Here are some frequently asked questions. If you don’t see an answer to your question here, please feel free to give us a call at 678-592-3985, or send us an email.
Why do dogs and cats require transfusions of blood or blood products?
Dogs and cats can require blood and/or plasma for many of the same reasons people require transfusions, as well as for other conditions, such as anemia due to severe parasite infestations, such as fleas or whipworms. Pets can require transfusions following trauma or surgery. Immune disorders, cancers, and bleeding disorders (such as those at occur after rat poison ingestion) also often times require transfusions of blood products.
Do canine and felines have different blood types within their species?
Dogs have a complex blood type system in which they can be typed for the presence or absence of at least six different proteins (called Dog Erythrocyte Antigens or DEA) on the surface of their red blood cells. This mix and matching of different combinations of proteins makes type specific transfusions difficult in dogs. Luckily, dogs do not have preexisting antibodies against foreign blood proteins and can typically receive one transfusion a blood of a different blood type once. Dogs that require multiple transfusions may need to be crossmatched with the donated blood to better assure compatibility.
Cats have 3 basic blood types: A, B, and AB. Greater than 95% of cats in the United States are type A. Type B blood is more common in breeds such as Rexes and American Shorthairs. If your cat is Type B and is a blood donor, your cat will not likely donate often, but may be called upon with short notice to donate on an as needed basis.
What should I expect when my pet donates blood?
Prior to each donation, your pet will receive a full physical exam and have its red blood cell count checked for any changes since the previous donation. Once it is clear your pet can donate, a square of fur over your pet’s neck will be shaved of fur and cleaned with an antiseptic. Most pets donate while lying on their sides, but giant breed dogs can sometimes donate while sitting in an upright position. A needle attached to a blood collection bag will then be inserted into the jugular (neck) vein, allowing the collection bag to fill with blood. Most cats do receive sedation (a narcotic injection +/- “valium”) prior to blood collection to minimize stress and restraint requirements. Dogs do not typically require any sedation. Following donation, pets are given subcutaneous fluids, which is an injection of water and electrolyte replacement under the skin.
Is it dangerous for my pet to donate blood?
No. In order to donate, you pet receives a full physical exam every 8 weeks as well as complementary bloodwork to assure that your pet is healthy. If, at any time, a health condition is suspected in your pet, you will be referred to your family veterinarian. Donation is no more uncomfortable for pets than receiving vaccines. Potential complications from donation are uncommon and are limited to clipper burn, bruising, or skin rash/sensitivity to antiseptic.
How often can dogs and cats donate blood?
Dogs can safely donate blood blood every 3-4 weeks and cats every 4-5 weeks. At Best Friends Blood Bank, we try to schedule donations every 8 weeks, but in the event of a shortage of supplies, your pet may be called upon to donate again after only 6 weeks.