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HomeLIFESTYLECan Dogs donate blood- like humans?

Can Dogs donate blood- like humans?

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Do you know Dogs can donate blood?

Every drop of blood is precious and every drop of blood donated can save lives. But what many people don’t know is that just like humans, dogs too can donate blood and help save lives.

Pet blood donations can also make a difference between life and death during an emergency.

This leads to several questions for instance, why do dogs need blood transfusion? Can humans donate blood to dogs or vice-versa? Are there risks involved?  

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Similar to humans, sometimes our pets require life-saving blood transfusions for several reasons including:

  • Severe trauma resulting in acute blood loss
  • Blood clotting and bleeding disorders
  • Toxins that cause bleeding, such as rat bait and some snake bites
  • Anaemia (low red blood cell count) – most commonly immune-mediated destruction of red blood cells (RBCs) or platelets (without these dogs are at risk of severe bruising and blood loss)
  • Cancer
  • Blood loss during surgery

Well to set the record straight, human blood cannot be given to dogs. Just like humans — dogs can donate blood for each other. But all species cannot be given the same blood and there are 11 cross-matching groups.  

The development of safe and effective blood transfusions has a long and fascinating history, and the early attempts, while not always perfect, paved the way for the life-saving medical practice we know today.

Interestingly the first successful blood donation was not from human to human but from dog to dog. In 1665 an English physician Richard Lower successfully carried out the first blood transfusion between two dogs before the first successful human-to-human transfusion. This experiment laid the groundwork for future blood transfusions.

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Finally, almost 150 years later British obstetrician James Blundell carried out the first successful human-to-human blood transfusion in 1818 when he transfused four ounces of blood from a husband to his wife suffering from postpartum hemorrhage.

Significantly neither of these transfusions were performed with the knowledge of blood types, which wouldn’t be discovered by Karl Landsteiner until 1900. This lack of knowledge led to many complications and fatalities in the early years of blood transfusion.

Do dogs have blood types?

Just as we have blood types, so do dogs – in fact, dogs have over a dozen known blood types. Known as Dog Erythrocyte Antigen or DEA. The most common dog blood type is DEA 1.1. When we screen your dog’s blood we will be able to tell you what blood type they belong to based on the antigens in their blood. However, the most important information when screening blood is whether it is positive or negative.

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Interestingly, some dog breeds have a predisposition to being DEA 1.1 Positive or Negative. Greyhounds, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Pit Bulls are more likely to be Negative. On the other hand, Golden Retrievers and Labradors are more likely to be Positive.

Whether your dog’s blood type is positive or negative, every donation makes a big difference to another dog’s life.

Is it safe for a dog to donate blood?

There is a donor selection criteria and screening process to ensure that there is minimal risk or discomfort to the dog donating blood. Throughout the donation process, the donor’s welfare is monitored and the donation is stopped straight away if the donor seems to be in distress. Most dogs experience no side effects. However, occasionally, donors may feel tired – just like humans.

It is recommended your dog takes it easy for the rest of the day and can resume normal activities the next day. It is also recommended to offer plenty of fresh water following the donation.

Also Read: 15 Countries where people eat dogs and cats

Do you know one in three dogs can donate blood?

Canine blood donor requirements?

To be able to donate blood, your dog will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Healthy
  • Weighs at least 25kg
  • Between 1-8 years of age
  • Up-to-date with vaccinations, worming, and other preventatives
  • Has not had a blood transfusion previously
  • Has a calm, trusting temperament
  • Be capable of lying calmly for 5-10 minutes with their owner present while the donation occurs

Confident dogs, enjoy meeting new people, and are happy being handled make for great blood donors.

Even dogs who are extremely energetic or excitable can usually become great donors, as long as they have a reasonable level of obedience.

Dogs who are anxious, nervous, wary of new people, or have a fear of the vets, will most likely find the donation process stressful.

How often can dogs give blood?

Dogs can donate blood every eight weeks.

The donation

The actual donation process itself takes 5-10 minutes, with you and your dog being in the hospital for approximately an hour.

The donation process:  

  • A small area of fur on the neck where the collection will be taken will be cleaned.
  • A local anaesthetic cream will be applied to the area.
  • Blood is then collected via the large jugular vein. It will take 5-10 minutes for blood to be taken.  
  • After the collection, a bandage is placed over the collection site  
Stephanie Pilick/AFP/Getty Images

What happens to the blood after the donation?

The whole blood donated can be processed to get three main types of blood products– whole blood, packed red blood cells, and plasma. They all have their use depending on the illness of the patient as well as having different lifespans. Each blood donation can save up to three other dog’s lives.

The whole blood has the shortest lifespan — up to 28 days. The red blood cells have a lifespan of 35 days while the plasma separated is quickly frozen giving it a lifespan of 1 year. However, it can be used up to 5 years in certain situations (for example, in cases of rodenticide toxicity).

All blood products are stored and monitored in freezers to ensure quality control.

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Alex Smith
Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a freelance writer who writes on contemporary issues. The views expressed are his own.


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