World Blood Donor Day

The 14th of June each year sees the World Health Organisation’s World Blood Donor Day which this year has the theme ‘Blood Connects us all’ and with the need for blood donors being at an all-time high we are being encouraged to visit local centres to make a donation. However did you know there is also a blood bank to help pets who require blood transfusions?

Why donate blood?

In short giving blood saves lives every single day and both human and canine donations are used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, during scheduled and emergency surgical procedures and to replace blood lost as the result of trauma, childbirth or other complications. Unfortunately donations only have a short shelf life which means that in order to have adequate reserves available at all times for hospitals and vets to access, often at short notice, regular donations are essential.

Who can donate blood?

The eligibility criteria for both people and dogs donating blood is actually very similar;

  • Individuals must be fit and in good health.
  • Be over a certain weight, for humans this is over 50 kg and in dogs it is over 25kg.
  • Be within a defined age bracket. Between 17 and 66 years old for people, although if someone has given blood previously this rises to 70 years old and dogs need to be between 1 and 8 years of age.
  • For dogs they should never have travelled abroad due to the risk of blood borne infections and if you are considering donating yourself you will also be asked if you have travelled to certain countries due to some restrictions.
  • Being on certain medications may affect being able to donate and this can be discussed prior to any appointment.
  • Dogs must also be fully vaccinated and Titre testing can be accepted as prove of vaccination status.
  • Dogs must also be of a good temperament otherwise they may find the donation process stressful.

For both dogs and people giving blood itself only takes around 10 minutes, however the health screening and other information gathering does take longer. Most people and dogs find that giving blood usually has little impact on them and most are able to return to normal activities within a short space of time, although you might be advised to avoid strenuous activity for the rest of the day.

Both Skye & Kiazer, the K9Active dogs, give blood every 3 months or so and Amber was also a regular at sessions until she had to retire due to her age. Before they started to donate we spent time making sure they were comfortable in the surroundings and were happy to be handled by the veterinary staff and it has to be said that Skye and Kiazer thoroughly enjoy all the extra fuss they get when they attend a session as did Amber in her time.

What happens next?

Once collected all donations are screened for any signs of infection or contamination, the blood type or group is established and the blood is then separated into different components. For donations made by people these components are Red Blood Cells, Platelets and Plasma and for dogs they are Red Blood Cells and Plasma. For people it is vital that the blood type is identified correctly as it can only be given to compatible individuals and while dogs don’t have the same variety of types their blood is also screened to discover if they fall into a certain group.
Should a dog only need to receive one blood transfusion in their life then it can be from a donor of any blood type. However if they need future treatments than this then it is essential that the blood group is established as blood from one particular group known as Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) 1 group can have serious consequences if given to a dog not of this type one more than one occasion.

How often and where?

Assuming an individual meets the necessary criteria then they can give blood several times over a 12 month period, for men this up to 4 times, women 3 times and dogs can between 3 to 4 times.
If you are wanting donate yourself then you can register with the NHS Blood and Transplant service in England and Wales or the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service if you are in Scotland and they will then advise you of local appointments. Their websites also have a host of information about being a blood donor, the process and details of donation centres and sessions. If you would like to register your dog as a donor then your veterinary practice should be able to advise you if this is something they can carry out in-house or if you will have to attend specially organised donation session. The Pet Blood Bank UK hold details of donation sessions these can also be found on their website
As the World Health Organisation says blood connects us all so look out for events happening near you on the 14th of June for World Blood Donor day.

NHS Blood and Transplant
Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service