Every year thousands of dogs across Australia require lifesaving blood to treat a variety of diseases and trauma, yet very few owners are of the need for more dog blood donors to help keep up with demand.
Just as human blood banks play a vital role in saving human lives, dogs and cats also rely on donated blood from anonymous donors for their survival in times of need.
From emergency blood transfusions to assist in surgery or cancer treatment, snake bites and parvovirus cases, to treating toxicities and anaemia or bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, the lives of up to three critically ill dogs can be saved from just one unit of blood donated.
Unfortunately there are not many animal blood banks in Australia and, the further away a vet clinic is from a blood bank, the harder and more expensive it can be to access pre-prepared, stored blood products from those sources. This means that vets often rely on staff pets or a willing client to donate blood, which can put a lot of pressure on an animal to act as a repeat donor.
This is not ideal as sometimes these donor dogs are not always the best candidate due to their age, size or because they have recently donated blood. So, by increasing donor lists at pet blood banks and also at general practice clinics, the demand for blood can be shared around which is better for everyone.
Dogs can donate blood up to four times a year, although some clinics will call them in less often to help ensure the dog blood donor continues to see the visits as a positive thing, as well as to preserve their veins.
The dog blood donation process
If you would like to be involved in becoming a canine blood donor, your dog will first get an examination before the blood donation is collected and a blood test will be run to ensure all readings are normal.
First time donors will find out their blood type too! There are over 12 blood types in domestic dogs, however it is a particular antigen (DEA 1.1) that is important for blood donations. A dog is either DEA 1.1 NEG or DEA 1.1 POS. Positive blood can go to positive dogs, while negative dogs are universal donors.
Knowing your dog’s blood type can help in an emergency situation as it can help ensure that your dog receives the right blood type to minimise the risk of transfusion reaction. It also means that if your pet requires multiple transfusions, receiving the correct blood type from the first transfusion can help decrease the risk of reaction or rejection from a subsequent transfusion.
Some dogs may need a light sedation for the actual donation. The neck will have some fur shaved off and the blood is taken from the jugular vein. The donation takes about 5 – 10 minutes and in that time the vet will collect between 400 – 500mLs of blood.
All up the process takes a few hours and donors are also rewarded with incentives like free food, blood donor merchandise and discounted veterinary services.
The idea dog blood donor is:
• Over 25kg
• Between 1 and 7 years old
• Up to date with vaccinations and parasite prevention
• In general good health
• Cooperative and calm in a clinic environment
How to register your dog as blood donor
- Talk to a local university that teaches veterinary science (often they will have a clinic and the capacity to store blood)
- Contact your closest 24hour or emergency veterinary clinic (these are the ones who most commonly need blood!)
- Approach your regular vet about marking you as a ring-in in their computer system.
There is a great campaign that is helping to raise awareness about the need for dog blood donors which was started by Qualified Veterinary Nurse , Bella McGrath. Bella’s dog Roo is a blood donor and has helped save many lives. To find out more about this and to join the BLOOD Hound community, visit her blog at bloodhoundaustralia.wordpress.com
Whilst we’re on the topic of dog emergencies, if you don’t already have pet insurance for your pooch then have a read as to why I believe every owner should consider this for their pet. Or to get a quote visit HIF.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog training, minding and walking business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.