Canine Blood Transfusion Procedures


If a serious accident befalls your dog and he loses a lot of blood, a transfusion may save his life. Certain conditions, including anemia -- a lack of red blood cells -- and thrombocytopaenia, a lack of platelets, require transfusion, as do various blood-related diseases. If your dog suffers any sort of hemorrhage, a transfusion may be necessary.

Blood Typing

As with people, it's crucial that the right type of blood is transfused into your pet. Canine blood transfusion patients usually receive blood components -- such as red or white blood cells, platelets and plasma -- rather than whole blood. Canine blood groups, or dog erythrocyte antigen, are classified as DEA 1, 2 or 3, with subgroups within the classifications.

The most common blood type is DEA 1.1 positive, and such canines theoretically can receive blood from any group. Dogs with blood that is DEA1.1 and DEA 1.2 negative are considered universal donors, although a reaction may occur in dogs receiving such transfusions over time.

Donor dogs are blood-typed before their blood is permitted in a donor program. They must be current on their vaccinations, parasite control and heartworm preventive, and cannot carry any infectious, transmissible disease.

Blood Sources

A large veterinary practice may have a donor dog or two on hand, and likely has the equipment to separate blood components. A smaller practice can order blood and blood parts from veterinary blood banks. Blood from donor dog is generally collected via the jugular vein. The donor dog may need sedation for collection. A calm canine who knows the drill simply needs gentle restraint. After the donation, the dog receives some food and access to water. His body replaces all the withdrawn blood within three weeks.


  • Once collected, blood may be frozen for future use, or its components separated and given to the recipient. Fresh whole blood is generally used within eight hours for emergency procedures, while stored whole blood is more than eight hours old and refrigerated. It's often used to treat dogs with anemia.

Filtering and Pumping

Any blood product transfused into your dog goes through a filter, to reduce the possibility of blood clots or any tissue entering the bloodstream. Blood is then administered from a pump intravenously to the patient, although newborn puppies may receive blood infused directly into their bone marrow.

In an emergency involving profuse bleeding, blood is infused as quickly as possible. In non-emergency situations, the rate of infusion is slower for the first half hour, and the rate can rise as the infusion progresses. Generally, infusions do not last more than four to six hours at a time.

Transfusion Reaction

Your dog may experience a reaction to the transfusion, which generally occurs either during the transfusion process or shortly thereafter. While rare, delayed reactions can occur, usually within two weeks of the transfusion. While the reasons for a reaction vary, typical causes include:

  • contaminated blood
  • wrong blood type transfused
  • damaged blood
  • or transfusion of excess blood.

Symptoms of a transfusion reaction may include:

  • coughing or vomiting
  • fever
  • low blood pressure
  • or collapse or shock. 

If the dog is undergoing transfusion at the time of the reaction, the process stops. Initial treatment consists of stabilizing the dog with intravenous fluids. Additional treatment depends on the cause of the reaction. For example, if tests indicate the dog has septicemia or blood poisoning, the vet will order appropriate antibiotic therapy and supportive care.

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