Many human volunteers give blood, which is literally the gift of life in an emergency.
But what happens when a dog needs a blood transfusion?
There are times, occasionally, when a dog requires a lifesaving blood transfusion, in an emergency such as internal bleeding from trauma, due to ingestion of a toxin (especially rat baits), or due to illnesses such as anaemia or during aggressive cancer treatment.
In cases like these, dog blood donors are required.
Canine Blood Donation
Canine blood donation may take a couple of forms. Some larger vet clinics have a small blood bank with blood stored for these situations. Others have a pool of potential blood donors who can be called on to donate blood in an emergency.
Just like humans do, dogs have different blood types. A single dog can even have more than one blood type in his or her system. Vets must cross-match blood types between blood donor and recipient before giving a blood transfusion.
Blood Donation Process for Dogs
The process of canine blood donation is similar to that for humans. Most dogs can donate blood without any need for sedation. There is little discomfort to the dog at all, however, he (or she) must sit or lie still and remain quiet throughout the donation process, which takes up to fifteen minutes.
The best canine candidates to be blood donors:
- Aged between 1 – 7 years
- Large breed (over 25kg in weight)
- Fully vaccinated
- Free from fleas, worms, and other parasites
- In good general condition
- Enjoys visiting the vet
- Easy to deal with
One unit of canine blood measures 450ml, and this is drawn intravenously from a vein in the neck or the front leg. The area is shaved and disinfected, and the needle is inserted into the vein. Following the procedure, the dog is bandaged, given a drink and a snack or treat, and goes home feeling fine.
A dog can donate blood only two or three times a year at most. This helps ensure anaemia does not develop.
A single blood donation from a dog can save up to three canine lives and can be used fresh, stored in a refrigerator for up to six weeks (plasma can be frozen for a year), and it may be separated into red blood cells and plasma for specific uses.
Can my dog be a donor?
It’s important to know that dog owners are not paid for blood donation – it is a gift of goodwill. If your dog suits the abovementioned criteria, speak to your vet about him or her becoming a blood donor.
(Know too, that cats are also important blood donors – donating smaller volumes of blood and with a slightly different procedure – usually sedated and hooked to an IV for fluid replacement afterwards).
Animal blood banks need new donors all the time, and canine and feline donors are retired from donating by six to eight years of age depending on size and breed.
Contact your vet for more information.