Venipuncture is performed for a variety of reasons in avian species, including wellness evaluation, during illness or toxicosis, for DNA testing, and in infectious disease screening.
Wellness examinations should periodically include a complete blood count and a serum biochemical profile. Blood analysis may also help identify abnormalities in debilitated or diseased birds, and DNA testing is used to determine the sex of a bird when, for example, female reproductive problems are suspected.
Successful avian venipuncture is incumbent on knowing the correct needle and syringe sizes to use, the types of samples required for the tests being run, and the amount of blood required. Since requirements may vary between laboratories, it is imperative to contact the reference laboratory to determine submission requirements prior to collecting samples.
A bird’s size determines the needle and syringe size as well as the amount of blood that can be taken safely. A sample should not exceed 1% of the bird’s body weight (eg, sample should not exceed 0.3 mL for a 30-gram bird) and care must be taken with severely debilitated birds, because taking the maximum volume may worsen the patient’s condition.
In general, a 25-gauge needle with a 1-mL or 3-mL syringe may be used with most birds. With very small birds, such as a budgerigar or canary, a 27-gauge with a 1-mL syringe may be more appropriate. For larger birds, such as eagles or geese, a 23- or 22-gauge needle with a 3-mL syringe may be used.
Commonly used anticoagulants greatly alter the morphology of avian blood cells, leukocytes in particular. Blood film should be prepared immediately prior to processing the rest of the sample, and if you are submitting to an outside laboratory, slides should be provided along with the whole blood.
What You Will Need
• A 1- or 3-mL syringe with a 5/8- to 1-inch 27-, 25-, 23-, or 22-gauge needle or butterfly catheter
• Lavender-topped microtainer containing EDTA for hematologic analysis
• Green-topped microtainer containing lithium heparin for serum biochemical profile
• Isopropyl alcohol and dry cotton balls