As a veterinary nurse, I began campaigning for canine blood donations when I saw a call for volunteers at a local veterinary practice. I was not working in clinic at the time and through signing up my dog Roo, I came to realise that the general public don’t know about the need for donated blood for our dogs, nor is it easy to find a vet that actually collects donated blood.
From this experience, I decided to start the BLOOD Hound Australia campaign to help bridge the gap between vets and owners and raise awareness about this important issue.
The need for a dog to have a blood transfusion can be caused from a surprisingly large number of medical conditions. This could be from severe anaemia to a traumatic injury, immune illnesses to poisoning and many other things in between! Sadly, just about all of the medical conditions requiring a blood transfusion are ones that need a moderate to high level of veterinary intervention, which is where pet insurance can come in very handy to help soften the financial impact.
There are not many animal blood banks in Australia so the further away a vet clinic is from a blood bank the harder and more expensive it can be to access pre-prepared, stored blood products from those sources.
This means that vets often rely on staff pets or a willing client to donate blood which can put a lot of pressure on an animal to act as a donor, especially when they are not always the best candidate for blood donation (due to age, size, recently having donated blood etc). By increasing donor lists at pet blood banks and also at general practice clinics, the demand for blood can be shared around which is better for everyone.
Your dog is an ideal blood donor If your dog is:
- Over 25kg
- Between 1 and 7 years old
- Up to date with vaccinations and parasite prevention
- In general good health
- Cooperative and calm in a clinic environment
The process for canine blood donation
If you would like to be involved in becoming a canine blood donor, your dog will first get an examination before the blood donation is collected and a blood test will be run to ensure all readings are normal.
First time donors will find out their blood type too! There are over 12 blood types in domestic dogs, however it is a particular antigen (DEA 1.1) that is important for blood donations. A dog is either DEA 1.1 NEG or DEA 1.1 POS. Positive blood can go to positive dogs, while negative dogs are universal donors.
Some dogs may need a light sedation for the actual donation. The neck will have some fur shaved off and the blood is taken from the jugular vein. The donation takes about 5 – 10 minutes and in that time the vet will collect between 400 – 500mLs of blood.
After the donation your dog will be given IV fluids to replace what was taken and will also be treated to a delicious meal before going home. All up the process takes a few hours. Donors are also rewarded with incentives like free food, blood donor merchandise and discounted veterinary services.
How to register your dog a blood donor
If you think your dog meets the requirements to be a donor and would like to take the next step in registering them, there are a few places you can go.
Try talking to a local university that teaches veterinary science (often they will have a clinic and the capacity to store blood), contact your closest 24 hour or emergency veterinary clinic (these are the ones who most commonly need blood!) or approach your regular vet about marking you as a ring-in in their computer system.
Dogs can donate blood up to four times a year, although some clinics will call them in less often to help ensure the donor continues to see the visits as a positive thing, as well as to preserve their veins.
Roo and I felt so humbled to meet Alou, the dog that Roo’s first ever bag of blood saved. During our conversation Di, her owner, told me that in Alou’s younger years she was a blood donor too! I have decided that Alou pulling through her emergency surgery was definitely good karma for her earlier donations.
To find out more about canine blood donation, and to join the BLOOD Hound community, visit us at Blood Hound Australia
About the Author
Bella McGrath is a Qualified Veterinary Nurse currently working in the pharmaceutical industry in Canberra. She started and runs the BLOOD Hound campaign to raise awareness of the need for canine blood donations and encourage more pet owners to register their pets to become blood donors.