How I Do An Ear Prick On Barney


I wash my hands and prepare all the supplies: clean work area, BG meter, test strips, gauze, lancet, and cat. I purchased a package of 1 inch by 1 inch gauze squares from the drug store. Some people use cotton balls. If you use cotton balls, I recommend the 100% cotton balls, not the synthetic type. I use the Glucometer Elite meter and its test strips, and B-D Ultrafine lancets. (In 1999, the Ultrafine original lancets are no longer available, and the Ultrafine II didn't work for us, they were too fine.  But others say they worked just fine.  You have to figure out what works on your pet.  I stocked up on Plenty of the original ones.)

For Barney, it works best if he is sleeping or very relaxed. If he is at all agitated or in an active mood we usually can not hold him still without him getting very upset. He does not like to be even lightly restrained. He either sits in my lap, or sits or lays on a chair.  We pet his head and neck and just hold his head and ear still.

Blood vessel near outer edge of ear
You can see the blood vessel 
near the outer edge of the ear

I make sure his ear is very warm. It is difficult to get a drop of blood from a cold ear, or even a cool ear. Petting or massaging the ear usually gets it warm enough for the blood to be flowing well. If the ear is cold I massage it for a few minutes.  I have used a small warm water bottle (a warm washcloth folded up inside a plastic zip-lock bag). I hold the warm bag against the ear I am going to prick. The wash cloth is not too hot; I am be able to comfortably hold the wash cloth in my bare hand. 

When the ear is warm to the touch I can easily see the blood vessel at the edge of the ear.

It is easiest if Barney is facing away from me. It doesn't matter if he is laying on the floor, in a chair, or on my lap. I just get behind him or a bit to the side so that I am comfortable and the light from a lamp is shining through his ear and I can see the blood vessel.

Pricking the ear with the lancet
Prick the ear - 
aim for the blood vessel.

I prick from the back side of the ear towards the inside. My pricking hand (right hand) is behind Barney's head and ear. With my left hand I hold a folded gauze pad on the inside of his ear. With my thumb and first two fingers I hold the gauze against his thumb is on the back of his ear and my other two fingers hold the gauze firmly against the inside of his ear. I can hold the ear steady and I have something firm (the gauze) to prick against. I roll his ear a little to the inside (towards my first two fingers) so it is a firm area to prick against. I want the ear to stay tight against my fingers so the lancet goes into the ear instead of pushing the ear away.

I prick the ear about half-way up the ear.  If I go too far towards the base of the ear, it seems to cause more discomfort. If I prick too near the tip of the ear, I don't get a big enough drop of blood.

Sometimes, I prick all the way through his ear. Pricking all the way through the ear does not seem to hurt him any more than a shallow prick. As you perfect your technique, you can do a more shallow prick and try not to go all the way through the ear.

I prick the ear using the lancet by hand, I don't use any automatic lancing device. I feel I have much better control of the lancet and can aim directly for the blood vessel when I just hold the lancet in my fingers.

Blood drop formed on ear
The drop of blood forms on the ear.
Don't let go of the ear or kitty will
flick the blood drop off.

I try to do one, firm, quick prick. I try to hit the blood vessel directly so that a large enough blood drop forms quickly. If I miss the vessel not enough blood comes out. If the blood drop does not form immediately I gently massage from the base of the ear towards where the prick is. This usually helps a blood drop form. I don't squeeze too hard or too long. I try not to "milk" or squeeze blood from the ear. It usually causes a larger bruise. If a drop of blood does not form in about 15 seconds, I try another prick.

Also, you can gently pinch the tip of the ear above the prick. This will help the blood pool and make a drop form.

Sometimes the drop of blood forms on the inside of the ear. That's ok. You can use that drop.

As the drop of blood forms, I keep hold of the ear so Barney can't flick the drop away. When I think the drop is big enough I put the meter, which has the test strip in it, up to the blood. The test strip automatically "pulls" the drop of blood into the test chamber.

Touch the tip of the meter strip to the drop of blood
Touching the tip of the test 
strip to the drop of blood.

As the meter is measuring the bg (30 seconds) I hold the gauze against the spot where I did the prick.  Gentle, but firm pressure for about 15 seconds usually stops any bleeding.  If Barney's ear continues to bleed, I just hold the gauze in place longer.   I have never had any problems with bruising or damage to Barney's ear.

Barney is usually pretty good about getting an ear prick.  He gets a tiny healthy treat after an ear prick -- just to reward him for being a good boy.  Even if I am unsuccessful at doing a prick (it happens!) he still get a treat just for being patient with me.

You must follow the instructions for your meter. The amount of blood needed depends on the BG meter. After a few tries, you will be able to tell when you have a big enough drop of blood.

I record the date, time, and BG value.

Photos on this page are courtesy of Nancy Johnson.  Her home bg testing site has lots more pictures: different types of bg meters, lancets, lancet devices, and more step-by-step photos the cat ear prick method and the dog lip stick method. 

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Updated Aug 2001
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