Pet Blood Donation: Giving The Gift Of Life To Man’s Best Friends

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
January is National Blood Donor Month, and you may have already even donated blood to help give fellow humans the gift of life.

But did you know that there’s a critical need for blood donations from pets, and your pets may be able to give their fellow fur-friends that same gift?

Thankfully, medical advancements have allowed pet owners to do more when it comes to caring for their furry family members. Pet parents are also spending more on condition treatments that previously they may not have been able to, and while this means good news for pets, it does bring about an issue.

Related: Revolutionary New Blood Test Helps Diagnose Canine Cancer

Pet Blood Donation Need At Critical Level

The advancements mean there is an increased need for pet blood. Pet blood supplies all over the United States are well below what is often needed. This leads many veterinarians turning to out-of-state blood banks to treat their local patients.

We pet parents can help make a difference in this effort too! BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital has eight pet blood banks across the country. This donated blood is used to help treat everything from heart disease, heat stroke, kidney injury and disease, poisoning and trauma to immune system conditions. BluePearl also works with Canine Blood Heroes. Canine Blood Heroes is a national system of local dog blood donation programs (currently in Phoenix and Kansas City) that works to provide local veterinarians and pet owners with quick access to safe canine blood.

Dee Ann Dugger is the Senior Clinician, Head of Emergency Service and Blood Bank Director at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Dugger says that it’s a challenge to get safe blood to a pet who needs it immediately right now because there are only a handful of banks across the country. She says that as a veterinary community, they simply need more pet donors to help meet the need for pet blood and help all our furry friends have their best chances at long-term health.

Pet Blood Donation: Fido, What’s Your Type?

Just like we humans have, cats and dogs have different blood types. Cats have three different cat-specific blood types (about 99% of all cats are type A) similar to those labeled for humans (A, B, AB) while their canine counterparts are a bit more complicated. In dogs, blood types are numbered according to the dog erythrocyte antigen (DEA) labeling system. In a few words, blood is made up of red and white blood cells and platelets in plasma. The antigens (protein molecules that are found on the surface of red blood cells) are what identifies the blood group for dogs and in the DEA system, there are 12 different blood types, with 8 being most common.

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And, just like in humans, blood donation involves more than just the willingness to donate and receive. Dogs who are DEA 4 or DEA 6 solely can often be considered a universal blood donor for most dogs. While any of the DEA types can obviously trigger an immune response (just like within human blood donation) those seem to be the safest. Dogs that are DEA 1.1 NEGATIVE are also considered universal donors, but dogs with DEA 1.1+ are not viable donation candidates as their blood type tends to be the most reactive in recipients.

In cats, there really is no universal donor. To receive blood, cats have to be cross-matched by the veterinarian to ensure a best match because of antigens. It’s important for veterinarians to have both A and B on hand to be able to meet most feline needs.

How Can My Pet Be A Blood Donor?

Pet donor screenings and requirements vary a bit from state-to-state, but there are some basic guidelines. Blood will only be accepted from cats who live indoors ONLY. Those cats also need to be between the ages of two and seven, and they have to test negative for feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia. Additionally, they may not have been bred or ever received a blood transfusion.

For dogs to donate, they need to be 1-7-years old and current on all their vaccines. They also need to be considered ‘healthy,’ by your vet.

And, just like with human blood donation guidelines, there are weight requirements. In order to give blood, dogs must weigh over 50 pounds (larger breeds are preferred for donation) and cats need to weigh over 10 pounds.

If you think your furry friend is a candidate for the title of ‘life-saving hero,’ you can look into any of BluePearl’s National Pet Blood Bank locations:

The American Kennel Club does not have any affiliation with blood banks, but in the interest of health and welfare for all pets, has provided this list of blood banks that may be local to you, and in which you and your pet can really make a big difference!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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