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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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Blood Transfusion Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Tyson

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american pitbull

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8 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Coldness
Amnemic
Burst Spleen

HI my dog Tyson a American pit bull got very cold let nite didn't want to go walking or neting he was brough tho the vets and had his spleen removed and it was cancerous he said he problem not gone to survive the nite got the call sis morning the Tyson is still alive and his only hope is a blood transfusion and my sisters dog is given it to him I'd say he lost most of his blood lst nite after the spleen burst and the surgery, Wat at his chances of survival??

Aug. 15, 2018

Tyson's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I don't have any way of knowing Tyson's chances for survival without knowing his lab values and physical condition. It seems that your veterinarian has his situation under control, and if his spleen was removed and the transfusion was successful, he may recover well. I hope that he does well.

Aug. 15, 2018

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Raassee

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German Shepherd

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7 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Anemia
Anemia, Continuous Vaginal Bleeding

My 7 year old german sheperd has pyometra and needs to undergo surgery today,but she is too anemic and the doctor says blood transfusion is a must in her case. I want to know if there is a possibility for the uterus removal surgery to work without blood transfusion, (incase i can't get a donor in time).

July 31, 2018

Raassee's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

If the red blood cell count is too low, a transfusion must be made before surgery; I cannot say without knowing the severity of the anaemia whether she could tolerate surgery or not without a transfusion, but if your Veterinarian states that a transfusion is required before surgery then that is their judgement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 31, 2018

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Kylo

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Heeler mix

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5 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sluggish
Sleepiness
Does Not Eat

How long can my dog wait to get a blood transfusion? He's anemic, and sluggish will not eat so I have to force feed him. I give him his medicines, water, food, pedialite, and mutli-cal vitamins. Im currently waiting for my vet to call the place to get a transfusion for him but I am a nervous wreck.

July 5, 2018

Kylo's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

The urgency of a blood transfusion is dependent on many factors including the underlying cause of the anaemia, how quickly the red blood cell count is dropping, the current red blood cell count among other parameters; I’m sure your Veterinarian will get the blood for transfusion as soon as possible, but I cannot give you a specific time frame for when Kylo will need it. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 6, 2018

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teaspoon

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Shih Tzu

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12 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Anemia
Anemic

my shihszu had a blood transfusion a month ago every thing was going great now she has platoed her count is 32 good wait gain but starting over again licking walls picky about her food will eat chicken i cook but getting same memo again

June 2, 2018

teaspoon's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Teaspoon may be having a recurrence of her condition, it is hard for me to say without knowing the reason that she was anemic or what medications she is on. If you are noticing a decrease in her appetite and strange behaviors, it would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian for a recheck.

June 2, 2018

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Almond

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German Shepherd

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15 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Licking At Genitals
Rapid Breathing
Blood In Stool
Swollen Joints
Tail Twitching
Low Oxygen

My dog Almond was a German Shepard mix. He would have been 15 next month. He had DM starting the last couple months so needed a lot of assistance walking and started on something called “carpeotein” I believe to help but despite it was such a happy dog with a great appetite. He did not mind being carried and laying in the sunshine and being spoiled. He was also prescribed pain 2 meds every 8 hours in case the grind legs were hurting him. Saturday night he didn’t eat his food for the first time ever. We thought perhaps it was because he’s extremely stubborn and spoiled In his old age and we were out of his new favorite food and switched to a temporary one till we could get more from the vet in a couple days. I also noticed this odd twitch of his tail that looked like a wag but wasn’t. The next morning we had the food he loved and he ate it excitedly as always but then seemed disinterested in a treat later that day, which is extremely abnormal. He took the treat but wasn’t excited. I should also note that he’s always been a nervous dog (thunder storms; separation anxiety; etc) and over the last couple days leading up to Sunday his breathing seemed more rapid ... but then he’d relax or sleep so it was hard to tell. Also to note ... the last few weeks he had been licking his penis compulsively and having diarrhea and switching the food and other vet prescribed medications to harden him up seemed to work but then starting maybe 2 weeks ago he was having blood in the stool which we were told could be colitis, and since his throat lymph nodes were swollen maybe an infevtion or lymphoma. But the vet gave us a powder antibiotic which if it’s an infection should resolve the bloody stool in a day, which it mostly did. However there were still tiny amounts of blood in the stool. But again he was happy and hungry all through the diarreha weeks up until this Saturday night when he didn’t want the other dog food. When he didn’t want the treat on Sunday morning i was extremely concerned but had to leave for work. My mom stayed with him and said he had two more bowel movements, and seemed ok until about 8:30 he was breathing fast and yelped once or twice. When I got home around 10 he was breathing incredibly rapidly and his eyes were locked open in a stare and he kept turning into his body and the tail twitching was happening. We rushed him to the ER where they said his blood oxygen was at 30 and falling Even on oxygen and that the vet was pretty sure she could feel a mass in his abdomen and that he must be leaking blood somewhere in the rectum which would explain the bloody stool. She thought lymphoma because of the swelling I mentioned earlier in the throat and behind the legs. She said a lot and it’s hard to remember but a transfusion was one of the things. There was something else mentioned I think about maybe blood around the heart? I know the heart and blood surrounding were mentioned but I can’t recall the details it all happened so fast. She said his prognosis even starting treatment was very poor and if it were her dog she’d think about the alternative, which is what we did. But I can’t help but feel like we gave up on him. The cost wasn’t an issue. I don’t remember what the list of treatments were but it was about $1300 which I would gladly pay. I guess I’m reaching out because I feel we could have treated him and bought him a few more months or year on average based on my research about lymphoma treatments. I’m beating myself up immensely feeling like we killed him when all he needed were these treatments, and then he would be ok and we could have extended his life a few more months even days of extending his life and happiness would have been worth any price to me so I’m just in agony and I can’t heal because I feel like we could have done that and it’s killing me. I tried to call the vet to have her talk to me and explain again where I could process more and hopefully tell me that because of many factors combined that a transfusion wouldn’t have likely even bought time because of how low the oxygen was and what not and then he would have passed on a table scared away from his family. I haven’t heard back yet. I know I’m fishing for validation but unless it’s true I can’t begin to accept :’(

May 17, 2018

Almond's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

From your description, it does sound like letting Almond go was the kindest thing for him, given all the things that were happening. Sometimes, this is a kindness, as difficult as it is for us. He isn't suffering, which is the important part. I am very sorry for your loss.

May 18, 2018

Almond will be waiting for you @ the Rainbow Bridge.To be brave enough to keep him from suffering, is the ultimate gift a human can give to a dog. Our 2 yr. Old Greybound is fighting in the doggy ER right now. An immune disorder has caused him to hemmorage. We're waiting to hear if we need to go in. Say a prayer for Geno,ok?

July 3, 2018

Char P.


A 15 yr old German Shepherd lived s beautiful full life and you did a selfless loving thing letter her Rest In Peace. The prognosis sounded very poor for long term even if the blood transfusion helped for a day or two. Do not best yourself up over the what if’s and I’m sure the vet who was with you during the emergency would agree that you made the right decision. Which, you, at that given moment knew 💯 was right o do. We always question the what if’s after bc our minds like to cause us more heartache 😘

June 27, 2018

Jdc


I am very sorry for your loss with Almond. I recently lost my 12 year old Havanese to lymphoma. We did everything medically possible and she still passed away three days after her first chemo treatment. The treatments can be just as hard as the disease on the dog.

June 6, 2018

Lisa

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Rosie

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My Labrador had to have a blood transfusion after being spayed , she eats no more than my other labs but she's getting so overweight could this be due to transfusion .

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RHOADS

dog-breed-icon

German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

11 Weeks

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Crying
Poop Black
Had A Blood Transfusion
Low Red Blood Cell
Sleepy
Tired
Peeing Blood
White Gums

WE RUSH OUR 11 WEEK OLD PUPPY TO VET HOSPITAL. THEY SAID HIS RED BLOOD COUNT WAS AT 12. HE NEED A BLOOD TRANSFUSION, THEY HAD TO STOP BECAUSE HE STARTED A BURNING UP. THEY GOT THAT UNDER CONTROL, AND FINISHED THE BLOOD TRANSFUSION. THEY CALLED THIS MORNING AND SAID HE WAS RUNNING AROUND. WE CALLED TO CHECK ON HIM, AND THEY SAID NOW HIS BLEEDING WINE RED, WHAT COULD BE WRONG WITH HIM. THAT HIS RED BLOOD CELL IN ONLY UP TO 18 NOW. SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME UNDERSTAND ALL THIS AND WHAT TO ASK THE VET. I AM SO WORRIED ONLY HAD HIM FOR A WEEK.

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Pete

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Pit Bull and Terrier

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Blood In Stool
Throwing Up Blood

My dog Pete has recently been throwing up blood and has had blood in his stool for about a week now. After taking him to the vet we found out he has Hookworms and whipworms along with the problem that he is anemic and in kidney failure. For the most part he does not act very different, he still enjoys his walks and plays with our other two dogs. We are considering a blood transfusion because he does not portray any pain and he has not had any sudden weight loss only about 2 pounds since we adopted him from the shelter three months ago. Is there any hope in a blood transfusion or will it just create pain for our baby?

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roxy

dog-breed-icon

Rottweiler

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

Our 8 yr old female rottie had an infected toe and the vet said she had low platelette levels and wanted to do a transfusion b4 surgury to remove toe. They gave her a transfusion, but her neck swelled up and he was concerned and didnt want to perform the surgury. This was on friday. He wanted us to come back monday for another blood test and maybe do the surgury. So saturday she was ok, Sunday am started vomiting gooey blood/mucus. Took to ER but dog died in car. Did he botch the transfusion?

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