Blood transfusions have many uses and can be critical, life-saving procedures.Blood loss through injury, e.g. road traffic accidents, or other causes of bleeding, such as rodenticide (warfarin) poisoning, can lead to death or make any anesthesia to treat underlying damage very risky. In these circumstances, fresh whole blood can make all the difference! Sometimes, an animal’s immune system can attack its own red blood cells (immune-mediated hemolytic anaemia), and blood transfusions are necessary to prevent fatal anaemia whilst medical treatment is working.

Dogs like humans, have blood groups and can be blood typed. Ideally, donor and recipient should be type matched. As well as typing donor and recipient, cross-matches can be performed to confirm compatibility, and are recommended where the recipient has had a previous transfusion.

This test involves incubating donor and recipient serum and red blood cells and looking for a reaction outside of the body that indicates an increased risk of a reaction inside the body if the transfusion is given. This can be performed ahead of a blood donation.

What is an ideal blood donor?

An ideal blood donor is a friendly, healthy, clinically normal animal that is not pregnant. Ideally your pet should weigh 66 lbs or more. Cats should weigh over 10 lbs. Donors should be vaccinated (although not within 10-14 days before donation) and free of infections and parasites, currently on Heartworm preventive treatment and not receiving any other medications.

How is blood obtained?

Blood can be collected in un-sedated dogs if they are cooperative, however, for your pets safety and comfort, a mild sedative is likely to be used. Cats will definitely require sedation.

Blood is usually taken into standard human blood bags that contain an anti-coagulant. A large accessible vein is needed – this is typically in the neck or, sometimes, the cephalic vein on the front of the foreleg. The area is usually clipped and cleaned and aseptically prepared before insertion of the needle. After donation an area of swelling and bruising may be seen which should fade over a few days. Ice packing the area may help reduce localized swelling.

How much blood is taken?

A standard blood donation in the dog is 450ml (‘one canine unit’) and this can safely be obtained from a 66lb dog or larger. For cats 20mls of blood is obtained.

In some cases blood is required in an emergency. This would require you to bring your pet to the hospital at a moments notice.

If you are interested in your pet joining the Cayman Animal Hospital Pet Blood Donor Register, please call 946 8387 and discuss with one of our technicians if your pet would be a suitable donor.