Dog Blood Donation: Is Your Dog Eligible to Save a Life?
Vet contributor: Dr. Fiona Smith
Whether you’re a regular blood donor, considering donating, or about to faint from the mere sight of the word, most of us have heard that a single human blood donation can save up to three lives (Red Cross, n.d.). However, what you may not know is that our canine companions are also capable of donating blood and saving the lives other dogs in need. It’s a fact that makes sense, but perhaps doesn’t get a lot of consideration. Dogs have very similar medical needs to humans, so it’s a wonder we don’t hear of pets donating blood more often.
Now you might be wondering, is my dog able to give blood? What are the risks involved? PETstock VET’s Fiona Smith answers your questions and provides information on how your pet can qualify as a lifesaving blood donor (and become a hero!).
Canine Blood Donation: The Requirements
To be eligible to donate blood, your pet must meet specific criteria (just like people!).
Requirements for dogs to be able to donate blood:
- Weight 20kg +
- Aged 1-8 years old
- Up to date with vaccinations, worming and heartworm prevention
- Deemed to be healthy by a veterinarian
- Never received a blood transfusion
- Known travel history
- Calm temperament
- Live within 10 minutes of the clinic
What are the risks to my pet if I volunteer them to give blood?
The risks to your pet when donating blood are quite minimal, however they may need to be sedated in order to donate safely. It is very rare that a healthy dog or cat will react negatively to blood donation or sedation, but it is a possibility. Your buddy may also feel weak after the donation process, but again the risk is very minimal.
What will my pet’s blood used for?
Just like humans, pets undergo blood transfusions for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to:
- Major surgery
- Anaemia: due to snake bite, autoimmune conditions, toxicity etc
- Clotting disorders
How often can my pet give blood?
In order for your pet to safely donate blood on a regular basis, it is best for donations to be kept four to six weeks apart. This gives your buddy’s blood concentration level the ability to fully restore before donating again (some veterinary clinics prefer a longer period in between, just to be sure). If your dog’s blood is needed in an emergency and you are unsure whether it’s ok to donate, a veterinarian may perform a blood concentration level test to help you decide.
What happens prior to my pet donating blood?
Before your pet can give blood, your veterinarian will put them through various tests to ensure they’re a fit participant. This will include:
- Assessing their full health history
- Performing a blood test
- Performing a full physical examination
The process of giving blood
Canine blood donation is a reasonably quick and painless procedure. Unless your dog is naturally calm and relaxed, they may be sedated with an injection in order for them safely donate blood. Your pet’s blood donation will be taken from the jugular vein on the neck, so the hair in this area is clipped and prepared for venipuncture (collection of blood). The blood is then taken from your pet into a blood bag (maximum of 400mL), ready to save lives.
What happens to my pet after the blood donation?
If your pet has been sedated, they will usually recover at the vet clinic and then go home without further treatment. If necessary, your pet may receive the equivalent amount of IV fluids before going home. If your buddy requires IV fluids, which is not a common occurrence for this type of procedure, they may also need to spend the day at the clinic so their reaction to the donation can be monitored. This can determine if your pet is suitable for regular donations.
How long does the procedure take?
Your pet’s blood donation procedure will most likely take around 30 minutes to one hour.
The cost of your pet’s blood donation procedure
There is not usually a cost involved in pet blood donation. Most clinics are very grateful for your donation and do not require payment, however check with your veterinarian for clarification.
Is donated blood kept on hand at all times, in case my pet needs a transfusion?
Donated dog blood is normally collected as it’s needed but can be stored up to four weeks. Busy emergency hospitals or specialist centers require blood more frequently, so it is common for the blood to be stored in this type of facility. Other veterinary clinics need blood stores a lot less, so donations may be wasted if too many are kept on hand.
Is your pet suitable for donation?
Their valuable blood is very important to the lives of many other pets. If you’d like to volunteer your buddy’s time (and veins!) check with the friendly team at your local PETstock VET to see when their next supply is needed.
Not all clinics are equipped to take donations, phone your local clinic for information.
No good deed should go unrewarded! When you get home from the clinic, celebrate your pooch’s achievement with a nutritious treat. We like the healthy option of Vets All Natural Health Treats.
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