Blood Transfusions in Dogs & Cats
Occasionally our beloved pets may become sick or injured, and alike us, may require a blood, or blood product, transfusion. Blood has several components that can be beneficial or even lifesaving. These include red blood cells, platelets and plasma.
What is in blood?
The purpose of Red Blood Cell’s is to transport oxygen around the body. Red blood cells are given for a condition called anaemia. Anaemia is caused if a pet has lost a lot of blood from an injury or a disease that causes destruction or loss of red cells. If a pet is requires surgery and had a low red cell count then the surgery can become very dangerous.
Platelets are cells, smaller than the red blood cells, that bind whenever clotting is required. Platelets are given to pets with low or defective platelets (for example in immune mediate thrombocytopenia).
Plasma carries nutrients, clotting factors that assist to prevent bleeding, immune complexes and proteins to allow healing. Alike losing blood cells, if plasma becomes too dilute, or if clotting factors are lost (usually by toxins), it can be just as life threatening as losing the red blood cells. Plasma is often given to correct a condition called hypoproteinaemia.
Are there any risks from receiving a transfusion?
Although blood transfusions are given to save pet’s lives, there is always some small risks associated with them. Alike humans, dogs and cats have specific blood types. So whenever possible the correct species and blood type should always be used. Cats can be especially sensitive to having incompatible blood transfusions. If possible donors have their blood typed to confirm compatibility. A cross-match is also used where blood components from the donor and recipient are mixed to look for any reaction. Even with typing and cross-matching it is still possible for a reaction to occur, so all pets are closely monitored when receiving a donation.
Transfer of blood risks the of transmission of diseases from the donor to recipient. To prevent this thorough testing of donors should always be completed prior to donation.
Where does the blood come from?
At the moment there is not a publically available blood bank or artificial blood products available in China. All blood is provided by generous donors that may be a pet from the same household or a volunteered donor. Pets can safely donate blood up to every 3 months. Becoming a donor means being a healthy disease free pet. Preferably, cat donors should be a minimum of 5kg and dogs over 20kg. If you are interested in registering your pet at a donor, please discuss this with your veterinarian. We always appreciate any pet willing to help another!