Could your cat or dog become a blood donor superhero?

The unexpected can happen at any time of day or night and a blood transfusion can be a life saving procedure for some pets.

There are many different conditions that could prompt the use of a blood transfusion. These include haemorrhage from trauma (from road traffic accidents or falls etc); immune mediated anaemia; bleeding tumours; coagulation problems (rodenticide [rat] poisoning) and many other conditions.

Here at Charter Vets, we are very aware of the benefit of having access to replacement blood and blood products. We regularly use products available from ‘The Pet Blood Bank’, which is based in Leicestershire. However, when an emergency occurs, we often need faster access to blood than ‘The Pet Blood Bank’ can courier it to us. We are unable to store blood for extended periods, so it is very wasteful to have some in the practice ‘just in case’.

Due to these reasons and in conjunction with our wonderful clients, we hold a list of suitable animals that we can call on if necessary, to provide lifesaving blood for some of our critically ill patients.

From time to time we contact clients with pets that are possibly suitable for donation to see if they would like to be considered for this scheme.

Would your pet be suitable?

There a number of factors that influence whether or not an animal is suitable. These include:

  • Dogs need to be calm and relaxed when visiting the vets

  • All animals should be fully vaccinated

  • Pets should be treated for fleas and wormed regularly

  • They should not have travelled abroad at any time

  • Cats should be over 4kg in bodyweight

  • Dogs should be between the age of 1 and 7 years

  • Cats should be between the age of 1 and 8 years

If a pet is suitable, the next stage in our assessment of your pet is to have an appointment with one of our qualified veterinary nurses. This gives us the chance to make sure your pet is comfortable in our surroundings. At this time, we would also take a small sample of blood.

This sample of blood is necessary to ‘type’ the blood. Just like humans, there are many different blood types in both cats and dogs. In cats there are three main blood groups and in dogs there are two main groups with up to 20 sub groups. As with humans if the wrong type of blood is given to a patient it could cause a detrimental adverse reaction. If we know in advance what blood group your pet is, we would only then contact you in an emergency if your pet was a suitable blood type. Once your pet has been assessed and their blood has been typed, they can then be added to our list of available donors.

Although dogs and cats can safely donate blood every 3 months, current trends suggest that we would contact you less than once per year.  We would ask you to be able to bring your dog or cat into Charter Veterinary Hospital, Roundswell, or Mullacott Veterinary Practice, Ilfracombe, at short notice. However, you would not be under any obligation, if you have other commitments at that time.

Any blood donors that we call on has a full health check and blood test before donating to make sure they are in good health. If there was any concern that they might be under the weather, then we would not proceed.

If we proceed to donation, cats and dogs are usually given a light sedation to keep them calm and stop them moving suddenly whilst the procedure is carried out. If for any reason they become anxious then we would stop the donation.

We only ever take an appropriate calculated amount of blood from your pet. After donation we usually keep your pet in with us for a few hours to make sure they recover from the sedation, and we would recommend that dogs are given only light lead exercise for 2-3 days and cats are kept indoors for 2-3 days post donation.

If you feel you would like to assist us in helping provide a potentially life saving opportunity to local pets, please could you indicate your interest by contacting us on 01271 371115 or emailing