At the Animal Referral and Emergency Centre we see many patients that require emergency blood transfusions. Trauma such as a motor vehicle accident, rodenticide (rat bait) toxicity, or any number of diseases may all mean that a blood transfusion is required for your pet.

AREC is able to offer this life-saving service and help critically ill patients survive.

AREC relies on voluntary donations from owners and their pets to help meet the needs of patients that require transfusions.

Blood Donor Requirements

There are certain characteristics that a dog must have in order to be eligible to become a blood donor. The donor must:

  • Be between 2 and 8 years of age
  • Weigh at least 25kg (lean body weight)
  • Be a medium, large or giant breed dog
  • Be desexed if female (cannot have had a litter at any time). Desexed males are preferred.
  • Be up to date with their vaccination program
  • Be on current heartworm prevention and be heartworm negative
  • Be in good health, with no history of any serious illness
  • Have an excellent temperament
  • Live reasonably close to AREC or are willing to travel to Broadmeadow
  • Pass a blood screening prior to donation
  • Have never received a blood donation themselves

If your dog does not meet these requirements then unfortunately he/she is not a suitable candidate for blood donation. These requirements are in place to ensure the health of both the donor and recipient of the blood.

The Blood Donation Process

If your dog does become a canine blood donor then when they are called on to donate blood they will undergo the same procedure every time. The AREC’s blood donation procedure is as follows:

  • You and your dog will arrive at the AREC. Initially we will record your dog’s weight, and ask you to sign a consent form for the donation procedure.
  • The attending veterinarian will then conduct a brief consultation with you and your dog, where they will ask you questions about your dog’s recent health and medical history. If your dog is in good health and able to donate that day, then they will be admitted to our hospital.
  • Blood will be drawn from one of your dog’s peripheral veins so that routine blood screening can be performed. These tests will include a blood typing test (done at your dog’s first donation), haematology and biochemistry (taken before you dog’s initial donation and then every 3 donations or 1 year after that depending on which is first) as well as a test to measure the concentration of red blood cells in your dog’s blood. All of these tests are done at no cost to you, and the results will be added to your dog’s medical record, which will then be forwarded to your daytime veterinarian.
  • If all the blood results are normal, then a catheter will be placed in your dog’s leg. This is to provide us with intravenous access so that fluids can be administered to your dog after the donation. This fluid replaces the volume of blood that is taken, and helps to keep your pet feeling well after they donate blood.
  • If necessary, your dog will be given some sedation for the donation procedure. The type and amount of sedation will be calculated by the attending veterinarian depending on your dog’s individual needs.
  • Your dog’s neck will then be clipped and surgically prepped for the procedure. A special needle is then inserted into your dog’s jugular vein and the calculated safe volume of blood is collected in a bag. During this procedure your animal will be attended to by both a veterinarian and one of our emergency nursing staff.
  • Once your dog has donated blood they are then moved to a comfortable, warm bed to recover. They are given intravenous fluids, and offered food if they are not too sedated to eat. If necessary, a temporary bandage may be applied to the site where the blood was drawn from.
  • Once your dog if sufficiently recovered they can be picked up and transported home. Most blood donors are ready to be taken home within a few hours of completing their donation.

The Risks of Blood Donation

Like any medical procedure there are risks associated with donating blood. At the AREC our experienced veterinarians and nursing staff take every measure possible to minimize all the risks that can be involved, but it is important that if you are considering volunteering your dog as a blood donor that you know the possible complications. These can include:

  • Rashes or skin irritation from clipping the donor’s hair
  • Swelling at the blood draw site
  • Haematoma formation at the blood draw site
  • Temporary weakness post donation

If your dog requires sedation for the blood donation procedure, then this too involves some risks, even though they are minimal. They can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Prolonged recovery post-donation
  • In extremely rare cases sedation can lead to death

Please keep in mind that our staff are highly trained and experienced in performing this procedure and that all risks are minimal and everything possible will be done to ensure the health and well being of your dog should they become a volunteer blood donor at our hospital.

If any medical treatment is required for your dog as a direct result of donating blood, then the AREC will provide this treatment free of charge.

Benefits of Being a Blood Donor

At the AREC we value both the owners and dogs that participate in our blood donation program and help us to save the lives of the critical patients that we see. We try to provide our blood donors with both recognition and rewards for their invaluable donations. Should your dog become a blood donor at the AREC, the following benefits will be provided to you:

  • Regular blood testing at no charge. This screening may pick up any health issues that your animal has, and results will be given to your daytime veterinarian
  • A certificate recognising your dog’s contribution as a volunteer blood donor
  • A Gift Voucher

To register your pet for the blood donation program please click on the link below to complete an online registration form.