Not only the human body cannot function without blood – our animals also depend on an adequate blood supply. Whether after accidents, major operations, poisoning, immune or infectious diseases, coagulation disorders or chronic diseases as well as some types of cancer: Many animals depend on one-time or regular blood transfusions to survive. Since only a very few veterinary practices have a blood bank, all others depend on blood donors to save the lives of acutely ill or injured animals.
Requirements for future blood donors
Suitable donor animals are clinically healthy dogs and cats that are regularly vaccinated and dewormed and receive thorough tick prophylaxis.
Unfortunately, animals that come from southern countries or travel there, take certain medications, have been pregnant before, or have already received a blood donation themselves are not permitted to donate blood, as they can transmit diseases or cause strong immune reactions in the recipient animal.
For dogs, the ideal age is 1 to 7 years, preferably over 25kg body weight and patient and docile disposition. The dog must remain still for the duration of the blood donation (about ten minutes). In individual cases, after consultation with the animal owner, a short-lasting sedative injection is necessary. Blood donation is not recommended for very nervous or even snappy dogs.
The ideal age for cats is between 1 and 9 years old. Minimum body weight of 4 kg and a calm mind are also required. However, cats usually need a sedative injection before the blood is taken (after consultation with the pet owner).
Most practices keep a “blood donor file” and are dependent on flexible dog and cat owners who can come to the clinic relatively quickly, as these are mostly emergencies that cannot be planned.
Frequently asked questions about blood donation
How does the blood donation work?
In the beginning, there is a clinical examination and a blood sample for laboratory diagnostics. If the clinical examination, the blood group and the crossmatch, in which the compatibility of donor and recipient blood is tested, are in order, the blood donation can begin.
A small area of skin on the neck of the donor animal is shaved and disinfected to ensure aseptic blood collection. Blood from the large jugular vein is then collected in a specially designed blood donation bag. The donor animal must remain still. Since the blood donation bags are too big for cats, the blood is taken in a large syringe and administered immediately because it is not durable.
Cats are given an IV fluid while the blood is being drawn to stabilize their circulation.
Excessive exertion should be avoided for the donor animals up to 24 hours after blood collection. Dogs should then rather wear a harness instead of a collar.
What happens to the donated blood and how long can it be stored?
A portion of the blood is given immediately. The remaining donated blood is stored in the refrigerator at 2-6°C for a maximum of 42 days.
The donated blood is used for various coagulation disorders or for severe blood loss or diseases associated with anemia.
Do dogs and cats have blood types like humans?
There are a total of 12 different blood groups in dogs, with blood groups DEA 1.1 being tested positive and DEA 1.1 being negative. When donating blood for the first time, it is usually not important, as it is with humans, which blood group the dog has.
Cats have blood groups A, B and AB, so very similar to humans.
How much blood is taken from my four-legged friend?
The amount of blood drawn depends on the donor’s body weight. For dogs this is between 250 and 400 ml, for cats this is 10 ml per kilogram of body weight.
The removal of these amounts hardly affects the animals and is replaced by the organism within a very short time. There must be at least 3 months between two blood donations.
The amount of transfusions required is constantly increasing, but unfortunately the amount of donations is often not sufficient to cover the required needs. Many veterinary practices or clinics offer the possibility of donating blood. So you are welcome to find out from your veterinarian whether your animal is a suitable blood donor – in order to save lives in an emergency