What is Blood Transfusion?

A blood transfusion is a medical procedure used in dogs to treat symptoms of anemia caused by disease, surgery, toxicity, or trauma. The goal of blood transfusion is to treat symptoms caused by anemia by replacing red blood cells so that proper oxygenation of organs can occur. Blood transfusions are most often used in acute situations such as acute hemolysis or blood loss, but can also be used for chronic conditions such as immune mediated hemolytic anemia. Not all patients with anemia require a blood transfusion. Blood transfusions are administered by a veterinarian in the veterinary clinic. 

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Blood Transfusion Procedure in Dogs

Before receiving a blood transfusion, your dog will be cross-matched with the donor blood to determine compatibility. This is especially important for those patients who received a blood transfusion more than three days prior and need another transfusion. Your dog may also have coagulation testing done to determine the need for a plasma transfer. Blood transfusion is typically done to stabilize a patient with symptoms of anemia. It may need to be repeated until the primary cause of anemia is managed. There is no need for anesthesia for a blood transfusion to be performed. 

After preliminary testing is done to ensure your dog is a match with the donor blood, an IV will be placed for the blood transfusion. If a catheter is already in place, a separate line will be added to ensure that only the blood product is traveling in the line. The transfusion could last from one to four hours. One hour for patients who are unstable and have life threatening signs of anemia and four hours for patients with mild to moderate symptoms of anemia. 

Once the transfusion is done, your dog will be monitored for several hours to ensure that they are stable. Your veterinarian will check your dog’s vital signs and perform blood tests to monitor the resolution of the anemia. Your dog will also be monitored for signs of an adverse reaction such as vomiting, increased respiratory effort, edema or hives.

Efficacy of Blood Transfusion in Dogs

Blood transfusion in dogs is effective in restoring blood cells lost to anemia and alleviating the symptoms caused by that blood loss. The effects of transfusion are not permanent and last only as long as red blood cells remain in the system. It is important to address the primary cause of the anemia in order to have a more permanent effect on health. Treatments related to blood transfusion include plasma transfusion and platelet transfusion. These additional transfusions are able to supplement other vital blood products such as clotting factors and platelets, however, they cannot be used on their own in place of a blood transfusion.

Blood Transfusion Recovery in Dogs

After a blood transfusion your dog will need to be monitored closely for several hours for signs of an adverse reaction. Adverse reactions can be acute or delayed in nature. Typically, adverse reactions only happen in dogs that have received multiple transfusions. There will be signs of improvement within the first 24 hours as the body accepts the transferred blood. Full healing will take place only after the underlying cause of the anemia is properly treated.

Cost of Blood Transfusion in Dogs

Units of blood for transfusion can cost $100 - $300 each. Total cost for the procedure depends on the amount of blood needed for the transfusion.  If several transfusions are needed during the course of a hospital stay, treatment could cost $1,000. However, in cases which a couple of units of blood are needed to replace blood loss during surgery treatment could cost $200. 

Dog Blood Transfusion Considerations

The most common risk associated with blood transfusion in dogs is the potential for an acute reaction. Your dog will be monitored after the transfusion to ensure that, should any reactions occur, they are managed immediately. Other risks associated with blood transfusion include sepsis from contaminated blood, and the spread of bloodborne diseases (parasitic and viral) from donor to recipient. These risks can be mitigated by testing all donor animals for viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases and examining any blood product before use for signs of contamination. Blood transfusion in dogs provides rapid, life-saving relief while the conditions that led to anemia are managed.

Blood Transfusion Prevention in Dogs

The conditions and situations that could lead to a blood transfusion are varied and some are more preventable than others. Immune conditions such as immune mediated anemia are unfortunately not preventable, but can be managed with medication once a diagnosis is made. Emergency situations resulting in great loss of blood and cancer that result in anemia are also difficult to prevent completely. While those causes of anemia are more unpredictable and difficult to prevent, there are several ways to prevent anemia due to other causes. 

Regular flea and tick prevention serves to prevent anemia caused by tick-borne diseases by ensuring that ticks do not have a chance to bite your dog. In addition to flea and tick prevention, keeping your dog free of internal parasites, such as intestinal worms, prevents anemia due to the blood loss from parasites. Ensuring that your dog does not have access to foods such as onions and garlic prevents anemia due to toxins.

Blood Transfusion Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Lucky
Golden Retriever
8 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
pale gums and tongue
Loss of Appetite
Diarrhea
Low blood oxygen
Fever

My dog has pale gums, low hemoglobin, low cortisol and I believe it was low t4. She's lethargic, won't eat any dog food( dry and wet) and urinates frequently as she drinks alot of water and has a fever. Im not sure but her stool looks like there's blood in it. I believe she has anemia, she's an 8 year old golden retriever and her results says she doesn't have cancerous cells. I was wondering what the procedure to treat the possible internal bleeding and infection would be, does she need surgery of any kind and medication during or after?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
977 Recommendations

Treatment would be dependent on the underlying cause; if there is an infection, treatment would consist of antibiotics (or drugs against parasites etc…) along with supportive care; if there is internal bleeding, stabilisation and surgery would probably be required to stop the bleeding; if there is a tumour (if) again identification and surgery coupled with chemotherapy would be needed. Supportive care for all these would include fluids, electrolytes, dextrose, blood transfusion, oxygen etc… Without a diagnosis, a treatment plan cannot be made. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Richie
Doberman Mix
10
Critical condition
1 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

IMHA

Medication Used

drip on Dentrone
given anti vomit medicine
blood tranfusion of 500ml is done

hi, Doc.
I would like to enquire for IMHA disease. One of my dog were having this problem. He started to vomit all his food that he ate on sunday night. and refuse to eat anything. So we thought is because he ate something that we dont know. Until the next day my mum discover that his urine is inRed and now it looks like a coffee colour. He was sent to the Vet Clinic nearby my house. He was given a Dentrone Drip for the past 3 days. Until today i found 2 donors that are willing to bring their dog for blood donation so that my dog can have a blood transfusion. But after the blood transfusion, his condition is still weak. He even vomit out what he ate. For the past few days, what he eat he will vomit out. Is there any cure to stop his vomit and let him to improve better.kindly advise

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
977 Recommendations

In a case of immune mediated hemolytic anemia, the mainstay of treatment is to decrease the level of red blood cell destruction by suppressing the immune system by administering corticosteroids (like prednisone) as well as giving supportive care; blood transfusion may help but is usually short lived due to the continued destruction of red blood cells by the bodies immune system. If a single medication isn’t effective, another medication like cyclosporine may be used together with the corticosteroids. Other possible complications may cause the condition of Richie to deteriorate and would also need to be managed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/imha-diagnosing-and-treating-complex-disease

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Charlie
mix of pomeranian and bichon
7 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

low level of blood and oxygen from the blood test

what is the % of saving my dog's life in blood transfusion?
How much treatment is needed and how much it will cost?
Not eating hard breathing pale skin difficult to stand and walk

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
977 Recommendations

The benefits of a blood transfusion vary depending on the underlying cause affecting the patient; many times which oxygen carrying ability, low platelets or low blood volume is present Veterinarians will recommend blood transfusions to stabilise a patient during a stage of recovery. Each underlying cause is different, there is no set percentage increase in prognosis if blood transfusion is used; but in the cases where it is used it will help to increase blood volume, oxygen carrying ability, help with clotting etc… which all may contribute to a better prognosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Pippa
Border collie poodle mix
9 Weeks
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Anemia
Vomiting
Lethargy
Blood In Stool

Our 9 week old puppy has hookworms. We have had her dewormed three times in the past week. She was acting great and lively. This morning she was throwing up clear bile and pooping out slimy blood. Her energy was low and she did not want to eat. We took her to the emergency vet immediately. They have her overnight to do a blood transfusion, because she was very anemic. But we are concerned about her making a full recovery. If she was already dewormed three times, what else can we even do? Please help. My husband and I are very worried for our sweet Pippa.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
977 Recommendations
There are many different causes of anaemia and bloody stools which may include infection, colitis, parasites (both intestinal and blood borne), foreign bodies, poisoning among other causes. Severe anaemia in dogs is either attributable to an increase in destruction of red blood cells, a decrease in production or an increase in bleeding; the underlying cause needs to be determined so that treatment may be directed effectively. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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TT
Chihuahua
1 Year
Critical
Has Symptoms
Anemic
My Chihuahua ate a penny and almost died. We rushed him to the pet hospital and tested for low blood and required a blood transfusion. Vet removed the coin and came home a few days later. Came a few days later and that nite became pale and was very weak. Rushed him back to hospital and needed a second blood transfusion.