Veterinary Blood Collection: A Guide

Veterinary Blood Collection: A Guide

A veterinarian collects a blood sample.

There are various factors that need to be considered when veterinarians are making supply purchasing decisions for their blood collection processes. The size and type of animal, the blood collection frequency, and the scale of testing are all critical considerations. For unique applications, one might want to consider blood tube customization options, such as tubes with specific rubber top colors and chemical additive configurations.

Air-Tite is well known for their selection veterinary blood collection tubes, which include both high-quality Air-Tite branded vacutainers as well as those from other well-known quality brands such as BD. You can select from our inventory of trusted brands or design your own customized products with Air-Tite with assistance from our Animal Health Manager. With so many options at your fingertips, it is important to learn what to look for before you shop.

Blood Collection Tubes: Choosing the Right Size

The first step to buying the right veterinary blood sample collection materials is to figure out what size tube is needed. BD and Air-Tite’s vacutainer volumes typically range from 3 to 10 milliliters.

Larger livestock animals, such as cows, horses, and larger swine, require a bigger collection tube than a cat or dog. Additionally, certain tests require specified volumes of blood. If you need to run multiple tests or would like to keep a backup sample available to confirm the results, collecting a larger volume reduces the need for multiple blood draws.

While this may tempt you to simply get bigger tubes in general, leaving a large amount of unused space with the sample can be problematic. Instead, choose a size that’s just big enough for the required blood sample and any additives.

All About Additives

Many blood collection tests require the blood sample to be mixed with specific additives. Some blood collection tubes come with different additives already inside the tubes. This means there are several different additive options to also consider when preparing supplies.

For example, chemical substances can help preserve blood samples for testing. If you’d like to separate blood cells from serum, a gel additive with a density that’s between the two substances can do the trick.

Air-Tite’s yellow top tubes have a gel barrier at the bottom. After centrifugation, the gel barrier becomes loose and settles as a divider between the red blood cells and serum, remaining stable for up to 48 hours.

Most blood collection tubes also have additives to either accelerate or prevent clotting. These clot activators and anticoagulants ensure optimal conditions for accurate test results.

The different color rubber tops on these vacutainer tubes often indicate the type of additive in the tube. Examples of common combinations include:

  • Gold or Yellow Top: Serum separating tube (SST) with separating gel and clot activator
  • Red Top: Silicone-coated tube (w/Si)
  • Lavender Top: Contains the anticoagulant ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)

With Air-Tite, you have the ability to choose any color combination you may need. Our Animal Health Manager is happy to help you design blood collection tubes just for your practice.

Maintaining a chart or key of your chosen color code can help you keep track of what types of tubes you have on hand and avoid any confusion when sending and analyzing samples.

EDTA Best Practices

When using EDTA, it’s particularly important to choose the right size collection tube and collect enough blood so the tube is more than half full. Underfilled tubes can cause shrinkage of the red blood cells, affecting the mean cell volume and corpuscular hemoglobin concentration.

Never shake the sample tubes. Instead, gently mix the sample with EDTA by carefully inverting the tube or rolling it between your palms. Blood samples with EDTA should be stored in refrigeration and transported to the lab alongside a cold pack. Use care to separate the sample from direct contact with the cold pack (such as by wrapping it with paper towels) because if the red blood cells freeze, hemolysis may result.

Some labs also recommend including peripheral blood smears when there’s an anticipated delay from the time of collection to analysis in the laboratory. Remember to always clearly mark and label blood samples with the animal identification, date, and any additional information.

EDTA is the preferred anticoagulant for mammals and most other species. However, the blood of certain birds, turtles, and reptiles hemolyzes upon contact with EDTA, compromising the sample. In this case, citrate anticoagulant may be placed in the syringe before collecting blood directly into the syringe. When using this method, it’s crucial to maintain a specific citrate-to-blood ratio to account for dilution when evaluating the sample.

You can discuss your specific needs with an expert at Air-Tite to find the right tubes and additives to suit your needs.

Customized Vacutainers for Blood Collection

There are many reasons why a veterinarian might need custom tubes for blood collection. The most common customizations are rubber tube top color, tube size, and additive. You can further customize your selection by choosing tubes made with glass or plastic material. You’ll also have the option to create private or branded label vacutainers with specific additives.

After confirming the vacutainer details and quantity, Air-Tite connects with the supplier, identifies pricing, and shares the expected lead time. Working with efficient and capable suppliers makes for a seamless transaction that our customers appreciate.

Veterinary Blood Collection Tubes from Air-Tite

Air-Tite’s vacutainers are designed for the same purpose and application as BD vacutainers. We also use industry-standard colors relevant to the additive and sizing, like BD. As a small company, we can control our inventory to accommodate our customers' needs and minimize discontinuation concerns. Whether you prefer a brand name or want to explore Air-Tite’s in-house products, we’ve got you covered.

Blood Collecting Needles

Once the appropriate vacutainer size and additive is decided, the next step will be selecting a blood collecting needle (and any additional accessories) to meet your needs. Whether you are a veterinary expert in a vet clinic, laboratory setting, or on a livestock farm, the needle size is just as relevant as the blood collection tube volume.

Multiple draw needles are used with vacuum collection tubes. There are two types of sterile needles to evaluate: A Single-Use or Multi-Type. A Single-Use needle is a double ended stainless steel needle for use with blood collecting needle holders and tubes. A Multi-Type is a double ended needle which has a retractable sheath over the portion of the needle that penetrates the blood tube, permitting several samples to be collected with one single puncture.

We have determined some of the most common sizes in demand for animal health to be 18g or 20g needles. Air-Tite Products offers a range of 18g-22g blood collection needles in a variety of lengths varying from 1" to 1 ½” to fit your specific needs. If you are uncertain of which size is right for you, please contact a knowledgeable member of the Air-Tite team. If we are unable to provide the correct product for you, we can help you source exactly what you are seeking.

Air-Tite's Blood Collecting Supplies

Air-Tite customers receive superior products at excellent prices. We sell our branded vacutainers along with competing brands to give customers the ultimate control over their purchase. We give customers the service, value, and shopping experience they deserve to ensure there’s no need to look elsewhere when supplying your veterinary practice. 

Let’s partner to design the perfect products for you – click below to check out our veterinary blood collection solutions.