Today is National Dog Day Australia, a day designed to encourage dog owners to become more aware of responsible dog ownership. Which is why I’d like to draw your attention to a really urgent issue: canine blood donation.
Many pet owners are unaware either that their pets can actually donate blood or that pets need transfusions. However, just like humans, pets require a life-saving blood transfusion if they:
- suffer from an auto-immune illness, such as anaemia;
- have experienced trauma or severe injury;
- have severe bleeding associated with surgery;
- have been poisoned.
And with two in five Australian households now owning a dog there is a significantly increasing demand for canine blood donors.
I’d Like You to Meet Jaffa…a very, very lucky dog
A few weekends ago one of my regular patients, Jaffa, the Airedale Terrier, was suffering from an auto-immune disease and she urgently needed some blood.
When I put the call out to some of my clients who might be able to help, they all braved the awful weather to get their dogs to the emergency hospital…and one dog parent even walked!
Jaffa, ended up having about 9-10 transfusions before she finally turned the corner, and her family wanted to thank the donors.
“We are so extraordinarily grateful that Jaffa’s life has been saved by the wonderfully kind and generous dogs and owners who gave her this much-needed blood. Jaffa (only 4yrs old) is now in remission from her auto-immune disease that would have taken her life, but for this generous gift.
“She is now back to her beautiful, loving and spritely self, reunited with us and our ecstatic 6yr old daughter and embracing life to the max. To Jaffa’s donor families, thank you with all our hearts for your invaluable gift of life.”
Is your dog eligible to donate blood?
Your dog could become a blood donor and help save the life of other dogs in need if your dog:
- Is aged between 1-8 years old (dogs cannot start donating blood after the age of 6, but they can continue up to the age of 8);
- Has a calm and placid disposition and is able to lie still for approx 10 mins;
- Healthy and has no significant current or previous illness;
- Up-to-date with vaccinations, heartworm prevention and worming
- Weighs at least 14kg (preferably over 25kg) and is not overweight;
- Has never received a blood transfusion.
Dogs cannot donate if they have received medications other than flea, tick and heartworm prevention in the past 2 weeks, or if they have travelled outside of Australia
What is the process?
The blood donation process is quite straightforward and it only takes about 10-15 minutes. Equipment used is the same as that for human donations.
1. Prior to your dog’s donation the staff check his health status.
2. A small sample of blood is collected to test your pet’s reaction.
3. Your pet is gently laid on his side on the collection table.
4. You sit at your dog’s head to help alleviate any anxiety and provide reassurance.
5. A small area of his neck is shaved and disinfected.
6. Just under ½ a litre of blood is collected from his jugular vein, which usually takes about 5 minutes.
7. Once the needle is removed, pressure is applied to the collection site to stop bleeding.
8. Your dog will received lots of yummy treats and plenty of praise.
You will need to notify the staff if you notice dizziness or nausea immediately following donation or if the blood collection site is swollen or bleeding. And for the next 24 hours provide plenty of drinking water and don’t allow strenuous exercise.
Where can I donate?
At the moment blood is extremely scarce due to the closure of most of the blood banks and patients typically rely on donations at the time of an emergency. If you think your dog might be suitable, contact your mobile vet so we can assess your dog for suitability and also so we know can call on you when we need a donation.
Another option is to donate on a regular basis to a veterinary surgery that collects blood – your dog can donate up to 4 times a year, potentially saving the life of 12 other dogs! If you contact your mobile vet we can put you in touch with the nearest blood collection surgery to you.
All dogs, regardless of breed essentially have a single type of blood antigen, but several variants of it. Typically you don’t have to cross match if you need to give multiple transfusions in the first 2-3 days, but after that you need to cross match as the body starts to develop antibodies and will break down the donor blood if not matched. Ideally you would cross match the first batch of blood, though it is not absolutely necessary.
Cats are a completely different story and you can kill a cat if you don’t match the first transfusion…but that’s another topic for another day.
Canine blood donation is a wonderful gift that saves lives
I’d like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the 4 special pets who helped save Jaffa’s life: Moro, Daisy (who looks exactly like Jaffa and is another Airedale Terrier), Skerrick, and Coby.
And on this National Dog Day I’d also like to ask you to consider donating your pet’s blood to save another’s life.