Is Your Dog a Blood Donor?

Every year there are numerous dogs that are rushed into the nearest animal emergency hospital because of an accident or injury. In order to survive, most of these dogs require a blood transfusion.

Animal blood banks have increased in the USA, mostly due to the advances in the veterinary field. Developed initially for human medicine, pets are now able to benefit from advanced tests and procedures, with blood transfusions being no exception. Also, today’s pet owner treats their pet as a real part of their family and are therefore willing to spend more money on their pet’s health care, including emergency care and surgeries.

In order to donate blood, a dog must first meet certain criteria; such as being a certain age and within a certain weight limit and also pass a physical examination. Other requirements include:

* Being healthy and good tempered as this will help in a quick and easy blood draw.

* Being is current on all vaccinations.

* Being free from heartworm or any blood or tick-borne diseases. Most blood banks will test a dog first before allowing him to be a blood donor.

* Not currently being on any medication as some medicines can be transfused in the blood.

* Never receiving a blood transfusion before.

Once these criteria have been met, the dog’s blood is then typed and screened for pathogens, like Lyme disease. Just like humans, dogs also have different blood types. A complete blood count and chemistry screen is conducted to check the red and white cells, platelets, electrolyte levels and organ function of the dog.

If all tests come back clear, the dog is then allowed to be a donor. Most blood banks allow a dog to donate every seven to twelve weeks, with dogs that weigh between 35 and 50 pounds donating a half a pint of blood, and dogs that weigh over 50pounds, donating one pint. Theoretically, one unit of blood is able to treat three to four dogs depending on the recipient’s, weight, age and reason for needing the blood transfusion.

In the USA, the only state where commercial veterinary blood banks are required to be licensed and inspected yearly by the Department of Food and Agriculture is California. Because of this, California blood banks have to have donor dogs living on site.

Such as Hemopet in Garden Grove, a nonprofit facility that ships blood products nationwide and to Canada and Hong Kong, which keeps retired and rescued racing greyhounds. According to Founder and President W. Jean Dodds, DVM, these greyhounds receive around the clock veterinary care and maintenance and stay with the program for 12 to 18 months before being adopted out.

“These dogs have given blood to save the lives of other animals,” she said. “They have a special need to be adopted, and we have an ethical obligation to see that they are well cared for.”

Not every country in the world has a pet blood bank. Japan is currently calling on all dog owners to help in donating blood to save the life of another dog.

More than 6 million people own dogs in Japan and they all expect their dogs to live as long as they do. This means that there is an increase in blood transfusions as a result of surgeries that often accompany old age.

The Executive Director of the Japan Animal Referral Medical Center in Kawasaki, Hiroyuki Ogawa, explained: “Due to both the increase in number and elderly population of animals, there has been an increase in medical complications. The most common use of transfusions is for blood loss, but the amount we use for cancer treatments has also increased.”

Since there is no animal blood bank in Japan, private veterinarian hospitals have to obtain and type blood that is needed for surgery beforehand on their own and since the blood can only be stored for 30 days, with each dog being allowed to donate twice per year, blood for dog’s has become rare.

“There’s no recognized blood bank, and as such, we can’t stockpile blood. It is allowed for individual hospitals to conduct their own donation drives. But they cannot re-sell or redistribute that blood,” Ogawa said.

Before this can change, dog owners will need to be educated on the need and process of the donation.

Yuka Torihama, who lives in Tokyo and spends roughly $1,500 per year on healthcare for her two dogs, said:

“I’m willing to donate my dog’s blood as long as the donation system is safe. It’s just that a lot of pet owners still don’t know about the system and therefore, are skeptical about it. Though I think it’s extremely important, you never know when your dog might be in need of blood.”

Photo Credit: Plutor

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