Animal Blood Banking

Animal Blood Banking

The history of veterinary transfusion medicine began in 1665 with the first reported transfusion of canine blood.  From that time to the present day, whole blood and blood components have been used to treat many disease states and for surgery in veterinary medicine.

The need for establishing local, regional, and national blood banking services for animals has become apparent in recent years with the development of sophisticated medical and surgical support for animals that parallel those of human medicine.  At the same time, the emergence of pet animal health insurance programs helps to provide a means of financial support for advanced critical care.  Despite these efforts, however, most of the world needs are not being met today. The demand exceeds supply and individual programs still need to be standardized to ensure safety and efficacy.

Present and Future Needs

Until recently most veterinarians gave whole blood transfusions from donors that had not been blood typed or cross-matched as emergency life-saving measures to combat traumatic or surgical shock, severe anemia, hypoproteinemia, and bleeding.  This would usually be the animal’s first transfusion.  Today, while animal blood typing reagents and cards are commercially available for the major blood group antigens of dogs (DEA 1) and cats (A, B), more complete typing services and reagents are provided only by veterinary researchers and certain blood banks.

Need for Compatible Blood

It is important that veterinarians use typed, compatible blood whenever a transfusion is given.

For cats, cross-matching the recipient and donor beforehand is an essential standard of practice, to avoid serious or life-threatening transfusion reactions.  Further, hemolytic disease of the newborn kitten can occur with type-incompatible matings, and result in significant neonatal morbidity and mortality. A parallel situation is well known in people, and also occurs in other species like the horse and pig.

All cats have naturally-occurring antibodies against the other blood type, such that strong incompatibility reactions are seen when blood type B recipients receive blood from type A donors [because type A cats have potent anti-B antibodies.] Knowing the blood type of in-clinic feline donors (and recipients) is also advisable.

Dogs, in contrast to cats, do not have naturally-occurring antibodies against other canine blood group antigens. However, because it is usually impracti­cal from an economic and timing standpoint to determine the blood type of dogs requiring immediate transfusion, most blood bank programs depend upon in-clinic or local canine donors that have been pre-screened.  The donor dogs are selected for overall health and vigor, ease of bleeding and docile temperament, and they should have what is termed the “universal donor” blood type [negative for all canine red cell antigens except DEA 4, which is essentially present in all dogs].  This means that their red blood cells do not carry any of the surface antigens associated with transfusion reactions or incompatibilities.

Another issue surrounds the transfusion of incompatible blood to breeding females, as it poses a potential risk of immunologic sensitization (alloimunization). If a sire also mismatched in blood type is subsequent­ly mated with this female, hemolytic disease of the newborn can be exhibited by some of the puppies.  This can be a significant cause of the “fading puppy syndrome” in dams that have had more than one litter, but can be avoided by blood typing the sensitized dam and selecting only type-compatible sires for future breedings.

Need for Safe Blood

A second, but equally important aspect of veterinary transfusion medicine, is to ensure that all blood used for transfusion is properly screened for blood-transmitted infectious diseases.  In 2005, an expert task force of the ACVIM concluded that safety issues are of major concern, because about 60% of blood transfusions given in private practice settings use blood from local animal donors (non-commercial source) that may not be blood-type compatible and are usually not screened for infectious diseases.  This practice poses a significant potential liability for malpractice should an adverse transfusion event occur.

Blood Component Therapy

Whole blood is no longer the treatment of choice, nor is it desirable for the primary therapy of most veterinary transfusio­ns. Processing freshly collected blood into several clinically useful components is a more cost-effective, efficient and safer use of this precious life-saving resource.  The most commonly used blood components in veterinary medicine parallel those in human medicine: packed red blood cells and fresh-frozen plasma.   The red blood cells are primarily used to treat acute blood loss anemia from trauma, surgery, or acute hemolytic disease, and for chronic anemias caused by internal (hookworms) and external (fleas, ticks) parasites, bone marrow failure and chronic hemolytic disease.  Fresh frozen-plasma is used mostly to treat or control bleeding disorders and to provide other plasma proteins and globulins to help alleviate or protect against acute or chronic infectious diseases, such as parvovirus infections.

Hemopet, the Non-Profit Canine Blood Bank

Hemopet, began in 1991 as a US federally registered non-profit, charitable organization. Our licensed facility houses a colony of healthy, canine blood donors, all of which have the universal blood type (DEA 4), are screened for an inclusive list of disease pathogens, and are current on all vaccinations.  These dogs are all Greyhounds rescued because they were unsuitable for the racing industry.  We maintain around 200 donors at present in our large facility in Garden Grove, and have initiated a novel rescue-donor-adoption program for them.  All the dogs have been neutered and receive on-site 24 hours-a-day veterinary care and maintenance.  After serving up to a year in the donor program, they are adopted out as family companions.

Hemopet’s full-service blood bank provides state-of-the-art blood components and supplies for transfusions to veterinary clinics.  These include:  Canine whole blood, canine packed red blood cells, canine fresh-frozen plasma, canine platelet-rich plasma, canine cryoprecipitate, canine cryo-supernatant, canine frozen plasma, disposables and speciality products for transfusion, transfusion consultation.


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