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Just like humans, some dogs have serious illnesses or injuries that may require a blood transfusion. To perform blood transfusions, we need access to donor blood. This donor blood comes from other dogs whose owners have signed them up for blood donor programs, like this one!

For any pet owner with a dog in need, canine blood donations are very important, as they give the receiving dog a second chance at life. There is always a need for blood donations!

Some instances when our companion animals might require a blood transfusion include:

  • Trauma

  • Surgery

  • Exposure to rodenticides or other toxins (poisons)

  • Anemia


A donation of blood means giving the fit of life to an animal that is sick or injured. The demand for blood products continues to increase and we need the help of willing canine and feline donor volunteers to meet this need. Giving the gift of blood allows your pet to be someone’s hero!


Just like people, pets have diseases or injuries that require blood transfusions. Many of our patients receive transfusions, and dogs and cats enrolled in the AVH Pet Blood Donor Program provide the blood products for them. The demand for blood products for our patients increases every year. We need volunteer blood donors to ensure that every patient in need can be treated.

Animals may need blood transfusions for different reasons. Your pet’s blood is made of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Blood can be separated into these various components so that the specific transfusion needs of your pet can be met. The most common transfusions involve the use of red blood cells or plasma.

Red blood cells are used in the treatment of anemia (low red blood cell count). Red blood cells may be needed following an accident to during surgery when blood is lost. They are also needed when your dog’s body cannot produce enough red blood cells by itself or when diseases cause the body to destroy its own red blood cells.

Plasma contains proteins or enzymes which help to clot the blood. It can be used to treat bleeding due to liver disease or bleeding seen with the accidental ingestion of rodent poisons. Plasma is also used when the protein or albumin of the patient becomes very low. Another component of plasma, cryoprecipitate, is used in the treatment of hemophilia or in other inherited bleeding problems.

Please help us save lives by enrolling your companion pet in the AVH Pet Blood Donor Program. One unit of blood can treat 2 to 4 patients.


Blood types are determined by molecules (proteins and carbohydrates) on the surface of the red blood cells. Dogs have at least six well characterized blood types, also known as dog erythrocyte antigens (DEA). The antigens are DEA 1.1, 1.2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. The blood type considered most important in dogs is DEA 1.1. Dogs that are negative for DEA 1.1 can give blood to dogs that are DEA 1.1 negative or positive, but dogs that are DEA 1.1 positive can only give blood safely to dogs that are DEA 1.1 positive. Dogs that are negative for DEA 1.1 and the majority of other blood types are considered “universal” blood donors.

The majority of dogs are DEA 1.1 positive and only a small percentage of dogs are “universal” donors. A predisposition to being DEA 1.1 positive or negative exists in some breeds. Breeds more likely to be DEA 1.1 negative include Greyhounds, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Pit Bulls. Breeds more commonly DEA 1.1 positive are Golden Retrievers and Labradors.



Cats also have their own unique blood types. Compared to dogs, cat blood types are much simpler. Cats are either type A, type B, or rarely type AB. Type A is the most common blood type comprising 90-95% of the cat population in the United States. While B cats are uncommon, it is extremely important that they be given type B blood. Less than 1 ml of blood from a type A cat that is given to a type B cat can cause a transfusion reaction strong enough to result in death. Cats that are type AB can receive blood from either type A or type B cats.



The health and welfare of our pet blood donors is our most important concern. A unit of canine blood is equivalent to the pint donated by people. We enroll healthy dogs between 1-6 years of age, and our canine donors retire at 8 years old. One of the most important qualities of a canine blood donor is a calm, friendly temperament, and willingness to be gently restrained on their side or sitting up and still for approximately 8-10 minutes during preparation and collection of blood. Dogs weighing more than 50 pounds can safely donate a unit of blood every 8 weeks. Cat donors must be healthy and happy, greater than 10 lbs, (preferably over 12 lbs), between the ages of 1 and 6 years, and be friendly and easy to handle. Prior to enrollment in the Animal Blood Donor Program, your pet will receive a physical examination and blood tests to be sure that they can safely donate blood. To ensure the safety of the blood supply, each donor is screened for blood-borne infectious agents that could be transmitted to patients by a transfusion.



For dogs, the unit of blood is collected from the jugular vein in the neck since this is the most accessible and least sensitive site for venipuncture. At the time of donation, a small area over this site is shaved and cleaned prior to venipuncture. We use the same blood collection setup as that used for human blood donors. Instead of sitting in a chair, the dog should be able to lie or sit quietly on a table for 10 minutes during the collection process. We may use light sedation for blood donation. The dog is praised and petted during the collection to provide comfort and positive feedback.

After collection, a temporary light bandage is placed around the venipuncture site similar to the band aid placed on the arm of a human blood donor. The bandage can be removed at home after a few hours. In place of orange juice, the dog is rewarded with canine cookies and a small amount of canned food. Best of all, the dog can select a favorite toy from our toy box to take home with them.


Cat donors come in once every three months to donate. It is more challenging to keep cats still during collections so donors may need sedation during the process. Blood is collected from the jugular vein and collections take between 5-10 minutes. Cats can donate up to 20% of their total blood volume during each collection. That means that cats greater than 10 lbs can give 55 mls of blood. Cats are given a health check before each donation, monitored carefully during the collection, and watched over by a technician as they recover from sedation. Each blood donation can be separated into a unit of plasma and a unit or packed red blood cells.



Annual health screening consisting of physical examination, appropriate vaccinations, blood test such as a complete blood cell count, serum chemistry, and heartworm test, and a stool examination for intestinal parasites.

For protection of the donor and the blood supply, we require them to be on monthly preventatives for heartworms, fleas, and tick-borne infectious diseases.

If your pet should become a patient in need of blood, the Blood Donor Program will provide a unit of red blood cells and plasma for every unit of blood donated by the pet.



After the whole blood is collected, it is spun in a centrifuge to separate the red cells from the plasma. Plasma contains important clotting factors and other proteins. 450 mls of blood can be separated into two units of packed red blood cells and two units of plasma. This means a single donation could potentially help 4 dogs! Packed red blood cells can be kept refrigerated for 5 weeks and plasma can be kept frozen for a year.



All of the donors are screened for a number of blood-borne infectious diseases to ensure only health animals enter the program. Before all transfusions, blood from the donor and blood from the recipient are cross-matched to ensure that they are compatible. The blood is collected in sterile plastic bags and is handled and stored in much the same way as human blood. Each bag has an expiration date and is destroyed after it expires.



Before blood or blood products are given, your veterinarian will generally perform a cross-match to ensure that the blood is compatible with your dog. Blood is then given slowly through a special filter into the vein. The speed of transfusion and how much blood is given will vary with the needs and the size of the animal. Risks from transfusions are minimal. Some dogs may develop a fever or mild facial swelling during or after transfusion. This can be treated by your veterinarian. Dogs with serious illnesses getting repeated transfusions are more likely to develop transfusion reactions. Your veterinarian can answer questions about the risks involved in these special cases.



Please complete the Blood Donor Evaluation Form

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