Can My Pet Donate Blood?


Sick or injured animals can sometimes need blood transfusions just like sick or injured humans do. The need for blood transfusion is often an emergency, such as severe bleeding or sudden destruction of red blood cells due to accidents or different diseases. But in places like Hong Kong where the animal blood bank system is not well developed, there is a severe shortage of blood. With such shortage of animal blood, many clinics depend on larger emergency hospitals when they need blood. Selfless owners who allow their pets to donate blood has become the most common way for veterinarians to collect blood for transfusions. Both canines and felines can donate blood to help their fellow pets, at the vet clinics or hospitals. 

An animal’s blood group is determined by measuring the reaction of a small sample of blood to certain antibodies. The blood group must be determined before a blood transfusion can be safely provided. In addition, a test called cross-matching is also necessary to ensure safe transfusions. In this test, specific components of donor blood are combined with components of the patient’s blood prior to a transfusion to ensure that a reaction does not occur.

For dogs, there are more than 13 canine blood groups, but only eight DEA (dog erythrocyte antigen) types are recognized by international standard. These are DEA 1.1, DEA 1.2, DEA 3, DEA 4, DEA 5, DEA 6, DEA 7, and DEA 8. The DEA1.1 blood group is the most significant blood factor in dogs. This blood group is highly antigenic and is the primary lytic factor in canine transfusion medicine. Although all of the blood group antigens are capable of stimulating formation of alloantibodies, DEA 1.1 has the greatest stimulation potential; and DEA 1.1 negative blood is considered a universal donor. 

Felines have types A, B, the universal recipient AB which is rare, and Mic. There is no universal donor among cats, because they naturally have antibodies against the blood group antigen that they lack. Unfortunately, cat blood tends to degrade much more quickly than either human or canine blood and become unusable quickly, making blood transfusions for cats a much trickier proposition.

For pets to become blood donors, they need to be aged between one and six years, healthy, vaccinated, and have a calm temperament. Dogs are generally required to be over 25kg and give 450ml of blood, which is almost the same as the standard human donation of 470ml. Cats need to be over 4kg, and normally no more than 50ml of blood is collected from one cat. The process of donating blood usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes and does not require anesthesia. Blood is taken from the jugular vein. Giving blood will not hinder the pet’s normal activities, but owner should let her rest easy that day.

The need for canine and feline blood is often overlooked, and shortages in blood can mean some patients may not be able to get the transfusion treatments that they desperately need. While sometimes owners may be able to plan ahead by banking blood with their veterinarian for certain procedures, such as a pre-planned surgery, the need for blood is often both unexpected and urgent. Please share this article to let more pet owners know, so that more patient pets can receive blood transfusion treatment!

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