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All About Blood Banks For Dogs And Cats

May 10, 2008
With the growing demand for more surgery and the increased use of transfusion therapy to treat different kinds of diseases, there is indeed a great need for blood bank programs to supply life-saving blood components whenever and wherever they are needed. Before there were animal blood banks, Veterinarians had to use their own dogs, dogs owned by their staff, or even dogs borrowed from their clients as blood donors.

Blood banks for animals depend on animal blood donors for their supply of blood products as human blood banks depend on human blood donors. Animal blood is donated to the specie it belongs. For example, dogs can receive only dog blood; it is similar to other animals as well. Canines also have blood types just like humans; they have eleven different blood groups. The most important dog blood type is the A1/A2 system. A dog can be considered a universal donor if he/ she has A negative blood type.

It is recommended that all recipients be cross matched before receiving a blood transfusion to ensure donor and recipient compatibility despite the fact that canines rarely have isoantibodies against other blood types.

The major and minor cross matching is the two types of cross-matching tests. If major cross matching is done, red cells from the donor are mixed with serum from the recipient, then it is observed to see if there is a reaction. The recipient cells may attack donor cells and reject them. In the event that there is a major cross-match incompatibility, transfusion shouldn't be done. For a minor cross-match test, the red cells of the recipient are compared with the serum of the donor. If there is a minor cross-match incompatibility, only parts of the donor's blood can be given to the recipient.

Potential dog donors should be healthy, have no history of metabolic or heart disease or seizures, has a lean body weight of greater than 50 kg, 1-7 years old, should not be on any medication, except for heartworm and parasite preventatives. They should also have a good temperament, have been neutered and nulliparous, and have jugular veins that can be visualized and palpated easily and are current on vaccines. Because of the amenable disposition and high PCV of Greyhounds, they have been promoted as ideal blood donors.

After the canine's blood type is determined and is acceptable, donors are tested to make sure their blood values are high enough and no infectious disease is present before blood is drawn as with human blood donors. CBC, biochemical profile, U/A, fecal exam, von Willebrand's factor, is done as well as testing for Dirofilaria immiti, Ehrlichia canis, Babesia canis, B. gibsoni, Brucella canis (in intact or previously bred dogs), and Bartonella.

There is no preparation before going to the donation center and no fasting is required. Donor dogs are not sedated and the donation itself takes less than half an hour. The dog is welcomed in and lifted onto a table. Blood is taken from the jugular vein, which is a large vein in the neck. A small patch of hair on the neck is shaved to expose the skin right over the vein. The area is then swabbed with alcohol and a needle is inserted into the vein. Blood goes into the needle, through a tube, and then into the collection bag. After the blood is collected, pressure is applied to stop any bleeding and the donor is then lifted off the table. There might be a mild bruising at the site.

Fluid and nutrients are then replaced by giving water and food after blood is drawn. The body compensates by producing new red blood cells immediately after the donation. In the next 24 hours after donating, strenuous activities should be avoided. Two months must elapse before the dog can donate blood again. By that time, the blood volume and red blood cell count will be back to normal.

The dogs are given gifts and treats after donating. A dog may get a tag, which identifies him or her as a blood donor, edible rewards such as dog biscuits, a jar of baby food, a can or a large bag of dog food and some donors may even get brand new toys or cool donor bandanas.

The blood donations will then be separated into the different blood components - red blood cells, platelets and plasma to be used for both emergency and pre-planned transfusions. The red blood cells are given to recipients suffering from anemia that may be due to trauma or a treatable disease. When the animal is not producing the right amount or is losing too much protein, plasma helps increase blood volume. Platelet-rich plasma is for those recipients with decreased or dysfunctional platelets.

Now, there several animal blood banks that supply blood products to Veterinary hospitals. Fortunately, dog owners have a positive response to the plea for blood donations. Every year, the animal blood bank processes roughly 2,000 units of blood donated by dogs. The donated blood is then brought in to the bank at the Veterinary hospital and to the bank's bloodmobile, which visits Veterinary clinics and kennel clubs.

Some animal blood banks depend solely on the generosity of pet owners who enroll their dogs in canine blood donor programs and take them to their scheduled appointments. Animal blood banks hold drives to encourage animal blood donations, just like what the Red Cross and other health organizations do.

Do you have a friendly, healthy dog that fits the average weight and age requirements to be a donor volunteer? Would you like your dog save the lives of other dogs? Check the location of regional blood banks for dogs and cats or the list of Veterinary Hospitals and University Veterinary Medical Centers that manage their own blood donor/blood bank programs. You can also contact the one nearest you or ask your Veterinarian if there's an animal blood donor program with a donation site in your area.
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