Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) and surgeries are some of the most common medical emergencies that may require a blood transfusion.
Hundreds of animals around the world are in dire need of transfusion every day but only a few of them have access to a blood bank and even fewer who can afford them.
Unfortunately, the majority of these dogs come from third world countries whose owners cannot afford to buy blood. Their only option is to look for a dog blood donor to lessen their expenses.
Can All Dog Donate?
Ideally, dogs that are between 1 to 5 years old are prospective donors, and up to 7 years old are allowed if they are in perfect health. The allowable volume of blood that can be extracted would depend on the dog’s weight.
The donor weight starts at 20 kg and above and the heavier the dog the more blood it could donate. Medium to large breed dogs are the perfect candidates. Initially, their blood will need to be screened for blood-borne diseases including heartworm and ehrlichiosis.
Their temperature, heart rate, and respiration should all be normal as well.
Dog Blood Types
Just like humans, dogs have blood types too. However, their blood type does not limit them to donating.
Generally, there are 7 types of dog blood which are classified according to the dog erythrocyte antigen (DEA) system. These are the DEA 1.1, DEA 1.2, DEA 1.3, DEA 3, DEA 4, DEA 5 and DEA 7.
The DEA 4 type is known as the universal blood donor because 98% of dogs carry this antigen. If you are planning to volunteer your dog to become a blood donor, you don’t need to worry about not knowing their blood types because the entire process of blood typing and testing will be done by your vet.
Dogs can donate every 3 months or up to 4 times a year, which means that your dog gets four opportunities to save another dog’s life in one year!
Dangers and Benefits
Understandably, the main concern of dog owners is the risk that comes with donating blood. This is the reason why all dogs are screened in the beginning.
Those who lack values in blood components (e.g. platelet, RBC) would be discouraged to donate blood to consider the safety of the donor. The cost of screening is shouldered by the owner of the patient dog, and this is one major benefit that comes with being a volunteer.
A complete blood test is expensive but blood donors can get one for free. There are also some clinics that give gift checks or discounts to dog blood donors, while some communities of blood donors present them with a plaque or a scarf as a sign of appreciation.
The Blood Extraction Process
After the screening process, assuming that the dog passed the blood works with flying colors, the dog will need to be prepped for the blood extraction.
A portion of the neck area will be shaved to aid the vets in finding a jugular vein where the blood will be extracted. The dog may or may not be sedated depending on how calm or aggressive he/she is.
The entire process of extraction may take anywhere between 20 to 45 minutes. If the dog is sedated, he/she will wake up soon after the extraction and may feel a little dizzy and walk funny for 10 to 15 minutes.
Usually, the veterinarian will encourage the owner of the patient dog to provide iron supplements to the donor to aid in replenishing blood. The volunteer dog may soon go home after the extraction.
In some parts of the world, dogs are bred and confined in blood mills for almost their entire life just for the purpose of donating blood. Sadly, they will die like a prisoner not knowing what it’s like to be loved and to be a part of a family.
Letting your dog become a blood donor is a small thing that could create a huge impact in the dog community. Do a social media search to coordinate with a community within your area and to learn how your dog can become a blood donor.