Dog blood donation: what pet owners need to know

The first human-canine blood donation service in the world was set up in Australia last month. The blood donation campaign called Donate With a Mate allows humans and dogs to give blood together. The human blood goes to hospitals and the canine blood to veterinary practices.

The initiative aims to raise awareness of a little-known fact – that just like humans, dogs can donate blood too. As veterinary medicine advances and there’s a lot more we can do for pets, the demand for pet blood donors is expected to continue to grow.

Over 5,000 units of canine blood were sent out to dogs in need in the UK only last year by Pet Blood Bank (PBB).

Every unit of blood can help to save the lives of up to four dogs, which means donor dogs in the PBB network could have helped save up to 20,000 dogs in need last year.

In addition, some veterinary practices maintain a list of donor dogs that they can reach out to for donation in emergencies. For example, Cumbrian deerhound Ollie helps save many canine lives in Appleby as a registered blood donor dog.

When does a dog need a blood transfusion?

There are many reasons why a dog might need a blood transfusion. Dogs are susceptible to many of the same conditions humans get, such as different types of anaemia, blood clotting disorders, blood cancers or autoimmune disease. Blood transfusions might be needed during surgery, too.

Dogs can also need blood due an accident or an injury, just like a human might when in a bad car accident. For example, in September 2018, the BBC filmed the reunion of cocker spaniel Bentley whose life was saved when he received a blood donation from Greyhound Alex after Bentley ingested rat poison and needed an emergency transfusion.

Australia’s Donate With a Mate campaign and Pet Blood Bank in the UK are trying to raise awareness that blood transfusions can save canine lives and dog owners can get involved as long as their dog is eligible do donate.

Dog blood donor criteria

To donate blood, your dog needs to be healthy and be over a certain weight among other things.

The full donor eligibility criteria outlined by the Pet Blood Bank is as follows:

  • your dog needs to be fit and healthy
  • weight at least 25 kg
  • has not been abroad
  • is between 1 and 8 years old
  • has all its vaccinations up to date
  • has a good temperament

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Where to donate dog blood: Dog blood donation centres near me

Pet Blood Bank has a blood donation session locator that you can use to find the nearest venue where you can take your dog to donate blood. If you can’t find one near you, you can still register your dog with Pet Blood Bank as they are increasing the areas where they run sessions and need dogs from across the country to donate.

You can also speak to your vet about adding your dog to their emergency donor list.

You can call Pet Blood Bank to have a chat about what happens at a donation session and they can answer any questions you have. You can also visit their Facebook page where you can ask other dog owners what it is like.

What happens during donation

Your blood donation appointment shouldn’t take longer than an hour altogether. The donation itself takes 5-10 minutes.

Before your dog can donate, it will have a health check by a vet, eg a physical examination, to ensure it is fit and well to donate.

Then a small blood sample will be taken for testing to further confirm your dog’s health and eligibility to donate. Blood is usually taken by clipping a small bit of fur around the neck and disinfecting the area before proceeding to take the blood.

If everything is ok your dog will be proceeded to the donation. A qualified veterinary professional will take one unit of blood which is approx. 450ml.

After donating, you will be asked to stay at the donation venue for a small amount of time to allow your dog to have a drink, something to eat and to be observed by the team.

We asked Pet Blood Bank what they'd say to owners who want to bring their dog in to donate but might feel a little bit nervous about it. Here's what they told us:

Dog blood types

Just like us, dogs have different blood types. We type for DEA 1 in the UK and dogs can either be DEA 1 Positive or DEA 1 Negative.

Pet Blood Bank told us that their research research shows that 70% of dogs appear to be DEA 1 Positive while only 30% are DEA 1 Negative.

Dogs with DEA 1 Negative blood type can only receive DEA 1 Negative blood whereas dogs with DEA 1 Positive can receive either Positive or Negative blood.

"Our stock levels of DEA 1 Negative blood are currently very low and so we need more dogs of this type to register. Certain breeds of dog are more likely to have this blood type including Boxers, Dobermans, Flat Coated Retrievers, German Shepherds, Greyhounds, Lurchers and Weimaraners," told us Wendy Barnett, Clinical Director at Pet Blood Bank.

Dog donor register

Pet Blood Bank UK maintains a register of blood donor dogs. You can register your dog on their website. You will be asked to fill out a short form that will help Pet Blood Bank determine your dog’s eligibility based on age, health, weight, etc.

Learn how pet trackers can help you monitor you pet's health.

Cat blood donation

There isn’t a feline donation programme in the UK at present, however, Pet Blood Bank UK is working towards establishing one in the very near future.

If you want to volunteer your cat to donate blood, speak to your vet or get in touch with the Royal Veterinary College who have a programme for dog, horse and cat blood donation. As a reward your cat will be given a free health check, including a heart scan and tests for feline leukaemia and immunodeficiency virus.

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