Blood transfusions are just as crucial for sick or injured animals as they are for people. Without a ready supply of donated blood, animals may die unnecessarily. Thanks to the generosity of donor pets and their people, animals with severe health conditions or injuries can receive the blood transfusions they need.
When Are Blood Transfusions Recommended??
A blood transfusion may be needed if an animal experiences blood loss due to an accident, ruptured tumor or other cause; has severe anemia; has been poisoned or requires major surgery due to an illness or injury. Although human blood banks can be found in small and large towns alike, pet blood banks aren't quite as common. If there are no blood banks close by, small private veterinary practices or veterinary schools may create their own blood banks.
Can Any Pet Become a Blood Donor?
Ask your pet's veterinarian if he or she thinks your furry friend would be a good candidate for blood or plasma donation. If the veterinary practice you visit doesn't have its own blood bank, the employees may be able to recommend one in the area. In some cases, local veterinarians collect blood for regional blood banks, ensuring that you won't have to travel far if your pet becomes a donor. Dogs and cats aren't the only blood donors. In rural areas, cows and horses may also donate blood.
Before your dog or cat is accepted as a blood donor, the blood bank or your veterinarian will consider these factors:
- Health. Donors must be in good health and may not take any medications, other than heartworm, tick and flea prevention medication. All vaccinations must also be current. Pets may be prohibited from donating if they have ever received blood transfusions in the past.
- Blood Type. The blood bank may also consider your pet's blood type when approving new donors.
- Age. Donation is usually limited to younger pets. If your pet is younger than 1 or older than 8, he or she may not be a good candidate.
- Personality. Becoming a blood donor isn't a good idea if your pet hates visiting the vet. Forcing a reluctant pet to donate blood can be traumatic and may make the process much more difficult.
- Weight. Typically, cats must weigh at least 10 pounds and dogs 50 pounds, although weight requirements may vary. Outdoor cats aren't eligible to donate blood.
What Are the Advantage of Blood Donation for My Pet?
Blood banks and veterinary practices may show their appreciation for donor pets by offering free examinations at every donation visit, giving you a copy of the lab analysis performed on the donated blood, informing you of your pet's blood type and offering free services, such as complimentary vaccines or free or reduced-cost veterinary care.
What Happens During the Blood Donation Process?
A small amount of your pet's fur must be shaved in order to allow the needle to be placed in the jugular vein in the neck. Although that sounds a little painful, most pets don't seem to mind the needle. Before donations, cats usually receive a mild anesthetic, as they're less likely to remain still for the donation. If your pet is awake, he or she will receive plenty of attention, and probably a few treats, from the veterinary staff. Some dogs and cats receive intravenous fluids after donations to ensure that they don't experience a drop in blood pressure.
Your local blood bank or veterinarian's office will determine how often your pet can donate blood. Some banks will ask you to bring your pet in for donations every six weeks for a year, while large banks may ask that your pet donate two or three times per year for several years. Donations are needed frequently, as donated blood has a limited shelf life and must be used within approximately one month.
Do you think your pet would make a good donor? Give us a call and we'll help you get the process started.
Petfinder: Can Your Dog Be a Blood Donor?
Humane Society of the United States: Life-Saves: Dogs Who Donate Blood, 11/20/12
PetPlace: Animal Blood Banks in the U.S., 9/23/15