Blood Bank for Animals
Why Do We Need a Blood Bank for Dogs?
Just as in human hospitals, an emergency veterinary hospital has a constant need for blood products to treat life-threatening conditions in dogs.
A unit of donated blood is processed into components, usually packed red blood cells and fresh frozen plasma. These components are then stored so they are available whenever the need arises.
The most common reasons that a dog may require a red blood cell transfusion are trauma with blood loss, a ruptured spleen or liver causing internal bleeding, blood loss due to cancer, red blood cell loss due to immune-mediated diseases, or an inability to make red blood cells due to bone marrow disease.
The most common reasons that a dog may require plasma include bleeding disorders (coagulopathies) such as occur with rat poison ingestion, liver failure, or some hemophilias, low blood protein conditions such as occur in inflammatory bowel disease or kidney disease, as well as several other serious conditions.
Because of the wide range of diseases that can lead to a transfusion need, the demand for blood products is high, but unpredictable. The blood banking program allows us to have a ready supply of blood components whenever they are needed.
Would My Dog Make a good Blood Donor?
Donor dogs must weigh more than 50 pounds and be between the ages of 1 year and 8 years old. Donors must have a good overall temperament, be in good health, and up to date on vaccines (although they cannot donate within the month after vaccination). Dogs should be currently maintained on heartworm prevention and should not be on any other medications other than flea products. Females cannot donate if they have ever been pregnant as this makes their blood undesirable for transfusion to another dog.
Owners must be willing to bring their dogs in for at least three donations per year. This is because the screening process for each dog is expensive. If a dog does not donate three times in a year, the owner will be financially responsible for a portion of the screening tests. Dogs that donate at least three times a year qualify for our incentive program (explained fully in our informational brochure).
For more information on the donation process, please read Ocean State Veterinary Specialists’ informational brochure.
What About Cats?
Our feline patients sometimes require blood transfusions, but the need for blood is not as frequent and is more unpredictable than for dogs. Maintaining a feline blood bank is therefore more difficult, as we need a ready supply of blood but do not want to keep a supply that may expire and waste this precious resource. At OSVS, we purchase some blood products from a commercial blood bank, but we maintain a group of three cats that live at the hospital and serve as blood donors. These cats were surrendered to the hospital because their owners could not afford to care for them. The cats live in a "condo" in our waiting room and enjoy monitoring the activities that go on all day. At night, they are often let out of the condo to stretch their legs and cause trouble. The cats donate no more than once a month. After they stay at OSVS for approximately 18 months, the cats are adopted out to loving homes.