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Venipuncture

4ferrets

Introduction

  • Blood sampling is required for diagnostic purposes and blood transfusions.
  • In a ferret, sample volume that can be safely removed is approximately 10% of its circulating blood volume. Blood volume in ferrets is approximately 70 ml/kg. Ferrets weigh between 0.6-2 kg so for most that is a maximum sample size of 4-14 ml. A sample size of this magnitude is rarely needed except for blood transfusions, for example.
  • Consider smaller sample sizes in ill patients.

Technical difficulties

  • Ferrets do not have good accessible peripheral veins.
  • They have tough, thick skin especially around the head and neck (especially unneutered males)
  • They are difficult to restrain.
  • Gaseous anesthesia Anesthesia: inhalational can cause hypotension and a lowering of hematological parameters.

Sample sites

  • Cephalic vein.
  • Lateral saphenous vein.
  • Cranial vena cava: best site for sampling >1 ml.
  • Jugular vein.
  • Ventral tail vein.
Do not use claw clips due to pain inflicted and chance of creating nail deformities.
  • Foot pads or ear pinnae have been used for pin prick sampling for serial glucose measurements.

Blood sample tubes

Always ask your laboratory if in any doubt. Spun and separated samples may be required for some tests.

Restraint

  • Manual restraint can be used:
    • A ferret can be restrained by the scruff or held gently around the shoulders upright with hindlegs dangling.
    • This position seems to relax them.
  • Distraction with food can allow safe sampling or treatment, eg Nutriplus (Virbac, UK) multi-vitamin/malt paste (Beaphar UK).
Take care if sampling for glucose levels.
  • Wrap firmly in a towel from neck to tail, with head unrestrained.
  • Most blood collections that need larger volumes of blood require sedation or anesthesia.

Sedation for sampling

  • Isoflurane Isoflurane via mask or chamber:
    • This can cause anxiety and struggling so use of a benzodiazepine is recommended first, eg midazolam Midazolam.
    • Some hematological blood parameters (PCV and RBC) have been shown to be artificially lowered under isoflurane anesthesia.
  • Midazolam Midazolam:
    • Dose: 0.25-0.3 g/kg IM /IV:
    • Can be used to decrease amount of isoflurane needed for anesthesia.
  • Ketamine Ketamine:
    • Doses:
      • 5-10 mg/kg combined with midazolam Midazolam at 0.25 mg/kg (give midazolam 10 min prior to ketamine).
      • 5-8 mg/kg plus medetomidine at 0.08 mg/kg IM (may cause hypotension so best to sample early).
    • Reverse with atipamezole at the same volume as medetomidine Medetomidine IM.
    • Butorphanol Butorphanol at 0.1-0.2 mg/kg or buprenorphine Buprenorphine at 0.02 mg/kg IM can be added.
  • Medetomidine Medetomidine:
    • Dose: 0.08 mg/kg with butorphanol Butorphanol at 0.1 mg/kg IM.
    • May cause hypotension so best to sample early.
    • Reverse with atipamezole at the same volume as medetomidine IM.

Sampling

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Requirements

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Preparation

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Procedures

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Aftercare

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Marini R P, Jackson L R, Esteves M I et al (1994) Effect of isoflurane on hematologic variables in ferrets. Am J Vet Res 55 (10), 1479-1483 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Johnson-Delaney C (2017) Ferret Medicine and Surgery. CRC Press, USA
  • Keeble E & Meredith A (2009) Eds Ferrets: Physical Examination and Emergency Care. In: BSAVA Manual of Rodents and Ferrets. BSAVA, UK. pp 205-218.

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