Your Pet Can be A Superhero by Donating Its Blood
Thu, October 21, 2021

Your Pet Can be A Superhero by Donating Its Blood


Among humans, donating blood is critical in saving lives whether it is due to blood disease, cancer, surgery, or trauma, explained Jane McNaughton of ABC News, a news service in Australia. But are you aware that your pet can also donate blood to save its furry friends? In Victoria, Australia, Werribee U-Vet—run by Melbourne University—and its donors have played a significant role in saving pets’ lives.

Kerry Bozicevic, blood donor program coordinator and nurse at the animal hospital, emphasized that pets need blood for medical procedures just as much as humans. In dogs, trauma cases like physical injury and ingesting toxins are common reasons why dogs needed blood transfusions. Bozicevic said, “In some medical cases diseases will actually [destroy the animal's] own red blood cells, so we need to replace them, as well as potential blood loss in surgery."

Pet Owners’ Awareness of Animal Blood Banks and Their Motivations On Animal Blood Donation

Amelia Wilder and Karen Humm of Research Online Royal Veterinary College repository, a research portal, conducted a 10-day study in the waiting room of a small animal first opinion practice. The questionnaire was completed by 158 people, with four participants declining to take part and seven people not approached as they were distressed.

Wilder and Humm found that 70% were unaware that pets could donate blood, while 75% were not aware that pet blood banks existed. 89% said they would be willing to let their pets donate blood and 11% said they would not. There was no significant difference between male (90%) and female (88%) owners or owners living in differing household size. However, participants aged 71 years or more were significantly less willing to report being happy for their pet donating blood unlike 18-30 and 51-70-year-old participants.

Cat owners (69%) were less willing to donate blood than dog owners (96%). Full-time workers (82%) were also less willing to let their pets donate blood compared with other employment statuses (93%). Thematic analysis of the written responses given by owners regarding animal blood donation consisted of four themes: Beneficence (49%), Necessity of service (18%), reciprocity (19%), Reservations and Concerns (12%).  

Under Beneficence, three sub-themes emerged: a desire to help others, blood donation being seen as “the right thing to do,” and saving a life. Necessity of service comprised of two sub-themes, namely the participants’ awareness of the constant requirements for blood products in human medicine, including its application to animals and the importance of donating blood. The latter was stimulated by sources like advertisements or by family and friends.

The Reciprocity theme was composed of two sub-themes: having animal blood banks available for their pet if required and previous experience of blood donation in pets. The Reservations and Concerns consisted of sub-themes: accessibility to service, animal welfare concerns, and the need for more information. The study revealed a lack of awareness surrounding pet blood donation and animal blood banks in pet owners. Recruiting animal donors is fundamental in addressing this issue and providing potentially life-saving treatments.

Indications and Effects of Whole Blood Transfusion In Small Animals (2011)

Luis F. Godinho-Cunha, Rui M.R.F. Ferreira, and Ana C. Silvestre-Ferreira of Scielo, a bibliographical database, stated that 19 whole blood transfusions were monitored from October 2008 until March 2009, in which these transfusions were applied to nine dogs and six cats at Hospital Veterinário do Porto (HVP).

80% of patients received only one transfusion, 13.3% received transfusion two times, and 6.7% received transfusions three times. In total, 52.6% of the 19 blood transfusions had a severe anemia (PCV < 15%), 26.3% had a moderate anemia (PCV 15-20%), and 21.1% had a light anemia (PCV > 20%). The indications for transfusion were acute blood loss (47%), coagulopathies (33%), and other causes of anemia (20%).



What Are the Requirements for Donating My Pet’s Blood?

For dogs, your canine must be fit and healthy, aged between one and eight years, and weigh over 25 kilograms, said PetPlan, a provider pf pet insurance and animal insurance plans. Other requirements include being up to date with vaccinations, not on any medications, and have never traveled outside your country.

Your dog must also be comfortable new people and situations and have good temperament. If your dog is too old or too nervous to donate blood, owners can encourage other people with eligible dogs to sign up, especially when they own a dog breed with the rarer DEA 1 Negative blood type.

For cats, your feline must ideally weigh over four kilograms (but not overweight), aged between one and eight years, have a calm temperament, and not get easily stressed when visiting the veterinary clinic, explained International Cat Care, a source on feline health. Your cat should also not have any significant illnesses and must be fully vaccinated. Your pet must be an indoor-only cat as this reduces the risk of transmitting infectious diseases to the recipient cat.



What Happens During and After Blood Donation?

Blood is collected from your pet’s veins, most commonly from the jugular vein in the neck, stated RSPCA, the largest animal welfare charity in the UK. Approximately 450 ml of blood is extracted from a dog or 45 ml from a cat.

Before the blood is extracted, the hair over the vein is clipped and your pet’s skin will be cleaned with disinfectant. Dogs are not usually sedated or anesthetized, but cats have to be sedated or placed under general anesthesia during blood donation. This is because dogs normally cope well and are not stressed compared to cats.

The process takes about half an hour and can be conducted up to four times a year. Your dog and cat will be closely monitored by your veterinarian or nurse before, during, and after the blood donation. Once your pet has donated blood, your veterinarian will provide you with aftercare instructions for your pet.

These instructions usually involve avoiding strenuous exercise for 25 hours, keeping your cat indoors overnight if it normally ventures outside, and ensuring an ample supply of drinking water. You should also observe your pet for signs such as reduced appetite, lethargy, nausea, bleeding from the blood collection site, and uncoordinated movements. Other signs also include salivating more than usual and licking its pets excessively. Consult your veterinarian if you see any of the aforementioned signs.

There should be more awareness surrounding animal blood donation. Your pet can be a superhero by donating its blood to blood banks, but it has to be healthy and comfortable with new people and situations.