Dog Donors Saving Lives

Have you ever heard of dogs donating blood to help other dogs in need? It may sound unusual, but it's a lifesaving practice that happens more often than you might think. Just like humans, dogs sometimes require blood transfusions due to illness, injury, or surgery. And that's where canine blood donors come in. There are some requirements dogs must meet to be a donor – so let’s dive right in with the facts!

Why would a dog need a blood transfusion?

Just like with humans, there are various conditions that can lead to a dog needing a blood transfusion. These can include trauma (such as ingesting toxins that cause bleeding, some snake bites, or being hit by a car), blood loss during surgery, immune-mediated diseases, and certain types of cancer. Having a readily available supply of blood can be vital in saving a dog's life. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a shortage of suitable blood donors and blood supply, so many vet hospitals have donor programs to help maintain a blood bank of canine blood to ensure there is enough on hand when it’s needed most.

Do dogs have different blood types?

Yes they do! 13 different blood types in fact, known as Erythrocyte Antigen or DEA. The most common blood type is DEA 1.1. Dogs can’t accept blood from any other species, and they need it in their specific blood group. Just like humans, their blood type can either be positive or negative with some breeds being predisposed to having either a positive or negative blood type.

Is it safe for dogs to donate blood?

There is a selection-criteria for dogs who can donate and a screening process which minimizes risks. Most dogs experience no side effects, though some donors may feel tired after donating blood, just like humans can. Generally, it is recommended the donor takes it easy for the day after their donation and maintains their hydration, and they can resume normal activities the next day.

Can my dog be a blood donor?

Not all dogs can be blood donors. To be eligible, a dog must meet certain criteria, including being in good health, up to date on vaccinations, and free from certain medical conditions. Dogs that are calm, well-behaved, and have a good temperament are also preferred for the donation process. To be a donor, a pooch would need to meet the following criteria:

  • Healthy with no serious illnesses or long-term medications
  • Weighs at least 23kg or more
  • Between 1-5 years of age
  • Up to date with vaccinations, worming, and other preventatives
  • Has never received a blood transfusion
  • Has a calm, trusting temperament
  • Be capable of lying calmly for 5-10 minutes with their owner present while the donation occurs

Blood donation is not recommended for dogs who are anxious, nervous, wary of new people or have a fear of the vets, as they will likely find the process stressful. 

Dog donors can give blood every 8 weeks, however normally vet hospitals will only ask a doggo to donate when they need to, based on the hospitals blood bank supply. 

How do dogs donate blood?

When a dog is identified as a potential blood donor, they will undergo a thorough health screening to ensure they are fit to donate. The actual donation process is quick and relatively painless for the dog and usually takes 30 minutes to 1 hour. Typically, a small amount of blood is drawn from a vein in the neck or leg while the dog is under sedation. The amount taken is carefully monitored to ensure it is safe for the donor.

After the donation, the dog is closely monitored to ensure they are recovering well. They may receive some extra treats and kisses to help them feel better after the experience, and possibly an IV fluid drip. Just like with human blood donations, the blood collected from canine donors is carefully processed, stored, and used when needed.

The blood collected from donors can be stored as whole blood which has a lifespan of approximately 28 days, or it can be separated into plasma and packed red blood cells. The red blood cells can be packed with a solution added to it, which prolongs the blood health and lifespan up to 35 days. The plasma can be frozen with a lifespan of 1 year.

Canine blood donation is a vital aspect of veterinary medicine that allows dogs to help their fellow furry friends in times of need. If you have a dog that meets the criteria for donation, consider reaching out to your local vet clinic or vet hospital to see how your pooch can become a canine blood donor. There are blood donor programs at SASH Vets in NSW and Animal Emergency Service based in QLD and TAS. Australia wide veterinary clinics Greencross Vets and Petstock also offer blood transfusion services. 

If blood donation isn’t for you or your dog, you can still support by sharing this information with other pet parents, friends, or family - and spread the word about the need for doggo donors!


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