As we approach the holiday season, many charities are going to push for blood donations, but did you know that dogs and cats also need blood for surgery or, in some cases, serious trauma? And like humans there is often a shortage of supply.

There are several organizations and animal clinics across Canada that accept blood donations, including the Animal Emergency Clinic in Vancouver, the Canadian Animal Blood Bank in Winnipeg and Edmonton, and the Ontario Veterinary College, just to name a few.

If you think it’s a good idea for your pet to give blood, you should take him or her to a vet to first check for fit and overall health. Your animal shouldn’t be pregnant and should have all their vaccinations updated. Although your pet shouldn’t have had a shot within two weeks before donation.

Donors must meet a certain criteria. Depending on the program, blood is collected either form the jugular vein in the pet’s neck or from his or her front leg during a normal appointment. The whole process takes about five minutes and, unless your animal is well behaved, they are usually sedated during the time.  Just like human donations, after the blood is drawn, pressure is applied to the injection site. Once at home, your pet can resume normal activities. Because the animal is at the same height as their heart, they recover much faster than humans do.

Pets, just like humans, have blood groups that can be typed. Dogs have about a dozen different groups and cats have three, with different subsets within the blood group. Ideally donor and recipient should be matched.

Blood groups are determined by the presence or absence of certain proteins and sugars on the membrane. Normally dogs do not have antibodies against any of the antigens present on their own red blood cells or against other canine blood group antigens unless they have been previously exposed to them by transfusion.

A dogs’ red blood cells may contain any combination of these since each blood group is inherited independently. The most important of these is called Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA). Of these DEA types, DEA 4 and DEA 6 appear in the red blood cells of 98% of dogs and therefore can serve as blood donors for a majority of the canine population. However, the most important DEA is called 1.1 positive because it is the universal type, much like O negative and can be used in any dog.

As much as you might want to help other animals, your pet shouldn’t give blood too often. Repeated blood donations over a short period can lead to iron deficiency and can cause health problems. Usually your pet should wait three months before giving blood again.

For more information about your pet, please contact the Cypress Vet Clinic HERE