Blood transfusions in dogs and cats can be needed for a variety of conditions such as blood loss through bleeding disorders, conditions that cause red blood cell destruction (haemolytic anaemia) or a lack of red blood cell production (bone marrow disorders). The number of red blood cells is defined by a number called the packed cell volume (PCV).
Red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen to all the organs and loss of red blood cells causes anaemia which in severe cases can be life threatening. Blood transfusions can save an animal’s life within a matter of hours.
Just like people, dogs have different blood types. Blood typing is performed before a transfusion to reduce the risks of complications. In other cases, cross matching of blood can be performed to further reduce the risk of reaction to subsequent blood transfusions.
Blood and blood products for transfusions in the UK come from a charity called the Pet Blood Bank and they are responsible for collection and storage of dog blood products nationally. However, as in human medicine there is a national shortage of dog blood products so the required blood may not always be available in an emergency.
In this situation, Mount Vets will collect blood from donor dogs and use this blood immediately for the transfusion. Mount Vets are creating a “dog donor register” so that if blood is required in an emergency we can contact owners of registered dogs to provide a blood donation. Donor dogs would provide blood for a specific patient requiring that blood immediately, as blood cannot be stored by the practice.
To be eligible for the donor register dogs need to be
• registered with the practice
• between 1and 8 years of age
• weigh more than 25kg
• be up to date with all vaccinations
• never have travelled abroad
• not be on any medication
• be fit and healthy and with a calm temperament.
Upon registration as a donor dog, Mount Vets will test the blood type of your dog. For each blood donation by a donor dog, Mount Vets will provide a free health check and vaccination for that year. Donor dogs are limited to only one donation each year.
What happens when my dog donates blood?
Once a full health check has been performed, a patch of fur is clipped from the underside of your dog’s neck. This is to allow access to the jugular vein. This area is thoroughly cleaned and then local anaesthetic applied to the area. The blood is collected via a needle into a blood collection bag. Very occasionally some dogs may require a sedative during the donation. The entire procedure usually takes no longer then 10 minutes. Once the blood has been collected your dog is provided with a warm, comfortable area to recover and provided with food and water. They will go home the same
What are the risks to my dog?
As with people, the risks of blood donation are very low. A unit of blood (equivalent to 450mls of blood) is usually taken at each donation, so only dogs over a certain size are eligible to donate. After the donation some dogs may take it easy for a little while, but many will get on with their normal routine.