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Question:   My friend’s dog was diagnosed with anemia.  Can a dog get a blood transfusion to treat anemia like a person?



Dogs and Cats can receive transfusions just like people.  However not all veterinary clinics stock blood products.  Some veterinarians order blood products from animal blood banks that collect blood from dog and cat donors.  These blood banks separate the blood collected into different components for transfusion and then ship the products to veterinary clinics.  The most common blood components we use for dogs and cats are red blood cells and fresh frozen plasma.  At Oradell Animal Hospital we have feline and canine blood donors who donate blood on a regular basis.  This blood is stored at our hospital for up to a month and is utilized for patients in need of a transfusion.  We also order blood products from outside animal blood banks to supplement our supply.

Not all patients with a low red blood cell count (anemia) require a blood transfusion.  If the anemia is severe and the patient is having trouble breathing with an elevated heart rate and they are experiencing extreme weakness or collapse then they likely need a transfusion.  More importantly, this patient would need a full diagnostic work up to determine the cause of such a severe anemia.  A blood transfusion will make the pet feel better for a short time.  However, if the underlying cause for the anemia is not identified and treated the pet will begin to become sick again as the red blood cell count decreases.

Dogs and cats can become anemic for many reasons.  In general red blood cells can be lost from bleeding, be destroyed by the body, or there may be decreased production of red blood cells by the body.  At Oradell Animal Hospital some of our patients suffer anemia secondary to hemorrhage caused buy trauma.  Some are anemic from cancers and immunological diseases.  Others are mildly anemic from chronic diseases like kidney failure.  Some of these patients require transfusions while in our care and others are discharged without the need of transfusions.  Your friend’s veterinarian will be able to advise whether a transfusion is necessary and what tests need to be performed to determine the cause of the anemia.

Erica Swanke

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