Guess what? Your dog can donate blood just like you do. It works a little differently than with humans, but a lot of the process is exactly the same! Think about it: dogs have injuries, surgeries, and illnesses too, so of course they might need to get blood, and it has to come from somewhere. We spoke with two vets for a breakdown on how dogs qualify to give blood, how it's used, and what else pet owners need to know about their own dogs giving blood.
What Are the Requirements For a Dog to Give Blood?
First and foremost, dogs have to be healthy and up to date on their shots. They must be adults and are usually larger breeds, weighing over 50 pounds. It's similar to humans donating blood in that the blood has to be healthy blood. Emily Luisana, DVM, at Tailored Pet, told POPSUGAR, "Although some blood products can be stored, they have variable shelf lives, so having some dogs pre-screened and ready to go (aka the equivalent of minute men!) can be helpful for emergencies." That means continuing the upkeep of a healthy dog so they can donate blood. It's not so much a casual thing as it can be for humans to drop by a blood donation drive and give blood. Owners of what are considered "donor dogs" are committed to giving their dogs the best care so they can continue to donate blood through their adult lives.
How Is Donated Blood Used?
It's blood, so it's used exactly how you'd expect! Gary Richter, DVM, a veterinary health expert with Rover.com told POPSUGAR, "The blood can be used for multiple purposes, including anemia (low red blood cells), clotting disorders (toxicity, immune mediated disease, etc.), or for pets with low blood proteins." To get into even more detail, the blood can be separated to be used even further, by giving red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets to dogs in need of just one part.
And yes, like we said, blood can be stored for a period of time, but it does have an expiration date, which is why it's important for donor dogs to continue to donate to help these other dogs in need.
What Are Dogs' Blood Types?
Dog blood types are not nearly as simple as humans'. Dr. Luisana told POPSUGAR that there are at least 12 blood types and more are being discovered all the time. The cool thing about dogs, though, is that the blood they get in a transfusion doesn't need to match their blood type. She said, "The good news is that dogs do not appear to have natural antibodies to different types — meaning they are unlikely to have an allergic reaction to a blood transfusion the first time one is needed, although they can develop antibodies after transfusions. Therefore, if your pet has had a transfusion in the past, this is important to have this noted in their record." Dr. Richter added, "It is always best to type and crossmatch donors and recipients" as a precaution.
Where Can My Dog Donate Blood?
If you have a large, healthy, adult dog, first check with your vet to see if he qualifies for blood donation. Your vet can then point you in the direction of a blood bank, which is where donations usually occur these days. However, as both vets pointed out, these blood banks rely on donations, and love when an owner is committed to keeping their dog healthy and bringing them in for repeated donations.
Dr. Richter noted that Greyhounds are a great breed for donation because they have a high red blood cell count. He also mentioned that many rescued Greyhounds are used for a few blood donations before being adopted out to their forever homes.