Lucerne Veterinary Hospital Blog

Saving a Life through Blood Donation

Illustration of dogs blood donation flat design concept with icons elements

Buddy is just another happy-go-lucky chocolate Labrador until one day he collapses on a hike. He is rushed to the hospital where a bleeding tumor on his spleen is discovered. Midnight is a tiny stray kitten who is very weak from blood loss due to a heavy flea burden. Duke is a young beagle who has just been struck by a car chasing a squirrel across the street.

What do all of these patients have in common?

They all have had their lives saved by blood donors.

Blood donation is a safe and universal procedure performed worldwide to save the lives of sick and injured pets. We are currently looking for a small number of dogs and cats from the community to join our blood donor program. Read on to see if your pet meets the qualifications to save a life.

Why are blood donors important?

There are many instances in which blood can be a life-saver for sick and injured animals:

  • Major trauma such as hit by car
  • Clotting problems due to a toxin such as rat poison
  • Anemia from cancer or autoimmune disease
  • Bleeding internally from a tumor
  • Pets with congenital blood disorders

What are the qualifications of blood donation?

In order to ensure that blood donation will be safe for a donor, and that the blood obtained will be appropriate for use in other animals, there are a number of initial criteria to meet:

  • Weigh at least 50 lbs.
  • Between 1-8 years of age
  • Male dog or a spayed female who has never had a litter
  • No previous blood transfusions
  • Current on vaccines and on heartworm preventative year-round
  • Not have any major medical issues or be on medications at the time of donation (except for flea/tick and heartworm preventatives)
  • Good temperament

If a dog meets these conditions, blood testing is performed to ensure that the donor’s blood will be safe for the recipient. This includes blood typing to minimize transfusion reactions (like humans, some dogs are “universal donors” – their blood is best for donation). Infectious disease testing is also performed to make sure a donor is clear of transmissible diseases such as babesiosis, brucellosis, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis.

What happens during a blood donation? Are there any risks involved?

Blood donation is a very safe procedure, and most dogs happily donate with no need for sedation. A dog is able to safely donate 450 ml (1 pint) of blood every 3-4 weeks, though generally is asked to do so only once every few months. Once a dog comes in, a small amount of blood is drawn to screen for anemia. A small area on the dog’s neck is shaved and cleaned for the blood collection site. The blood is collected from the neck vein, mixed with an anticlotting agent, and stored in a refrigerator until another animal needs a transfusion.  The whole process takes about 10-15 minutes, and afterwards the happy dog is rewarded with treats and belly rubs!

What about cats?

We are also looking for several cats to join our blood donor program. Cats should be between the ages of 1-8 years old and should weigh at least 9 pounds. They should be healthy, well-vaccinated, and indoor-only to minimize disease transmission. Unlike dogs, cats usually need to be sedated for the procedure. The need for sedation does slightly increase risks of blood donation for cats. In addition, cat blood is not easily stored, so donor cats would have to be called in when the need arises.

Like with humans, blood transfusions are an essential component of emergency care in veterinary medicine. Please contact us at 207-843-6300, or email us at lucernevet@yahoo.com if you are interested in the program and you believe that you have the perfect dog or cat to be a blood donor!

  • Feline Practitioners
  • aaha