We couldn’t talk about blood without having Dracula welcome you.
Dogs have blood types! There are eight dog blood types known as DEA, or Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (but only six can be tested for), and each is designated as DEA 1, DEA 2, DEA 3 and so on. Dogs with type DEA -1.1 are regarded as “universal recipients,” while dogs with DEA-4 are considered “universal donors.” Veterinarians or blood centers such as Hemopet or University of Pennsylvania usually recruit true “universal donors” as most owners don’t know their dog’s blood type, and an emergency isn’t the time to figure it out.
Many Greyhounds have a universal blood type (between 50% and 70%, in fact), as compared to 20% for most other breeds, and when using only the typing card for DEA 1.1, 87% of Greyhounds would qualify as blood donors (as compared to <40% for other dog breeds). They are large enough to give a human-sized unit of blood, and interestingly, Greyhounds also have a higher red blood cell count, lower white blood cell count, and a lower platelet count than other breeds.
As an aside, and as long as we’re discussing Greyhounds, serum calcium (both total and ionized) and magnesium are lower in Greyhounds than in non-Greyhound dogs, and concentrations of serum creatinine (a marker of kidney function) are high (1-2.2 mg/dL), while their total serum protein concentrations (5-6 gm/dL) and globulin (1.8-2.5 gm/dL) are lower than in other dogs.
Many donor Greyhounds are retired racers, and in the case of Hemopet, their Pet Life-Line program works with adoption organizations and foster homes to place the Greyhounds into loving homes after which they’re never used as blood donors again.
A few other interesting factoids about blood donations:
Female dogs that have previously whelped a litter are at higher risk when receiving blood and should always be cross-matched before getting it. Also, dogs that have received a previous transfusion have used up their proverbial “one free transfusion” card, because the previous transfusion may have activated antibodies that can react fatally with a subsequent transfusion. Unless a dog’s blood transfusion was less than thee days prior, its blood has to be cross-matched with a donor before transfusing again. Compatible blood can last three to four weeks in a dog recipient’s body, while the shelf-life of red blood cells from a donor dog is two months, and about a year for plasma. There is artificial blood made from cow hemoglobin, and while it’s easily stored and readily available, it doesn’t last all that long in a recipient’s body.