Tips & Tricks For Collecting The Perfect Blood Sample From Your Pet

By |2017-08-30T08:56:48+00:00Updated: September 14th, 2017|Pet Care, Pet Diabetes, Pet Newsletter|4 Comments

As a veterinarian, I have a strong preference for my clients with diabetic pets to run their blood glucose curves at home. It is less stressful for the pet at home than to be kenneled in a vet clinic for the day. Anxiety in the clinic can falsely elevate the blood glucose, a phenomenon known as “stress hyperglycemia”. Furthermore, the cost of a handful of glucose test strips is much more affordable than paying the vet staff to run the blood glucose curve for you. Over the years, that’s a big savings. You’d think no one would have a glucose curve run at the clinic. Wrong! Some folks are very resistant to checking Fluffy’s blood glucose at home. Especially when they hear they have to get a blood sample.

Perhaps the biggest deterrent to clients checking a pet’s blood glucose is that they feel like meanies by poking their darling pet to get the blood sample. Yes, they poke Fluffy with a needle to give an insulin injection, but blood is rarely seen with an insulin injection! Maybe if the pet has a very short hairdoo we might see a hint of blood at the injection site, but most of the time no blood is seen. I know some really brave people who turn green at the sight of blood.

Pet Lancets and Lancing Devices

The good news is that current blood glucose meters require a very small droplet of blood to yield a glucose reading. And as you get proficient, the sight of blood, if you are the squeamish sort, will become less of an impact visually, particularly if you follow my tricks.

Prepping for the Blood Sample

First off, warm the area where you plan to poke your pet. Whenever I diagnose a diabetic pet I give the client a sock of uncooked rice or uncooked beans. I put 3 or 4 tablespoons in stockingette material with a knot on each end. You could use a baby’s sock with a knot in the end to keep the rice enclosed. The point is that it would be soft and suitable to put in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up the rice or beans. This little “warm pack” only needs to be an inch or 2 in diameter, just big enough that when slightly warmed can be placed on the blood collection site and not be offensive to your pet. This warmth causes the blood vessels to dilate and makes it easier to collect blood with the lancing device.

Next, always have a tissue or piece of gauze to place over the blood collection site after you collect the blood. Use it to absorb any excess blood and apply pressure to prevent a bruise.

Where to Poke Fluffy

Finally, we will discuss where to poke your sweetie. I won’t lie. Some pets are easier than others. Most pets are compliant, particularly if you have an extra human to distract the pet. Rarely, a pet of the grouchy variety that might nip the pet owner. In those situations I’d just as soon have the curve run at the vet clinic where we have trained staff. Or, we might utilize a fructosamine or A1c level in that situation if the pet is sincerely too grouchy even for trained staff. Again, stress of a clinic stay can cause stress hyperglycemia.

Assuming your pet is compliant, then we survey potential look collection sites. It’s usually easier if the pet is larger. It’s just harder when the dog or cat weighs 5 pounds compared to a bigger pet!

Lancing devices are not complicated machinery. I like when lancing devices have an adjustable depth. It your pet bleeds easily you would adjust it to a more shallow penetration depth.

Cat marginal ear vein - ideal blood sample areaMy favorite spot on cats and small dogs is usually the marginal ear vein. If you shine a flashlight on the edge of the ear you can usually see the vein. You can ask your vet to shave the fur off a spot on the ear to make this vein even easier to view. You might aim the lancet/lancing device right at this marginal ear vein, or if the ear is meaty you can sometimes just get a sample from the non haired part in the inside of the ear. Again, the sock trick is very helpful. Warming an area before using the lancet can make all the difference in the world. Heat the sock with rice or beans in the microwave until it is warm but not hot.

Some folks have good luck, especially with big dogs, by using the inside of the cheek. They flip the lip inside out, dab off any spit and proceed. If you have a relaxed, knucklehead Labrador this might be the perfect spot for you.

I love it when older dogs have hairless elbow calluses. They are one of my favorite spots to get blood! I’m not much of a fan of using feet or toes though because so many pets are foot sensitive already. I don’t wish to add to that. You can have your vet shave a spot on the hip, especially if your pet has some meat on his bones. Have a look with your veterinarian to determine what may be the best spot on your pet!

Poking your pet takes bravery and perseverance. Sometimes I show clients how to do check a blood glucose and they get home and can’t remember! It’s a lot to take in. I tell them they can come back every day for me or one of my vet nurses to show them again and again until they get it. Practice makes perfect.

Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at joi.suttondvm@adwdiabetes.com. I always enjoy hearing from my readers!


NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

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About the Author:

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.

4 Comments

  1. m reichardt September 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Ihave a 12yr old male diabetic cat, Tiger. I feed Tiger can food but my Vet has always wanted me to keep dry food available
    incase his sugar drops during the day. Right now TIger is recoverng from an intestial blockage. He is starting to eat on his own, at this point I’m just happy he is eating can or dry food and drinking. His sugar has elevated and is high right now. He was on 3units insulin but because of vomiting with blockage there were days his BG was low and didnt give insulin. Started back with insulin 0.75units and working our way up with BG monitoring. Now he is at 1.5units for the next few days. It’s been just over a week since the trip to the ER Vet and hadnt vomited the whole time until just last night. That makes me very nervous.
    He isn’t eating his meal twice a day like he used to but has been grasing throught the day. At this point I pray he eats and keeps the food down and we can get back on track. Tiger is a chewer of paper and straps of tote bags. I try to keep everything high or in plastic container. Even closed off sewing/office room for now.
    Last night Tiger was on a search and find mission. First time since he has been back from ER visit he was up and going through every room of the house. Seems like he was checking for paper to chew. Is he looking for paper to make him throw up, thinking it would calm his stomach? But the paper is making him threw up and could be causing the blockage. I wish he would use his words and tell me whats wrong.
    Some tmes I want to remove dry food because I think his BG levels would be lower but what happens when his sugar drops to low?
    Tiger’s BG has been as low as 46 before the blockage problem and as high as 545. Recently BG went from 345 midday to 545 at evening feeding 6hrs later. Guess I just have to wait it out unitl we get Tiger back to a normal insulin amounts. Been very stressful last 2 weeks.

    • Dr Joi November 7, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      Oops! I somehow didn’t receive notification that you had written a response. Please forgive my delayed response!!

      Dry food does tend to throw a wrench in a diabetic cat’s blood glucose compared to canned food. Diabetic cats tend to do much better with canned food an dry food due to the carb content of canned versus dry. The low carb diet tends to result in better blood glucose regulation for diabetic cats.

      I hope he is doing better!
      šŸ™‚ Joi

  2. Jessica June 24, 2018 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Hi Dr Joi,

    Thank you for the tip on using a sock with rice. I have a 6 year old pug and I am having trouble getting a blood sample. The ear and lip he would not let me do, since his face is so small he just shakes me away! I can do his foot pad, but only if I distract him with food. I have been using a little low sodium canned chicken, but sometimes he eats it before I can get the test! I was wondering what other foods I can distract him with while trying to get a sample?
    Thanks, Jessica

    • Dr . Joi Sutton June 24, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Iā€™d recommend you ask your vet about which foods are appropriate for your pet considering any conditions he has. If you have help you could have a friend help pet your dog. Or, a friend could hold the treat in the hand while you check the blood glucose. If your vet likes pill pockets you could smash one onto the table to make it more difficult and buy you some time. I think the friend idea is the best option.
      I hope the warm sock of rice helps!
      šŸ™‚ Joi

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