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The Red Cross does incredible work in saving human lives with their blood collections and blood banks, but did you realise it’s not the Red Cross that collects, store and distribute dog and cat blood?
If your beloved cat or dog is hit by a car, attacked by another animal, struck by a serious illness and needs serious medical treatment, it’s highly likely they may need a blood transfusion.
And with only a handful of animal blood banks located around Australia, it’s actually your local vet who collects and transfuses blood as it is needed to save another pet’s life.
I actually wrote a blog about dog blood transfusions a couple of years ago, explaining what the process involves. But I felt compelled to write again about pet blood donations after hearing a story recently on the ABC about how the demand for dog and cat blood just continues to rise. There are several reasons for this rise in demand.
Our pets are becoming a very important part of our families and we’re now spending more money on them to keep them in good health, so our pets are living longer. There are also more specialised veterinarians, such as orthopaedic surgeons and oncologists, and lifesaving treatments for illnesses such as cancer, that simply didn’t exist before or were not as widely available until quite recently.
Just like human donations, dogs must pass a screening process before they can donate blood to an animal blood bank. Dogs that donate blood must:
Many aspects of the dog blood donation process are identical to ours. The blood collection equipment used is the same and dogs also donate approximately the same volume of blood as a human: 450 millilitres. The transfusion process takes only about 10-15 minutes, after which your dog will receive some special treats and lots of praise.
Cat blood donation is not quite as straightforward as dog blood donation because most cats need to be sedated before donation, although there are some cats who can donate without the need for sedation. Cat donors need to weigh at least 4 kilograms (but preferably 5kgs or more) and due to their smaller size and because they have less blood per kilogram, they only give approximately 40 to 55 millilitres per donation.
Cat blood is collected via their jugular vein, using a specialised needle and a syringe, and the actual donation process is over in a matter of minutes. But because cats aren’t very good at drinking to replenish the fluids they’ve lost, they need to be hooked up to an IV drip after a donation to avoid dehydration. This means that the donation process for cats can take up to several hours.
Just like humans, dogs have different blood types – in fact experts have detected 13 canine blood groups. The most common dog blood type is DEA 1.1 and 30–45 per cent of canines are DEA 1.1. Dogs can receive a first-time transfusion safely without being typed, however after a few transfusions they will build up antibodies against different blood types. Cats, on the other hand, only have only three blood groups: type A, type B or type AB blood, and there is no universal donor or universal receiver when it comes to feline blood types. So if a cat receives a transfusion with the wrong type of blood, it can be fatal.
If you think your dog or cat might be a suitable candidate for blood donation, contact your mobile vet so we can assess your pet for suitability and also so we know we can call on you when we need a donation. Another option is to donate on a regular basis to a veterinary surgery that collects blood – your dog can donate up to 4 times a year, potentially saving the life of 12 other dogs! If you contact your mobile vet we can put you in touch with the blood collection surgery nearest to you.