By Marike Gevers

As a blood donor, you know the importance of blood and how blood saves lives. Did you know that it’s not only humans who can donate blood? That’s correct; our very own furry friends can also make a difference and save lives. The Tygerberg Animal Hospital (TAH) is the only veterinary blood bank in the Western Cape, and here cats and dogs can donate blood. They assist cats and dogs needing blood transfusions for many procedures and emergencies. Blood is used for internal bleeding, tick bite fever, rat poisoning, anaemia and low platelet count.

The requirements for dogs to become a blood donor are:

  1. Be between 1 – 6 years old.
  2. Weigh more than 25kg.
  3. Be healthy and maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Have a calm temperament.
  5. Haven’t received any blood transfusions.
  6. All vaccinations, deworming, tick and flea treatment up to date.
  7. Not be on any chronic medication.

Requirements for a cat to become a blood donor are:

  1. Be between the age of 1 – 8 years old.
  2. Weigh a minimum of 4kg and maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Must be FIV and FeLV negative.
  4. Not suffering from any chronic disease.
  5. Have a calm temperament.

In comparison to the 8 human blood groups, dogs have approximately 7 different blood groups, but the most important classification between groups is Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA), positive or negative. Cats only have 2 blood groups, A and B. Cats only donate 11-15ml blood per kilogram of body weight; that’s why they prefer bigger cats to become donors. There are no blood bags this small, so blood needs to be transfused immediately to the patient cat. Cat donors, therefore, need to be immediately available for patients in need. Dogs, however, use the same blood bags as humans and they can produce whole blood, packed red cells and fresh frozen plasma from their blood donation. Dogs donate 450ml per 25kg body weight, which means if a dog is more than 50kg, they can donate a total of 900ml. Both cats and dogs can donate blood every 3 months.

As animals can’t complete a donor questionnaire, their screening includes the following: being weighed, a complete clinical examination, which includes a blood sample of blood count and cells. Animals are placed under light sedation which is immediately reversed after the donation process. After blood donation, animals also enjoy a nice, well-deserved snack.

If you would like to know more about animal blood donations, please contact TAH on 021 919 1191. Your animals’ blood can also save lives.