At WAVES we frequently have patients who require life saving blood donations to help them survive. We source a small portion of our blood products from a canine blood bank which is based in Queensland. However, we operate a blood donation program to ensure we have adequate supplies of blood and plasma products for any dog that may need a life saving transfusion.
The blood donation program relies on staff dogs and members of the public’s dogs who regularly donate. At WAVES we do not have blood donors who live in the hospital waiting to give blood because ethically we think the quality of life of donors is better if they live with a family. If you own a big dog and would like to consider allowing them to be included in our donor program, please read through the following information.
In order to be considered for the program, your dog needs to meet the following requirements:
- Be happy and healthy, with no heart conditions
- Be between 1 and 7 years of age
- Weigh 30kg or more
- Have never received a blood or plasma transfusion
- Receive regular heart worm prevention
- Be up to date with vaccinations
It is also of great importance that your dog has an agreeable temperament (excitable is fine but no fear biters) as we want the experience to be a positive one which means that they will look forward to their next visit. This includes lots of praise and treats! Our nurses will explain the entire blood collection process to you, in detail, to ensure your dog is suitable and that you are happy with the process before we begin. As part of the screening process, a veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your dog to ensure that they are fit and healthy. If there are no concerns about health issues, we can proceed with checking their concentration of red blood cells (PCV) to ensure they are not anaemic. This blood sample is taken through an intravenous catheter which is placed into one of their front legs. If their PCV result is normal, we can then proceed to collecting blood from them.
For most first time donors we prefer to collect the blood donation from the leg as they can move around a little more during the collection process. This is completed through the intravenous catheter is mentioned above. To encourage blood flow, the leg may be lifted up and down repeatedly (this mimics hand squeezing used by human donors). Up to 450mls of blood is collected into a blood bag. Occasionally we can complete the donation via collection from the jugular vein. This is quicker but requires the dog to lie very still on their side for at least 15 minutes. After the donation, your dog will receive intravenous fluids to replace the volume collected. However sometimes this fluid is not required if your dog is keen to drink water right away.
There are minimal risks to the donor and most dogs suffer no ill effects. Occasionally, donors may be a little tired, and nauseous within a couple of hours after donating (just like people can when they donate). For their safety, donors should not be heavily exercised on the day of donation and have only short, non-intensive exercise sessions over the following 2 days. After this they can return to their normal activity. At all times we take extreme care to avoid any risks to the donor, however like any other medical procedure we cannot guarantee that they will not suffer adverse effects. On the rare occasion where a dog may suffer adverse effects, full treatment will be provided at no charge to the owner and the donor will be removed from the program.
As an owner, you are invited to accompany your dog during the process of blood donation. However, if you prefer not to be present be assured that we have several well trained nurses and vets on hand to provide high quality care and ensure your dog is comfortable and enjoying the experience.
Some of our large patients who have had orthopaedic surgery can donate blood when they come back for post operative radiographs a couple of months after their surgery. In this situation the blood collection is done at the end of their anaesthetic. This is only ever done with the owners knowledge and consent.
Dogs may require lifesaving blood transfusions to aid in their recovery from many conditions such as:
- Severe trauma e.g. Hit by a car,
- Rat bait toxicity,
- Von Willebrands disease (common in Dobermans),
- Haemolytic anaemia (secondary to immune mediated diseases or onion toxicity),
- Blood loss during major surgery of the liver, spleen or other organs,
A blood donation takes approximately 1 hour and comes at no cost to you. In return, you will receive a free examination, free basic blood test, a small thank you gift from us and the deepest gratitude from our patients, their families and our staff. The entire procedure from the donation to the transfusion is completed by highly trained staff at the WAVES veterinary hospital. If you would like register your dog into the blood donor program at WAVES, or you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
General information about blood transfusions in dogs
Collected blood is most commonly spun down in a refrigerated centrifuge and separated into plasma which is frozen and 1-2 bags of packed red blood cells. It is occasionally not separated and stored as whole blood or used immediately after collection as fresh whole blood. Packed red blood cells and whole blood can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 5 weeks and plasma can be stored in a freezer for up to 1 year.
Dogs have more than a dozen blood antigen groups (Called DEA 1.1, DEA 1.2, DEA 4, DEA 7 etc) and an individual dog can be positive to more than 1 type of antigen. In Australia and the majority of the world testing is only available for one type of antigen (DEA 1). Dogs are not born with antibodies to other blood types and therefore on their first transfusion of packed red blood cells or whole blood and for the first 4 days after this transfusion they can receive blood from any dog. From 4 days after receiving their first transfusion and for the rest of their life a dog’s who receives another blood transfusion should have a laboratory test (cross match) performed to assess for the risk of a transfusion reaction occurring.
A cross-match is ideally performed in a specialist veterinary laboratory. This combines the recipient and donor’s red blood cells to check for compatibility or reactions. All patients receiving a transfusion are monitored very closely to assess for reactions. Patients who have adverse reactions to blood transfusions will either have the transfusion immediately stopped or receive immediate appropriate treatment.