Blood Donors



by Carole Machery DVM

A blood transfusion can save a life, so veterinary hospitals must be prepared to administer blood if there is need.  Blood can be given in one of three ways:

  • whole blood donated by a donor dog or cat at the time of need
  • blood purchased from a national veterinary blood bank, shipped and stored
  • artificial blood – currently unavailable

While blood can save lives, the wrong blood can create even more problems.  Donor blood should be screened for blood type and the donor should be tested for any blood-borne diseases that might infect the recipient.  Donors must also be heartworm negative.

Greyhounds are often mistakenly thought to be universal blood donors, but this is not always the case. The universal blood type (Dea 1.1) is found in some, but not all, Greyhounds.  In addition, donor dogs should be screened extensively for tick-borne diseases and if they have had a past infection, should be excluded from a donor program.  Many Greyhounds test positive for tick disease exposure, eliminating them from ever donating. 

If they are Dea 1.1 and free of tick diseases, Greyhounds do make excellent donors.  Their blood has an unusually high number of red blood cells and, because of their docile temperament, they usually give blood easily.  Remember, any dog weighing over 60 pounds might be a great donor (not just Greyhounds), so check with your vet or the local emergency clinic for their needs if you’d like your dog to donate.

Giving blood is a very simple procedure requiring no sedation and taking only about 10 minutes.  When it’s over, your best friend is a hero!  A life has been saved because of his or her generous donation.

Currently, Grassmere has two Greyhound blood donors, Digger and Triple, who are “on call” if needed.  They are the only two of Dr. Macherey’s five Greyhounds who are both the universal blood type and free of a history of tick diseases.


Cats also have blood types but the majority of them are type A.  There is no universal blood donor type amongst cats, so ideally both the donor and the recipient should be typed before a transfusion.  Unfortunately, many transfusions are performed as an emergency life-saving procedure, so an overnight blood typing of a patient isn’t practical.

Before they can be blood donors, cats should be screened for diseases that might be transmitted to a recipient during a transfusion.  These diseases include Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), FIP, and Hemobartonella.

We currently have two feline blood donors  – Remy and Petunia, although Petunia is semi-retired.

This page last updated 03/08/2009


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