Transfusion Medicine & Blood Bank
The Transfusion Medicine Service provides an array of specialized blood products for many of the species treated at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). This service works with large and small animal faculty, residents, staff, and students to better improve the transfusion process from donor to recipient. State-of-the-art equipment allows for greater precision and quality in the products provided for patient care. Currently the Transfusion Medicine Service and Blood Bank provide blood products for: dogs, cats, horses, cows, goats, sheep, llamas, and donkeys.
The Transfusion Medicine Service strives to meet the rising demand for blood products for dogs, cats, horses, cows, llamas, sheep, goats, pigs and other animals. More than 600 transfusions per year take place at the VMTH. Blood is typed and cross-matched to assure the safest transfusions possible for each animal.
The laboratory suite is equipped with a state-of-the-art centrifuge and refrigeration and freezer units for blood storage, as well as a platelet rocker for optimal storage of platelet products.
UC Davis faculty and staff have developed a rapid blood-typing technique for horses – available only through the VMTH Clinical Diagnostic Laboratories.
Veterinary students who spend time with the service learn the scope of veterinary blood banking and how they may use blood products in their future practices.
Canine Community Blood Donor Program
The Veterinary Blood Bank began screening donor dogs in February 2008 for enrollment into a community-based donation program. The hospital’s blood bank collects, processes and stores canine blood needed for transfusions to treat a variety of conditions in dogs. Applications range from surgical complications to kidney failure.
In order to be blood donors, dogs must be:
- 1 to 8 years old
- weigh at least 55 pounds
- in excellent health
What you can expect
Blood donation for dogs is minimally invasive. During your first visit, which lasts about 30 minutes, dogs receive health examinations, have their blood typed, and are screened for infectious disease. (Dogs have 13 different blood types!) If cleared for further donation, the dog is invited to become a member of our canine blood donor program. Donation appointments can be scheduled as often as once per month. Results from the annual blood screening remains on file at the hospital and can be made available at any time to the dog's regular veterinarian. If any health problems are detected, the owner will be advised to follow up with the dog's regular veterinarian.
The annual health checks, which includes veterinary services valued at $300, is free, as are donation visits. All dogs leave with a "goodie bag" of treats in appreciation for their service. Donor dogs receive access to blood products should they need them. In addition to the obvious benefits to sick and injured pets, the program also provides an opportunity for dog owners to become involved in the veterinary community.
Pet owners interested in having their dogs screened for donation may obtain more information or set up an appointment by calling the VMTH at (530) 752-1393 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. The Veterinary Blood Bank offers appointments on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and selected Saturdays.
Have a question and we're closed for the day? Email us anytime at VeterinaryBloodBank@ucdavis.edu. (Appointments cannot be made via email.)
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do animals need blood transfusions just like people?
- Yes. Our pets are often subject to the same diseases and problems as people and will use blood products for: anemia (low blood count), clotting deficiencies, and to replace blood lost during a traumatic injury.
- Do animals have different blood types?
- Yes. Animals, like humans, have different blood types. This makes it necessary for many different animals to donate blood to fill the needs of our patients.
- Can blood be given across species?
- No. Blood types are species specific; dogs can only give blood to dogs, cats only to cats, etc.
- Can I bring in my other pets to donate?
- No. Blood donations for other species are more complicated than canine donations, so our community-based program is limited to dogs. If you are interested in helping other species specifically, please see the "Give Now" link at the bottom of this page to see how our programs can benefit from your contributions.
- Do you check for blood types?
- Yes. All blood donors and blood product recipients are tested for their blood type. This is done to prevent a potentially dangerous transfusion reaction. Blood type information can be shared with your regular veterinarian and is kept in your dog's medical record here at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
- Can my dog become a blood donor?
- Your dog can become a blood donor if he/she is: 1-8 years old, in excellent general health, 55 pounds or more, current on vaccinations and flea & tick heartworm preventatives, of good temperament, and never have had a blood transfusion.
- Why do dogs have to be 55 pounds or more to donate blood?
- We use the same blood donation sets as are used in human medicine, so your dog must have enough total blood volume so that the amount used for donation does not negatively affect their health.
- How long does it take for my dog to donate blood?
- The first visit lasts about 30 minutes. During this time, we will perform initial blood work, free of charge, to determine eligibility for donation. Additional visits will also be approximately 30 minutes, with the actual blood donations lasting only 5-7 minutes.
- Are there any limitations for donating?
- If dogs pass screening appointment to become a blood donor at our facility, they can donate as often as once a month (every 4 weeks). We ask that dogs refrain from donating for two weeks before and two weeks following any vaccinations, antibiotics, anesthesia, or steroids. This ensures that our donor dogs are kept at their healthy prime.
If you realize that your donor dog has had one of these treatments and is scheduled to donate blood within that two week time-frame, please call us to reschedule the donation appointment. We would rather have you reschedule than potentially medically compromise your dog or the dog who will receive blood products from your dog.
- Can I be present during my dog's donation?
- Yes. We encourage you to take measures to make your dog feel most comfortable. Some owners prefer to remain outside of the donation room. We leave this decision up to you.
- How do I make an appointment for my dog to donate?
- Appointments can be made by calling 530-752-1393. Currently, we have appointments on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and selected Saturdays. Appointment cannot be made via email.
- I can't stay for the appointment. Can my dog still donate?
- If you would like your dog to donate, but are unable to stay through the appointment, we are able to keep your dog at the hospital for the day (8am-5pm) at no charge to you. Your dog will be housed in a large, single-occupancy cage with food, water & bedding. Spaces are limited, so please let us know when you schedule your appointment.
- Are there any perks to donating?
- Aside from a small 'doggie bag' sent home on the day of the appointment & the joy of saving lives, dogs that donate more than 4 times in a one year period are eligible to receive free blood from the VMTH in the event that they are ever in need. This is limited to treatment performed at the VMTH and cannot be transferred to another pet.
- Is there any special care after donation?
- Most dogs have no adverse reaction to blood donation, aside from general lethargy (tiredness). This is short lived and should last no longer than one day. We discourage the use of neck leads for 24 hours after donation, as this increases the risk of bleeding from the donation site. If you notice anything unusual with your pet after donation, please call your regular veterinarian or the VMTH at 530-752-1393 for medical help.
- Do you sell blood products to other veterinary clinics?
- No. The VMTH does not have clearance from the FDA to sell blood products to outside sources. The VMTH will gladly accept patient transfers for blood product therapy.
- Is the Blood Bank active on social media?
- Yes! We have our own Facebook and share a Twitter with the School of Veterinary Medicine. Follow us and stay up-to-date on the new happenings in-and-around the Blood Bank and veterinary school.
- Can I / Can my child volunteer in the Blood Bank?
- Due to safety regulations at the university, we cannot accept volunteers from the general public. If you or your child would like to work with animals, we recommend volunteering at a local animal shelter or veterinary clinic.