Every drop counts
On Canine Blood Donation with Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Clinic
Dogs have blood groups just like humans. Their blood, however, differs from ours. So, as much as you may want to, you cannot donate blood to your canine companion to save them in an emergency. It is, therefore, necessary to be familiar with dog blood groups and how canine blood donation works.
Dog Blood Groups
Dog blood groups are listed as DEA — Dog Erythrocyte Antigen. The ‘Dog’ in DEA is pretty obvious, ‘Erythrocyte’ means Red Blood Cell, and ‘Antigen’ is for the substances on the surface of the red blood cells that trigger a response from the body’s immune system. So DEA is essentially dog red blood cell antigens. Whether or not a particular antigen is found on the dog’s red blood cells determines if the dog is positive or negative for it.
More than 12 blood groups have been identified in dogs, but 7 of these are more common. These include DEA-1.1, DEA-1.2, DEA-1.3, DEA-3, DEA-4, DEA-5, and DEA-7. Find out your dog’s blood group in advance so that you’re prepared for emergencies (both for donating and receiving blood).
Antigens trigger an immune response from the body, creating antibodies. Usually, dogs do not have antibodies formed against any antigen in their own blood (that’s why they don’t react to their own blood). If a dog receives a foreign antigen (mismatched blood group) once, the body identifies it and creates antibodies against it. The next time the foreign antigen is given, the antibodies are activated and cause red blood cell destruction.
Antibodies against other blood group antigens are found occasionally. Therefore, despite this being uncommon, giving the wrong type of blood even once to a dog may lead to adverse reactions in their body.
A simpler explanation:
Think of the body as an apartment complex. The antibodies are the complex’s security team, and antigens are people. The security team knows the people who live in the complex (dog’s own antigens); they know they need not take any action against them. However, new people aren’t allowed to visit. When someone unknown visits the body (new antigens from a mismatched blood group), the antibodies take their details to catch them the next time they come. When these new people visit again (the second time for the mismatched blood group), the antibodies, knowing all their faces, take swift action against them. This causes an adverse reaction in the body.
Sometimes, someone may be banned before ever visiting the complex (occasional pre-existing antibodies against other blood groups). If they visit even once, the security team takes action against them, causing an adverse reaction.
DEA-1.1 is probably the most common antigen in dogs and is known to cause severe reactions when donated to incompatible dogs. Dogs having the DEA-1.1 antigen (DEA-1.1 positive) can receive blood from a DEA-1.1 positive or negative dog. However, they can only donate blood to another DEA-1.1 positive dog (a DEA-1.1 negative dog’s body will form antibodies and react). All dogs have the DEA-4 protein, so dogs with only the DEA-4 protein are considered universal donors and can safely donate blood to all dogs.
There is a link between dog blood types and their breeds. German Shepherds, Pitbulls, Boxers and Greyhounds are usually DEA-1.1 negative, while Golden Retrievers and Labradors are usually DEA-1.1 positive. Most Doberman dogs have only DEA-4, which means they can donate universally. DEA-3 and DEA-5 are not very common.
Canine Blood Donation
With inputs from Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Clinic (mentioned as Cessna in some places), here is some general information about Canine Blood Donation:
> Criteria to qualify as an eligible blood donor:
- Between the age group 1 to 8 years old
- Weighing above 25kgs (dogs)
- Healthy and Fit
- Good Temperament (Dogs who are anxious, nervous, wary of new people, or have a fear of the vets, will most likely find the donation process stressful.)
- Free from infectious diseases
- Never travelled abroad
> The blood donation process:
- Registration and blood typing:
Once the dog qualifies for being a blood donor, they are registered as one. Their blood sample is taken, and the blood group is determined so that they can be contacted for a suitable recipient.
- Call from hospital:
If a dog requires a blood transfusion, the hospital will call the pet parent to ask if they are available to bring their donor dog over. If yes, they will be asked to come to the hospital.
- Physical examination:
One of the vets at the hospital will do a complete history and physical examination to ensure the donor dog’s fitness to donate blood.
- Blood test:
This is a mandatory step for blood donation to ensure the pet’s health is in good condition. A small sample of blood will be taken aseptically from the neck area. The tests will be run in the lab immediately to assess whether the vitals are normal before blood donation. Only a blood test report with all parameters normal will qualify the dog to donate blood.
Once all the tests are cleared, blood will be drawn from the jugular area of the pet as required, aseptically.
The vet will do a quick checkup to ensure your donor dog is okay before allowing you to take them back home.
> Managing health before & after donation:
Prevent tiring out or dehydrating your dog. Take it easy before donation and ensure your dog has meals routinely, with access to plenty of fresh, clean water. If you have enough of a window, monitor your dog for health issues such as a stomach infection.
The blood donation process is quick and comfortable for most dogs, but it is advisable to take it easy for the rest of the day. Continue with your dog’s regular feeding schedule post-donation, and ensure they have access to fresh, clean water. Avoid using choke or pinch collars on your dog. Avoid tight collars and harnesses that may put pressure on the neck too. Keep the bandage dry and leave it on for at least an hour post-procedure to prevent bruising and swelling. Some dogs may feel tired after donating blood, just like human blood donors. Contact your vet if there is extensive bruising at the needle prick site or if your dog seems unwell over 2 weeks after donation.
> Benefits and risks:
There really is one benefit to Canine Blood Donation — save a pet’s life by giving blood when they need it the most. By donating and actively being a part of blood donation, a pet parent creates an opportunity to save pet lives during times of emergency.
Dogs can donate blood every 8 weeks, and each unit of blood donated can save up to 3 dogs’ lives. Blood can be given as a whole or split into components — whole blood, packed red blood cells and plasma — which can be given to dogs in need. Since donated blood does not last for very long, dogs are only called to donate if a dog needs blood.
Most blood transfusions are safe and effective. The donor dog may feel tired after donating blood. Beyond that, there isn’t much risk for them. The recipient dog may have an adverse reaction to the donated blood due to faulty type matching. Improper blood screening may lead to infections from contaminated blood and decrease blood calcium levels. Fluid may accumulate in the lungs if a dog receives an extremely large volume of blood. Skin hives, fever, or vomiting may also happen occasionally. As long as the screening and matching process is done thoroughly, there is minimal risk of any of these.
During the gruelling time of an emergency with a pet, sometimes the only beacon of hope is a dog that can donate blood. It is, therefore, necessary to have a community of dog parents who know their dog’s blood type and can volunteer in a crisis.
The Cessna blood donation program is close to the heart of Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Clinic’s founder, Dr Pawan. He believes that every pet deserves the best treatment, just as human beings do. This program aims to create a dedicated group of blood donors to be called upon when required. If you wish to volunteer your dog as a blood donor, please visit the Cessna website or contact them via Instagram.
If you’re in Bangalore, you can also connect with Canine and Feline blood donation, Bangalore via their Instagram account. Please encourage people in your respective cities to create a database of eligible canine blood donors. Ask for the help of local veterinarians, if required. Many dogs’ lives can be saved if people educate themselves and come together.
Blood Donation — A CESSNA LIFELINE VETERINARY HOSPITAL INITIATIVE | Cessna Lifeline | https://www.cessnalifeline.com/blog/post/blood-donation
The below links are for dogs outside India. You can still refer to them to understand canine blood groups.
Dog Blood Types | Amy Shojai | https://www.thesprucepets.com/blood-type-2804995
Canine Blood Donation (all your questions answered) | Animal Emergency Service | https://blog.animalemergencyservice.com.au/canine-blood-donation-questions
Canine Blood Types | Blood Donation Center | Leslie Rusk | https://indyvet.com/canine-blood-types-blood-donation-center/
Blood Groups and Blood Transfusions in Dogs| Susan M. Cotter | https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/blood-disorders-of-dogs/blood-groups-and-blood-transfusions-in-dogs