Dog blood types and blood donation in dogs – All your questions answered

dog blood types

Did you know that dog blood donation is a thing? What’s more intriguing is the dog blood types. Dogs also have blood types, but the dog blood types are different than those of humans. However, just as humans, dogs also need blood transfusions, blood donors, and blood banks. 

While this may not be a well-known fact, blood donations are critical for dogs and often mean the difference between life and death for sick dogs, which only dog parents and emergency hospitals know too well.

Dogs can need blood transfusions to help them recover from severe blood loss due to an accident, or due to a health condition like anaemia.

From countries like America to India, dog enthusiasts are devotedly setting up blood donating services and blood banks for dogs. Today, many cities in the US have their very own dog blood donation centres that ship blood all across the US. 

In India, Ludhiana and Chennai have proudly established their own dog blood donation centres to help save hundreds of lives.

But who are these blood donating heroes. Can your dog donate blood? What are the dog blood types? Who is doing the dog blood type test?

Here’s everything you need to know about various dog blood types and how the dog blood transfusion process works.

Why would a dog need a blood transfusion ?

The answer is very similar to when asked for a human. Like people, sometimes our dogs require life-saving blood transfusions within minutes.

As much as we hope for the best for our dogs, they can sometimes face life-threatening situations too. In some cases, there can be an urgent need of a blood transfusion. But they can only receive blood if another dog donates.

There are a number of cases where a dog would require a blood transfusion, such as:

  • Trauma resulting in severe blood loss, for example a car accident injury
  • Anaemia (low red blood cell or platelet count)
  • Blood loss during a surgery
  • Blood clotting disorder (for example Von Willebrand Diesease)
  • Poisons such as snake bites that cause bleeding
  • Tick fever
  • Cancer

Sometimes the difference between life and death is just a few minutes. Certain vet hospitals have blood services at all times to provide this life-saving therapy for their patients.

But not all cities have such hospitals or services. Dog parents stress out really bad while searching for a dog donor for their ailing dog. Reach out and if your dog is healthy, help him to donate and save a life.

If not, then be a good Samaritan, educate dog parents and dog lovers about dog blood donation, and help connect a donor to a sick dog.

Also read – Calcium deficiency in dogs – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment for it

How many dog blood types are there ?

A substance called ‘antigens’ is what actually defines a blood type. These antigens are present on the surface of the blood cells and help stimulate the body’s immune system.

In humans, blood types are based on 3 antigens, A, B, and O. These antigens result in the possible blood types of A, B, AB and O. We also know that each one of these can be either positive or negative.  

On the other hand, dogs have more than 8 different antigens linked to their blood cells, all of which are referred to as Dog Erythrocyte Antigen or DEA.

Hence, the dog blood types are DEA 1.1, DEA 1.2, DEA 1.3, DEA 1.4, DEA 1.5, DEA 1.6, etc.

It is the presence or absence of these antigens that specifies the blood type of a dog. For instance, when a dog has a specific antigen on its blood cells, it is said to be positive for that particular blood group. If the dog’s blood cells do not have the specific antigen, then the dog is negative for that blood group.

It is very important to know the exact dog blood type, because when a dog is injured or ill, a transfusion with whole blood components may be necessary to save the dog’s life.

Giving the wrong type of blood can be life-threatening for the dog.

What are the common dog blood types ?

Since dogs have over dozens of dog blood types, matching these blood types is a little more complex and involved.

Blood typing is done and offered by only specialized veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the world. Though there are as many as 12 to 13 groups of dog blood types listed, but out of these six types are most commonly recognized.

Classified as positive or negative for each DEA, the six standard canine blood groups most commonly recognized are DEA-1.1, DEA-1.2, DEA-3, DEA-4, DEA-5, and DEA-7.

In dogs, the most commonly found blood type is DEA 1.1 positive which means that most dogs are DEA 1.1 positive and they may only safely donate to other DEA1.1 positive dogs.

Which is the universal blood type for dogs ?

A universal donor is a dog who is able to give blood to any other blood typed dog.

Dogs that are negative for DEA 1.1 and other blood types are considered “universal donors” able to give to any other blood typed dog.

When your dog’s blood is monitored in a lab, they will be able to tell you what blood type he belongs to based on the antigens in his blood. However, the most important information during a blood test is whether the blood type is positive or negative.

Interestingly, certain dog breeds have an inclination towards being DEA 1.1 Positive or Negative.

For instance, dog breeds like German Shepherds, Dobermans, Boxers, Greyhounds, and Pit Bulls are more likely to be Negative. On the other hand, Golden Retrievers and Labradors have the tendency to be Positive.

Whether your dog’s blood type is positive or negative, every donation he makes is going to help save at least three dogs. So, this means your pooch can make a big difference to another dogs in need.

Also read – Dementia in dogs symptoms, treatment and more

Is it safe for a dog to donate blood ?

The first and most important step to know whether a dog is eligible to donate blood is to speak to a veterinarian.

The selection criteria and screening process of a healthy donor ensures there is minimal to no risk for the dog donating blood.

The vet uses a local anaesthetic cream to numb the area and minimise any discomfort to the donor dog. Throughout the blood donation process, the vet and his team monitors the donor’s health, and in case the donor shows any signs of discomfort, the process is stopped straight away.

While most dogs experience no side effects at all, some donors may feel tired – just like humans do after donating blood. If your dog has donated blood, keep a close check on him for the next few hours, and if you do notice anything unusual immediately contact the vet.

After a blood donation, make sure your dog takes some rest for the day. Walking, playing, swimming, and other normal activities can be resumed the next day.

Offer plenty of fresh water and rest following the donation. Keep collars, leashes, bandanas away for a day or two.

Can my dog donate blood ?

Did you know that one in three dogs is able to donate blood to dogs in need?

Well, around the globe, there are many generous blood donors who are regularly donating at the animal emergency services and hospitals and dog blood banks.

Such services purely thrive on superheroes who are ideal dog blood donors to continue to provide this life-saving service for their dog patients.

So, does your dog have what it takes to be a superhero – dog blood donor? Can your dog donate blood to dogs in need?

Yes, your dog can easily donate blood if he meets the following requirements:

  • A healthy adult (free from any disease or sickness)
  • Comes under 8 years of age
  • Weighs at least 25kg (a good weight for their size)
  • No heart murmur
  • Up-to-date with vaccinations and regular worming doses
  • Not on any medication except for preventatives like heart-worm
  • Free from fleas, ticks, and parasites
  • Packed cell volume (more than 40)
  • No blood transfusion previously done
  • Calm and friendly temperament
  • Not pregnant

Dogs who love meeting new people are usually great blood donors. However, if your dog is extremely energetic or excitable, just like my dogs, do not worry, they can also become fine donors, as long as they have a reasonable level of obedience.

Nervous and anxious dogs who are usually petrified of vets or fear new people, will probably find the blood donation process stressful. So, if your doggo is a nervous one, I would encourage you to support the deed in other ways, like telling other dog parents and dog lovers about dog blood donation and the need for donors.

You can also help by even posting about it on your social media.

How much blood can a healthy dog donate ?

A healthy dog can donate a pint of blood (approximately 400ml to 450ml) at each donation.

How often can a dog donate blood ?

A dog can donate blood once in every two to three months. However, veterinarians and hospitals manage things very carefully and may only ask your dog to donate when there is a need.

The health and welfare of your blood donor dog is always the first priority as he is the superhero and saviour a life depends on.

Also read – Stress in dogs, Causes, signs & solutions for a complete relief

What is the blood donation process ?

A complete donation process has just two simple steps:

1. Registration and Meeting

After you register your interest for your dog to become a blood donor, the staff will arrange a meeting before any screening process is performed. The meeting may be arranged at a clinic or a blood donation centre.

During this meeting, the vet will get to know your dog to ensure it has a calm temperament and is happy being handled.

Besides this, you will be explained the entire blood donation process in detail. This visit will also be a chance to seek answers for any questions you may have regarding the process. 

The vet will not only ensure if your dog is a suitable donor but he will also make sure you are happy and satisfied before the process begins.

Ultimately, what we want is the entire experience to be a positive one for your hero dog.

2. The Screening Process

After the meeting, your dog will be screened to ensure he is a healthy donor. Hence, prior to the donation, your dog will be closely monitored through a complete physical examination first.

Then a blood sample test will be done to screen for any tick-borne diseases (a dog disease known to infect dogs).

After a vet approves of the health reports, and your dog meets all the requirements to become a blood donor, the team will discuss with you to arrange a suitable time for your dog to visit to donate when they are in need of blood.

3. The Donation Process

On the day of donation, you will be totally allowed to stay with your hero dog the entire time to encourage and support him with your pats and love.  

Practically, the donation process takes only 5-10 minutes. However, for preparation and formalities, you and your dog may need to be in the clinic for approximately an hour or less.

Your dog’s blood donation process will have these following few steps which are going to be the same each time he donates:

  • Walk your dog through the donation room for him to get comfortable with everything. The team member may offer treats and have a play with your dog to ease off and help him settle into the context.
  • A pre-donation health check will be carried out to make sure your dog is fit and healthy to donate on the day of donation. Once the vet gives a thumbs-up, the donation process will start.
  • Your dog will be lifted and placed on a bed to carry out the donation process comfortably. There he may sit or lie according to his preference. Usually, dogs choose to lie down flat and doze off during the procedure.
  • Once the dog is calm, a small area of fur on the neck is clipped and the area where the collection will be taken from is sanitized gently. Then, the vet will apply a local anaesthetic gel to the site.
  • One of the major sites of blood collection in dogs is the jugular vein. So, via the large jugular vein, the blood is now gradually collected. It will take around 5-10 minutes for the blood to be collected in the blood bags.
  • After collecting the blood, the vet will place a small bandage over the area and the process will finally complete.
  • As a token of appreciation and gratitude, your furry hero may receive a blood donor card which can be used as a green card with benefits like free health checks, free vaccinations, etc., along with a lot of love and treats from the hospital team.

Though there may not be treats for you, this act of love and interest to make your dog a blood donor will always be commended with sincere thanks.

After the blood donation, the vet and the team will recommend your dog to rest for a day and resume his normal routine the next morning.

What happens to the blood after the donation ?

Once the donation is done, your dog’s blood is then processed so that it can be used to save up to three other dog’s lives.

Donated blood can be used in two ways – whole blood or blood products. On the basis of requirement, the whole blood can be separated into different blood products.

Emergency hospitals usually use three main types of blood products – whole blood, red blood cells, and plasma. These blood products have their own use and lifespans.

Out of all the blood products, whole blood collected from dog donors has the shortest lifespan with it being up to 28 days.

According to the illness of the dog, the whole blood collected can also be separated using a centrifuge into plasma and packed red blood cells. Following the separation, the red blood cells are combined with a solution to extend the life of the cells to 35 days.

Similarly, the plasma (a blood product which helps control the risk of bleeding by helping blood to clot) is also separated and collected into a storage bag and is quickly frozen. This gives the plasma a lifespan of 1 to 5 years. In dogs, there is a need of plasma in certain situations like rodenticide poisoning.

All blood products are safely stored, monitored, and recorded in dog blood banks, and the temperature of the fridges and freezers are constantly checked to ensure quality control.

Also read – Do dogs get tired of barking ? Let’s find out the answer here

What do dog blood banks do ?

Emergencies in dogs are increasing day by day. Injuries due to accidents, blood-borne diseases, and many other factors are rising the demand of blood and blood products. And, that’s why dog blood donors and dog blood banks are needed.

Blood banks help in improving survival chances among dogs by providing easily available blood, RBCs, platelets and plasma according to dog blood types.

So, in simple words, blood banking is the process that makes sure that the donated blood and its products, are safe before they are used in blood transfusions and other medical procedures for dogs in need.

Furthermore, blood banking also includes typing the blood for transfusion (determining the blood type) and testing the donated blood for infectious diseases.

Blood collection, storage, typing, and recording, all these processes take place in a lab inside blood banks.

Conclusion

Now since you are aware of the dog blood types and blood donation process, your dog can contribute to the life-saving initiative.

While there may be a lack of awareness about dog blood types and blood donation for dogs, we can be good Samaritans by raising awareness and by connecting dogs in need with suitable donors.

Find out if your city or state has a dog blood bank service, animal blood donation centres, veterinary blood transfusion clinics, or an animal blood bank ambulance service which can make home visits to collect blood from the dog donors.

Some dog enthusiasts use websites that act as a database of donors across the country, while some make use of social media platforms that unite recipients with potential donors.

And, if you are a dog parent, be a proud one, speak to your vet and consider registering your dog to be a hero and save a life.

Not all heroes wear capes; some have wagging tails, little paws, and the greatest of hearts!

Share this very very informative and interesting article with all the dog lovers out there.

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