Dog Blood Transfusion and Donation

Very recently here at Parkside we found ourselves trying to save an increasingly critical patient. A lovely black Labrador bitch developed a disease called immune mediated haemolytic anaemia – her own immune system no longer recognized her red blood cells and was producing antibodies to destroy them. A normal red blood cell count or PCV in a dog is between 37% and 61%. Bess’s PCV had fallen to 18% in twenty four hours. We faced a terrible clinical dilemma as she urgently required a blood transfusion.

In 2007 thewp_20150607_001 Pet Blood Bank came into being in the UK, a not-for-profit organization supplying blood products within the UK for veterinary use. In 2013 the Pet Blood Bank supplied over 3000 units of blood products to the UK veterinary profession.

To be concise, the presence of this organization saved Bess’ life! Within four hours of contacting the PBB we had three units of packed red blood cells ready for her.The transfusion in combination with round the clock care from our dedicated nursing team saved lovely Bess.

As with human blood transfusions, blood comes in different types. It is important to match donated blood with the recipient’s blood type to reduce the risk of transfusion reactions, which can be life threatening. Canine blood types are described as ‘dog erythrocyte antigens’ (DEA) and there are eight DEA systems in the dog; 1.1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. DEA 1.1 is regarded as the most significant in relation to serious transfusion reactions. There are commercial blood type test kits for DEA 1.1 which means that practicing vets can easily ascertain a patient’s type.

Dogs are either DEA 1.1 positive where the 1.1 antigen is present or DEA 1.1 negative where it is not. The Pet Blood Bank reports that 70% of dogs are DEA 1.1 positive. It is important to realise this for two reasons. Firstly the supply of DEA 1.1 negative blood is more limited as there are fewer donors. Secondly, as DEA 1.1 negative blood can be given to positive recipients we must minimise this to preserve the available stocks of the rarer type. Blood typing in the veterinary practice is very important. It also appears that certain breeds have a higher probability of being DEA 1.1 negative.

Packed red blood cells can be stored for up to 42 days at 4oC +/- 2oC, but it can be easily deduced that blood donors are as important to the veterinary and pet owning worlds as they are to human medicine. The Pet Blood Bank uses a network of volunteer practices as donation centres, using their facilities to collect blood from blood donor dogs.

Certain breeds appear to have a predisposition to being DEA 1.1 Negative blood. These are listed below. As there is a higher demand for DEA 1.1 Negative blood, the PBB tries to encourage more donor owners with these breeds to register their dog onto a blood donation programme. These breed are;

Airedales                                                              parkside-final-logos-dog-alone

American Bulldog



English Bull Terriers

Flat Coated Retrievers

German Shepherdspet-blood-blank-logo



Mastiffs various breeds

Pointer (English)


Just as in human blood donation, there are certain criteria that a dog must meet to enable safe blood donation.

The dog must:

1. Be aged between 1 and 8 years

2. Weigh over 25kgs – 55lbs lean bodyweight

3. Be in good general health

4. Be up to date with vaccinations – dogs cannot give blood up to 14 days after their annual booster vaccination

5. Not be taking certain medications – see exclusions information

6. Have no history of heart murmur, seizures or fainting episodes

7. Have no history of travel abroad

8. Have not received a blood transfusion

9. Have a good temperament and be able to lie quietly for a tummy rub for 5-10 minutes while blood is donated. Click here to see a video of a donor giving blood.