If your dog is ever in an accident or needs to have major surgery, chances are they might need to have a blood transfusion. Similar to humans, the blood used in veterinary procedures comes from dogs who are blood donors. This donated blood is used to treat dogs who have experienced blood loss and anemia during or after surgery, or if they have been involved in an accident. Veterinary hospitals have a consistent need for blood, and there is always a need for more canine blood donors.
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Types of blood
Just like humans, not all dogs have the same blood type. Dog Erythrocyte Antigens are the canine blood groupings, and they are currently divided into eight groups. Before getting a transfusion, a dog's blood will be tested to determine their compatible type. Canine blood donors will also have their blood tested and categorized when they become donors. Dogs can usually tolerate transfusions with an incompatible canine blood type, though it is best to avoid this sort of transfusion since it is likely to not be as effective. Also, if a dog receives an incompatible transfusion the dog may develop antibodies. This would make it impossible for that dog to receive an incompatible transfusion again in the future if there were an emergency.
What dogs are eligible to donate
Specifics about what makes a dog eligible to donate may differ slightly depending on the veterinary hospital where your dog volunteers. Generally, dogs who donate blood must be large-sized breeds or mixed breeds. They should be full-grown adults but not yet seniors, and comfortable in a veterinary setting. These dogs also need to be healthy, up to date on vaccines, take regular flea/tick and heartworm preventatives. Blood donor dogs should also not have ongoing illnesses or medical conditions.
If you think your dog would be a good fit for being a blood donor, and you'd like to find ways to help other dogs in need, The North American Veterinary Blood Bank is a national registry that provides donated blood to vet clinics across the country and is helping to develop the industry standards for pet blood banks. The blood bank has the option to register your dog on their website as a possible blood donor, and they will connect you with more information and donation opportunities in your local area. You can also contact veterinary hospitals near you. Veterinary teaching hospitals often have canine blood banks for when they need canine blood donors. The staff at a local program will be able to explain the specifics of getting your dog involved and answer any questions or concerns you might have.
Before being able to donate blood, a prospective dog donor will have an intake or initial visit at the clinic where they will be donating. At the visit, the clinic will draw blood and then run bloodwork, to ensure the dog is healthy. Most blood donor programs are looking for dogs that can make a commitment to donate blood on a regular basis. According to the North American Veterinary Blood Bank, a single dog donating blood four times a year could potentially save the lives of up to 12 other dogs!
Although dogs don't have the ability to understand why their blood donation is important, a dog can enjoy the experience. If a dog begins to show signs of stress or discomfort, then they won't continue to be used as a blood donor. During the donation, dogs are generally numbed so they don't feel the prick of the needle. While they are having blood drawn, they should get lots of praise, treats, and attention to make the process fun. This will help them to make positive associations with going to the clinic and donating blood. The process is also relatively quick, taking only a few minutes. After donating, the dog can get back to their day. As an extra thanks, many clinics also have a "treasure chest," where dogs can pick a toy to take home with them after their appointment. Some clinics also provide discounts on certain exams, treatments, or preventative medications to the owners of dogs who donate blood.