Pet owners should know their dog’s blood type, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology Veterinary Transfusion Medicine Center director Tsai Yi-lun (蔡宜倫) said, warning that giving a dog the wrong type of blood during medical procedures could result in dangerous immune system complications.
The blood types of dogs are more complicated than those of humans, she said.
Veterinarians distinguish between blood types by looking at antigens on the surface of the red blood cells, Tsai said, adding that veterinarians must be particularly cautious when dealing with blood types containing the antigen DEA1, which can destroy other cells if mixed with the wrong blood types.
Veterinarians in Taiwan can only check for the presence of DEA1, not other antigens, she said.
While veterinarians match up donors for dogs they are treating based on the presence of DEA1, knowing the exact blood type of eight possibilities is necessary to avoid any complications, Tsai said.
About two-thirds of dogs have blood types that contain DEA1, she said.
Asked if there is a “universal” blood type for dogs, such as O-negative in humans, Tsai said that the closest equivalent would be one that contains only the DEA4 antigen, which is found only in greyhounds and can be given to 98 percent of dogs.
However, as there are few greyhounds in Taiwan, veterinarians must match exact blood types whenever possible, she said.
Giving dogs the right blood type is especially important given their relatively smaller body sizes, Duma Animal Hospital director Chung Sheng-hua (鍾昇樺) said.
The wrong blood could cause a high fever, shaking or even send the animal into shock, he said.
“Veterinarians and the public used to believe that a dog’s blood type did not need to be checked prior to blood transfusions. It is different now due to research, but owners should be well-informed about their dogs,” Tsai said.
There are many dog owners who go online to ask for blood donations when their dog is injured, she said, but that is not recommended, as the blood’s quality must always be checked.
Well-equipped veterinarians should be able to verify the quality of donated blood, she said.
Donated blood for a pet can cost as much as NT$10,000, as pets are not covered by medical insurance, Tsai said.
Blood transfusions are often needed in an emergency and the dog might only be able to wait up to two days for a transfusion, she said.
While there are sometimes difficulties in coordinating between the center and an animal hospital, the center can send blood anywhere in Taiwan within two days, she added.