Dog blood donation: what pet owners need to know

25 July 2022 - 4 min read
Dog blood donor
Dog blood donor

Blood donation isn't just for humans – your dogs can donate blood too.

It doesn't bear thinking about, but if your dog needed treatment for blood loss from something like a car accident, they'd need a suitable canine donation – and that's where dog blood donation comes in.

A cat waving whilst a dog hides its face

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As veterinary medicine advances and pet insurance covers the costs of more elaborate treatments, there’s more than ever that vets can do for pets. And the demand for pet blood donors is expected to continue to grow to meet demand.

In 2021-2022, Pet Blood Bank collected over 3,000 units of blood and sent out over 5,000 units of blood products to vets around the UK.

Every unit of blood can help to save the lives of up to four dogs, which means donor dogs in the PBB network could have helped save up to 20,000 dogs in need last year.

In addition, some veterinary practices maintain a list of donor dogs that they can reach out to for donation in emergencies.

When does a dog need a blood transfusion?

There are many reasons why a dog might need a blood transfusion.

Dogs are susceptible to many of the same conditions humans get, such as different types of anaemia, blood clotting disorders, blood cancers or autoimmune disease. Blood transfusions might be needed during surgery, too.

Dogs can also need blood due an accident or an injury, just like a human might when in a bad car accident.

For example, in September 2018, the BBC filmed the reunion of cocker spaniel Bentley whose life was saved when he received a blood donation from Greyhound Alex after Bentley ingested rat poison and needed an emergency transfusion.

Dog blood donor criteria

If you're interested in letting your dog help others by donating blood, you'll need to make sure they meet a few criteria.

To donate blood, your dog needs to be healthy and be over a certain weight.

They'll also need to meet this donor eligibility criteria outlined by the Pet Blood Bank:

  • your dog needs to be fit and healthy

  • weight at least 25kg

  • has not been abroad

  • is between one and eight years old

  • has all its vaccinations up to date

  • has a good temperament

Dog blood donation centres near me

If you're wondering where to take your dog to donate blood, Pet Blood Bank has a blood donation session locator that you can use to find the nearest canine blood donation venue.

If you can’t find one near you, you can still register your dog with Pet Blood Bank. Areas where they run sessions and need dogs from across the country to donate are increasing all the time.

You can also speak to your vet about adding your dog to their emergency donor list.

You can call Pet Blood Bank to have a chat about what happens at a donation session and they can answer any questions you have. You can also visit their Facebook page where you can ask other dog owners what it is like.

What happens during donation?

Your blood donation appointment shouldn’t take longer than an hour altogether. The donation itself takes five-10 minutes.

Before your dog can donate, they'll have a health check by a vet including a physical examination, to make sure they're fit and well to donate.

Then a small blood sample will be taken for testing to further confirm your dog’s health and eligibility to donate. Blood is usually taken by clipping a small bit of fur around the neck and disinfecting the area before proceeding to take the blood.

If everything is ok your dog will be proceeded to the donation. A qualified veterinary professional will take one unit of blood which is approx. 450ml.

After donating, you will be asked to stay at the donation venue for a short time to allow your dog to have a drink, something to eat and to be observed by the team.

Dog blood types

Just like us, dogs have different blood types.

In the UK, dogs are type DEA 1. They can either be DEA 1 Positive or DEA 1 Negative.

Pet Blood Bank told us that their research shows that 70% of dogs appear to be DEA 1 Positive while only 30% are DEA 1 Negative.

Dogs with DEA 1 Negative blood type can only receive DEA 1 Negative blood whereas dogs with DEA 1 Positive can receive either Positive or Negative blood.

"Our stock levels of DEA 1 Negative blood are currently very low and so we need more dogs of this type to register," Pet Blood Bank say.

Certain breeds of dog are more likely to have this blood type including Boxers, Dobermans, Flat Coated Retrievers, German Shepherds, Greyhounds, Lurchers and Weimaraners," Wendy Barnett, clinical director at Pet Blood Bank told us.

Dog donor register

Pet Blood Bank UK maintains a register of blood donor dogs. You can register your dog on their website. You will be asked to fill out a short form that will help Pet Blood Bank determine your dog’s eligibility based on age, health, weight, etc.

Cat blood donation

There isn’t a feline donation programme in the UK at present, however, Pet Blood Bank UK is working towards establishing a cat blood bank in the very near future.

If you want to volunteer your cat to donate blood, speak to your vet or get in touch with the Royal Veterinary College which has a programme for dog, horse and cat blood donation. As a reward your cat will be given a free health check, including a heart scan and tests for feline leukaemia and immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Irina Wells
Content Marketing Executive

Irina is a former content marketing executive for ManyPets. She has contributed to a number of personal finance sites, including Loot Financial Services and Claro Money.