Just as humans need blood in emergency situations, so do animals. Trauma, surgery, anemia, and clotting problems are some life-threatening problems that require blood products to stabilize a pet. Blood banks which supply blood are scarce throughout the Unites States. Veterinarians depend on real dog and cat donors to supply veterinarians with what they need. Dogs are known to have thirteen different blood types, while with humans there is said to be a total of 36. Of the human blood types, the four principal ones we deal with are A, B, AB, and O. Genetics determine what blood type a person is born with. To figure out what type of blood a person has doctors use a method called ABO Typing. To find out a dog’s blood type, vets test for DEA (dog erythrocyte antigen) 1.1 negative and positive. Dogs who present as DEA 1.1 positive are considered universal recipients, while those who test negative are considered universal donors. Negative blood types are the most common, and blood banks consider them high in demand. Dog breeds such as Dobermans, Boxers, German Shepherds, Airedales, and Weimaraners usually test negative in blood type. The Greyhound breed is considered to be the best type of donor. This breed tends to have a blood type that can be used by all dogs, causing minimal reactions. There are two ways blood is collected. There are “community” blood banks and “closed” blood banks. Donors from community blood banks are walk-in pet donors and donate at animal hospitals and clinics. Donors from closed blood banks are dogs and cats that live on-site while giving blood. Closed blood banks claim that having animals living in a controlled setting assures the blood is free of disease. They argue that walk in donors need to be continually retested for disease before each blood donation and blood supplies are not always guaranteed to be safe. They say if they did not house these dogs for donating blood many would be killed and that their facilities are inspected by the state every year. The community blood banks claim that animals at these facilities are not properly taken care of and these organizations “farm” dogs and cats for their blood. Before a dog or cat can donate blood they must meet specific requirements. Dogs should be between the ages of 1 and 6, weigh at least 35 pounds and be on an adequate heartworm preventative. Cats should be between the ages of 1 and 6, weigh at least 10 pounds and reside indoors without any previous exposure to new cats. All donors must be in good health with no signs of a heart murmur. All pets must have documentation to show their vaccinations are current. They also should not have received any blood transfusions in the past. Most hospitals or blood banks will perform a pre-screen to check donors for any blood-borne illnesses. Dogs and cats that donate are required not to be on any medication besides heartworm and flea prevention. While it is recommended that recurring donors only donate blood between four and six times a year. Dogs can safely donate as often as every three weeks, especially if blood banks are low or in need. The donation process normally takes 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish. No anesthesia is needed during the blood donation process. Donors usually leave with the same energy levels and resume normal activity immediately afterwards. Besides helping other animals, additional benefits to the donor may include a complete physical examination at the time of each donation, lab work to evaluate blood count, or monetary compensation towards future vet bills. Like many others, the thought of using my pet for a blood donor never crossed my mind. It is something I would definitely consider for my pets, especially knowing one day it could be my pet needing a transfusion. If you would like to register your dog or cat to be a blood donor, contact your local veterinary hospital or a pet blood bank near you.

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