After a traumatic accident, intense surgery, cancer diagnosis, or consumption of toxins, dogs may find themselves in need of a little extra blood. Luckily for our canine partners, dogs are able to donate blood to one another.
Aside from emergency blood needs, advancing veterinary practices including oncology and orthopedic care call for donated blood. These practices continue to extend the lives of man’s best friend, meaning blood is always in demand.
Similar to people, dogs have blood types which are called ‘groups.’ There are more than a dozen different groups, but the majority of dogs fall into six groups of blood. Approximately 40% of dogs are part of the universal blood group.
With the need for blood outpacing donations, canine blood banks are popping up in Maryland, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Colorado, California, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, according to the AKC Canine Club Foundation.
About Blood Banks
Canine blood banks are a relatively new concept. The practice heavily utilizes donations and veterinarians often rely on personal dogs to supply blood in an emergency.
For-profit blood banks have begun appearing to make blood more accessible. At these businesses, dogs such as retired racing greyhounds or stray dogs at risk of euthanasia are kept as blood donors. Because the donors live at the center, the blood banks are able to closely monitor the donor’s health and maintain a constant supply of universal canine blood.
According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, there are two kinds of canine blood donors; “full pint” and “half-pint.” A dogs’ weight determines which category they are placed in, and the donors undergo a rigorous examination to be cleared for giving.
Donors must be current on vaccines for distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, hepatitis, rabies, and can’t be taking any medications other than a flea, tick, and heartworm preventative.
Behaviorally, donors have tested on demeanor with strangers, ability to follow basic commands, and acceptance of physical handling. Dogs’ age, weight, previous health conditions are also taken into consideration.
If an animal checks all the boxes, a preliminary blood panel is drawn to examine blood chemistry. According to the AKC Canine Club Foundation, at this point donors are also screened for other possible diseases like Brucellosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme Disease.
After a final thumbs-up, a donor is cleaned and shaved around their jugular vein. With a sterile collection kit, blood is drawn from 15 to 30 minutes.
After the donation, lots of praise and yummy treats are given, along with IV fluids if deemed necessary. The dogs experience little to no pain throughout the donation process and can resume business as usual within a day of their donation.
Uses for Blood Donations
Once blood is collected, it is centrifuged to separate components. Canine blood contains Red and white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. Each of these can be used to benefit other dogs, and according to the AKC Canine Club Foundation, the most common transfusions contain red blood cells and plasma.
Red blood cells can be used to treat anemia and cancer. Plasma contains anti-coagulants and proteins, which can be used to treat internal bleeding and parvo.
Though often far from our minds, blood donations and transfusions are a big part of canine health. As the industry develops, dogs will reap the benefits of health advancements achieved through blood.
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