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Dog and Cat Blood Transfusions

Recent advances in veterinary medicine have brought treatments to pets that rival those that people receive. With these advances, the necessity for and occurrence of blood and blood product transfusions has become more common.  There are many different reasons that pets may require or benefit from a blood transfusion. Some of these reasons are the same as the reasons that people may need a transfusion while others are different.

·       Severe parasite burden

o   Flea anemia

o   Whipworm anemia

o   Blood parasites

·       Hemorrhage

o   Trauma

o   Surgical complications

o   Ruptured mass or tumor

o   Rat poison ingestion

o   Congenital bleeding disorder (such as Hemophilia)

o   Gastrointestinal ulceration (often associated with certain medications)

·       Immunologic disease

o   Immune- mediated hemolytic anemia

o   Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia

·       Bone marrow disease/suppression

o   Certain cancers, such as lymphoma and leukemias

o   Toxins (lead, estrogen)

·       Various other diseases

o   Pancreatitis

o   Parvo

o   Chronic kidney disease

                  Dogs and cats each have their own blood typing system and can only receive blood from their own species.   The basic feline blood typing system consists of types A, B, and AB.  About 95% of cats in the United States are type A, about 5% are type B, and <1% are type AB.  While any breed can be any blood type, Type B is more prevalent in breeds such as Devon and Cornish Rexes, and American, British, and Exotic Shorthairs.  Cats should only receive transfusions with blood of their own blood type. 

                  The canine blood system is more complex, involving the presence or absence of different proteins on the surface of the blood cells called Dog Erythrocyte Antigens (DEAs).  These proteins are numbered DEA 1.1, DEA 1.2, DEA 3, DEA 4, DEA 5, DEA 6, and DEA 7.  Dogs may be positive or negative for each of these different proteins.  Dogs, unlike people and cats, do not possess preexisting antibodies against foreign DEAs.  This allows dogs to safely receive blood from a donor with a different blood type one time.  If future blood transfusions become necessary, a cross match is indicated to avoid potential reactions.  While there is no “universal donor” blood type for dogs, the preferred canine blood donor is DEA 1.1 negative, DEA 4 positive.

                  Sources of canine and feline blood products are limited.  Some hospitals keep a “hospital cat” on hand to use as a potential blood donor.  Likewise, many veterinarians use their own pets or pets belonging to staff members as potential donors.  Some larger, referral hospitals have their own blood banks, using community volunteer pets as donors.  Most of these sources are usually able to provide only whole blood.  If blood components (packed red blood cells, plasma, or cryoprecipitate) are needed, most veterinarians obtain the blood from one of several national blood banks.

Please note that this information does not replace professional veterinary care. It is solely for educational purposes. Your pet's medical condition should be evaluated by a veterinarian before any medical decisions are implemented. If there is a potentially life-threatening emergency involving your pet, take your pet to a veterinarian or veterinary facility immediately.

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