How Can my Pet Give Blood?

11295745_lDo you give blood? National Blood Donation Month is in January, and there are a lot of potential donors ready to do their part. But what about our animals? How do they get in on the giving? Read on to find out.

Where do dogs and cats get donated blood?

Most dogs can accept a transfusion from a universal type similar to the O negative type in humans. Veterinarians will usually buy this type of blood from a bank for one-time use in a patient. When multiple transfusions are needed, the appropriate type (one of five canine blood types) should be used. So, where does that blood come from?

Unfortunately, there’s quite the shortage. Despite the fact that hundreds of animals need transfusions daily, there are very few actual animal blood banks in the United States. Therefore, a majority of clinics will depend on large emergency hospitals to provide the appropriate amount of the universal type, but can’t depend on them for the right type for a multiple-transfusion patient.

As a result, several schools of veterinary medicine have created programs that allow for specific donations. Still, these programs are always in need of donations, and of owners of potential donors to come forward and help.

How does my dog or cat donate?

The process of donation for dogs is often more built out at these schools, so it’s possible you’ll have some difficulty finding a physical location where your cat can give blood. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t teams working to make it happen!

You can register your cat as a blood donor here, and allow vets nearby to search for you and your animal when they have a need. There’s a similar registry for dogs, too!

For dogs, the opportunities to donate may be slightly greater than for cats, but only slightly, as it’s likely that whichever program you choose will accept both types of donations.

The requirements for giving blood are similar to human requirements, involving a healthy weight, quick medical history review, and testing of the blood for various diseases.

There are often age requirements, as well. The animal should be free of any medications aside from heartworm or flea prevention drugs, and have a healthy heart. Some programs have socialization requirements, as stressed dogs will likely not make easy donors.

Dogs donate through their jugulars, and the process is fairly simple. It doesn’t require anesthesia and only takes around 30 minutes to complete.

Cats, however, need to be anesthetized, but the blood is also drawn from the jugular. Any program you choose will likely be quite familiar with the process, but you should feel safe and comfortable, of course, with the practicing veterinarian before giving the go-ahead.

If you are interested in helping your pet become a blood donor and you want to review the requirements, this program from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center is a good place to start.

Has your pet ever given or received a blood donation? We’d love to hear your story! Share it in the comments below.