No, it’s not a futuristic concept from James Cameron’s next Avatar movie, pets can really donate blood just like us humans can: dogs specifically. While there are several requirements that need to be met for your pet to give blood, it is a very simple collection process, usually taking around an hour. But, there’s little point in disclosing the simple facts. Let’s go into detail about the whats, the whys, and the reasons donating blood is one of the most selfless things you and your pet can do.
Dog Blood Types
Just like us, dogs have a number of different blood types that can be tested for. They are ordered numerically in the dog erythrocyte antigen (DEA) system. These blood types include DEA 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 3, 4, 5, and 7. Several other types also exist, but there are no tests for them as of yet. Dogs can have multiple different blood types at one time since the types of blood refer to the different antigens the blood contains.
Understanding Dog Blood
In order to know what type of blood your dog has, it must be tested to see what antigens it contains. A blood sample will be taken from your dog and a simple blood test will be run to get the results. The tests will also check to see which antigens are present on the red blood cells which will determine the blood type of your dog, thus allowing the blood to be used correctly during operations and procedures.
Why do dogs need transfusions?
Some dogs can lose large amounts of blood due to disease, surgery, or trauma and would therefore require a blood transfusion. The first transfusion a dog receives can be with any type of blood, but if subsequent transfusions are needed the blood will need to be typed and crossmatched; like finding the right piece for a jigsaw. Crossmatching blood ensures that the blood types are compatible between the donor and the recipient.
When can a dog donate blood?
There are specific requirements to ensure blood donors are of a certain size and healthy enough to handle giving blood. 25 kilograms is usually the minimum weight required for a dog to be a blood donor. They must also be friendly; free of infectious, blood-borne diseases and parasites, such as Heartworms and Lyme disease; be up to date on vaccinations; not be on any medications other than the typical parasite preventatives; and be between one and seven years of age. Dogs can only donate blood once every three weeks so if your dog is requested to give blood more frequently it should not do so for its own safety. Below is a list of the full requirements in a nicely formatted list.
Your dog weighs over 25kg (1- 6 years giant breed)
• They are aged between 1-8 years.
• Fit and well, fully vaccinated, wormed and not on any medication.
• They have not traveled outside of Ireland.
• They have never received a blood transfusion themselves.
• Never had puppies and is not pregnant.
• They have a good temperament.
How does the collection process work?
If your dog meets the physical, age, and temperament requirements to be a blood donor, it will need to be tested for blood-borne diseases and receive any vaccinations that it may have missed out on. Once the blood-borne disease tests are negative, your dog can give blood. The blood is drawn from the large vein in your dog's neck called the jugular and collected in a special bag or jar to be used to transfuse another dog. The entire procedure typically takes less than an hour. After, your paw-pal will get plenty of treats and head-pats for being such a good patient!
Are dogs the only animals that can donate blood?
No, thankfully. Cats can also donate blood in the interest of saving other feline lives. The process isn’t all that different, but there are different requirements for cats to be able to donate (listed below).
• Over 4kg.
• Aged between 1-8 years old.
• Is fully vaccinated, wormed, healthy and not receiving any medication.
• Has not travelled outside of Ireland.
• Has never received a transfusion.
• Has a good temperament.
Allowing your cat or dog to give blood is one of the most selfless acts either of you can engage in. Giving this gift of life is something that takes as long as an hour and is as simple as it sounds; aside from being in constant demand. If you think that this is something you and your pet would be interested in, why don’t you give us a call and find out more? Alternatively, UCD’s Veterinary Hospital has a pet donor clinic that is always on the lookout for potential donors. You can find out more about what they do here.
As always, if you or your pet are in the midst of an emergency, you can call us on any of the numbers listed on our website. We are one of the few Emergency Vet Hospitals in Dublin & Meath that open on Sundays & Bank Holidays and we are always ready to help with anything and everything.
In any case, we hope that this short guide has helped you to make an informed decision on whether your pet is right for donating blood!