chemical restraint, and the stress which this may involve.
  • Risk of haematoma formation - associated blood loss can be significant for animals of small body weight.
  • Veins are fragile, and will accept a relatively few number of punctures.
  • Complications (haematoma, phlebitis, bruising) can be reduced through optimal venepuncture technique and vein management.
  • Limited medications are available for intravenous administration.
  • Care not to overdose if heparin is used, particularly in small mammals.
  • Fluid overload may occur when intravenous fluids are given in a bolus - indicated by increased respiratory rate, cardiac dysrhythmia, agitation or collapse (B119.w2).
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate-sized needle (catheter, syringe or giving set if used).
  • Appropriate fluids / medication.
Expertise level/ Ease of Use
  • Procedure should only be undertaken by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience; this would usually be a veterinarian or someone with advanced veterinary technician training.
Cost/ Availability
  • Cost of disposables (needle, syringe).
  • Cost may be very variable depending on medication required.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).

Use of Drugs (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in particular species and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).
Authors Becki Lawson (V.w26)
Referee Debra Bourne (V.w5), Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6), Tiffany Blackett (V.w44)
References B119.w2,  B150.w1, B151, B284.6.w6, V.w26, J3.151.w2,  J15.21.w1, J60.1.w1, D92, V.w26, V.w44

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