Arterial Blood Collection and Catheterization of Rabbits (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords --
Description Sites
  • Central auricular artery. (B601.2.w2)
    • Useful to measure blood pressure in the severely ill rabbit. (J213.1.w1)
  • Femoral artery (rabbit under general anaesthesia). (B601.2.w2)
  • Medial saphenous artery - prominent, running along the medial aspect of the hind limb. (P113.2005.w2)


  • Clip or shave over the artery.
  • Apply EMLA cream and wait 45-60 minutes if using the central auricular artery in a conscious rabbit. (B601.2.w2, 30 minutes. (B601.16.w16)
  • Wipe the skin with 70% isopropyl alcohol.
  • Slowly insert the catheter or needle into the artery.
  • Gently pull back on the syringe to collect blood.
  • Remove the catheter or needle, and apply pressure over the site for several minutes. (B601.2.w2, P113.2005.w2)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Blood gas analysis.
  • Acid-base status evaluation.
  • Arterial blood pressure measurement and monitoring.

(B601.2.w2, B602.33.w33, J83.20.w1, P113.2005.w2)

Notes --
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Not recommended for routine blood collection. (B601.2.w2)
  • Not suitable for administration of medication. (B601.2.w2)
  • Failure to apply sufficient pressure, for a sufficient time (several minutes) over the collection site after the catheter or needle has been removed may cause significant haemorrhage and haematoma formation. (B601.2.w2)
  • Ischemic necrosis may result if the central auricular artery is used. (B601.2.w2)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Over-the-needle catheter recommended, particularly for serial samples.
  • A 24-gauge 3/4 inch catheter can be used in the central auricular artery. (J213.1.w1)
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience. This would usually be an experienced veterinarian or experienced veterinary technician/nurse
Cost / Availability
  • Costs are those of consumables (EMLA cream, catheter etc.) and personnel time.
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).
Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee Tiffany Blackett BVetMed MRCVS (V.w44)
References B602.33.w33, B601.2.w2, B602.33.w33, J83.20.w1, J213.1.w1, (P113.2005.w2)

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