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There are many reasons our Austin animal hospital provides our patients with blood transfusion therapy, including surgery, injury and disease. Whole blood contains several components, primarily red cells and plasma which are separated after collection using a centrifuge. If your pet emergency requires a transfusion, they will receive a transfusion that provides the part or parts of blood that will be most helpful for their specific illness or condition.
A blood transfusion will provide an immediate supply of red blood cells, which are essential for carrying oxygen around the body and can therefore be a life-saving procedure for an anemic cat or dog during a pet emergency or pet surgery. Loss of blood during surgery or as the result of injury may result in anemia and may require a transfusion of packed red blood cells. In addition, anemia from other causes such as blood disorders, tumors, or poisoning may require a transfusion of packed red blood cells.
Plasma is the fluid component of blood within which the red cells are suspended. It contains many coagulation factors and proteins with essential functions. Plasma transfusions increase clotting factors to allow blood to clot and prevent prolonged bleeding after injury or animal surgery.
Cancer may decrease your pet’s ability to produce red blood cells by impacting the organs that affect blood count, such as the kidneys, bone marrow and spleen. Drugs used in chemotherapy also can decrease components of the blood. Our Austin animal hospital is able to provide transfusions to help counter such effects.
Cats and dogs each have their own blood typing system (groups) and it is important during a transfusion that your pet receives the correct blood type to avoid any reactions. Cats for example, have three major blood groups. Group A, B and AB. Group A is the most common while group B is common in some pedigree breeds. Group AB appears to be rare in all breeds.
Cats given a non-compatible blood transfusion can develop severe life-threatening transfusion reactions, because cats can have naturally-occurring antibodies (a part of the immune system) in their blood against red blood cells of another group. This is particularly true of group B cats, that always have high levels of antibodies against group A blood (and will react badly if given type A blood), but can also be true of group A cats. The incompatibilities and risk of severe transfusion reactions means that cats should only ever receive a matched blood transfusion.
In dogs, there are at least 12 different canine blood groups where 6 of these groups are fairly common. Blood groups are determined by the presence or absence of different antigens on the surface of the dog’s red blood cells and are identified by numbers such as 1.1, 1.2, 3, and 4. To make matters even more confusing, a dog can have more than one group of antigens associated with the DEA blood group that identifies the blood “type”. Our vet emergency hospitals keep in-office blood typing snap tests on hand, so we can type your dog’s blood before an emergency transfusion.
Also like humans, dogs can suffer adverse reactions to transfused blood or blood products from dogs with types that are different from their own. Transfusion reactions rarely occur upon the first transfusion – but a transfusion from a dog with a different blood type than the recipient will sensitize the recipient’s immune system to that type. Subsequent transfusions with the same type of blood in the future will cause an adverse transfusion reaction. This is why blood typing for “repeat customers” is very important. Reactions to other blood components such as white blood cells, platelets and plasma proteins can also occur occasionally, but these tend to be milder and are usually manageable.
If you are experiencing a pet emergency and you think your pet may need blood transfusion therapy call Austin Emergency Animal Hospital immediately.