Published by Kirby Winn on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 in Blog

We share a lot of information about lifesaving difference blood transfusions can make for patients at the hospitals we serve, but did you know dogs and cats can also receive blood transfusions?

In fact, ImpactLife helps with the process by providing blood components from canine donations to Kimberly Crest Veterinary Hospital and the Animal Emergency Center of the Quad Cities. We talked with Dr. Jake Taylor of Kimberly Crest Veterinary Hospital & Specialty Services to learn more about how pets can benefit from transfusion medicine.

What are the reasons a dog or cat might receive a blood transfusion?

Kimberly Crest

Dr. Taylor: Most cases of blood transfusions in dogs are immune mediated hemolytic anemias (IMHA), bleeding secondary to cancer, or bleeding secondary to trauma. We use plasma for critical surgery patients, or certain toxicities like rodenticides. A blood transfusion in a dog or cat requires very close monitoring where a dedicated technician is usually with the pet for the length of the transfusion ~4 hours. This is to make sure they are not going to have a reaction to the blood product. 

How does ImpactLife help?

We collect donations at our office and then bring the blood to ImpactLife where the components production team spins the whole blood donation down into packed red blood cells (RBCs) and fresh frozen plasma (FFP). The lab calls us when the components are ready, and we come in to pick it up. This has proven to be an easy process for us and very convenient.

What characteristics make for an ideal canine blood donor?

All of our donors are our own dogs. They have to be a minimum size of at least 50 lbs. and between the ages of 2-7. Dogs can donate every 3 months. They are all employee dogs and if they meet those criteria, then we send off a blood test to see if they are what is called a Universal Donor. They also get a complete blood count drawn prior to donating to make sure they have recovered well from previous donations.

We need to ensure donor dogs are up to date on a heartworm test and tick borne disease panel, and they must be current on all vaccinations. Dogs have a full exam prior to donation, and are given a light sedative. After the donation is finished, we give them some fluids to rehydrate them, and keep a bandage around their neck for ~1 hour as we use the jugular vein to collect.

We usually keep a unit of packed red blood cells on hand at a time and a few units of fresh frozen plasma. We also do cat transfusions, although we do not send the blood to ImpactLife. (We handle feline donations in-house as it is a much smaller volume of blood that we need from a cat. They are similar requirements, and need to be at least 10 lbs. and between 2-8 years of age.)

Are you looking for additional canine or feline donors?

At this time, we have been able to just use our personal dogs. Many of our pets are the right size and age. The main reason we have kept things internal is convenience. An employee's pet may already be here and we can collect on them on demand if they are up. We have used client dogs on rare occasions, but usually our pets are the first ones we reach for and we value their service!

Dr. Jake Taylor
Jake Taylor, DVM DABVP

Jake Taylor, DVM DABVP is a graduate of Augustana College and University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Taylor graduated with honors and received the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Certificate of Clinical Excellence. After graduation he pursued a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Taylor then practiced in Rockford, Illinois for two years before joining the team at Kimberly Crest in 2014. His professional interests include ultrasound, oncology, clinical pathology, internal medicine, and cardiology. Dr. Taylor achieved board certification in canine and feline practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in 2020.


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About The Author

Kirby Winn

Kirby Winn serves as Manager, Public Relations for ImpactLife. He enjoys working with media across the blood center's service region to share the stories of patients who have been helped by the generous volunteers who support our mission.

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