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Blood Transfusions in Pets - Munchkin’s Story

As seen in Collingswood Living magazine.


Munchkin was a 6-month-old Yorkie puppy who came to Pennsauken Animal Hospital for help. Munchkin’s owner told the staff that she had jumped from her arms and had hit her upper teeth hard on the ground. She was bleeding and hadn’t eaten in a day or two. There seemed to be more going on than just a fall.


Munchkin was dull and depressed with a high heart rate (tachycardia) as well as weak pulses.  She had bleeding present in her mouth and bruising on the skin of her ears and melena (digested blood present in stool) present around her rectum.  We placed an IV Catheter and worked on stabilizing her. It was clear she needed immediate help. We did diagnostic bloodwork which revealed severe anemia (low circulating red blood cells) and severe thrombocytopenia (low circulating platelet count). 

Munchkin needed a whole blood transfusion.


Luckily for Munchkin, one of Pennsauken Animal Hospital’s veterinarian’s dogs is a blood donor.  Elliot is a 4-year-old Boxer mix. He was given light sedation and his blood was taken aseptically into the blood collection system to be used for Munchkin.  Once blood collection was finished, blood was directly administered to Munchkin.  In Munchkin’s case, Fresh Whole Blood was needed since he was missing multiple lines of cells (red blood cells and platelets).  


Munchkin stayed at Pennsauken Animal Hospital for 24 hours post-transfusion for any type of reaction. Her post-transfusion bloodwork showed an increase in PCV! She was started on other supportive care to help with her idiopathic anemia and thrombocytopenia such as antibiotics, steroids, and vitamin K.  


Munchkin had a recheck appointment 1-week post-transfusion. Her PCV was holding steady but was still low. We are incredibly happy that the blood transfusion saved her life. She still needs follow-up care but we hope she continues to improve and make a full recovery.  


Let’s Talk More About Blood Transfusions. Did you know that dogs can donate blood?


Dogs do have several blood types.  Ideally, blood typing and cross-matching should be performed before every transfusion in both donor and recipient. 


To be a blood donor, animals must meet a certain criterion and then go through blood testing for infectious diseases as suggested by the 2016 ACVIM Consensus statement. 

  1. Age 1-8 years old 

  2. Weigh above 20 kilograms 

  3. Normal Body Condition 

  4. Good Temperament  

  5. PCV (packed cell volume) >40%  

  6. Negative for DEA 1 (Blood type) 

  7. No previous history of receiving blood product transmission 


Once blood is donated, there are a few different ways it can be used.  

  1. Fresh Whole Blood is composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, clotting factors and all components of plasma.  This type of blood is used in acute hemorrhage, trauma and life threatening thrombocytopenia.  FWB is collected directly from the donor and has no processing done.  

  2. Stored fresh Blood can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.  This type of blood can be used in acute hemorrhage and trauma.  It cannot be used in thrombocytopenia. Platelets and clotting factors lose their activity in 4-6 hours from sample.  

  3. Packed Red Blood Cells is composed of centrifuged red blood cells. It can be used for anemia patients.  

  4. Fresh Frozen Plasma is composed for coagulation factors, anticoagulant factors and immunoglobulins. It is obtained from FWB and frozen in the first 8 hours.  

  5. Frozen Plasma is similar to the FFP (Fresh Frozen Plasma) but is not frozen in the first 8 hours.  This type of plasma is usually used for rodenticide poisoning.  

  6. Platelet Rich Plasma is composed of just plasma and platelets. It is used for hemorrhaging patients.  


There are even more different types of blood products but the six types above are the most commonly used.  Storage times vary depending on the type of blood product and can be as short as 4 hours to as long as 5 years.  


Before, during, and after a transfusion, the receiving patient is closely monitored for any type of reaction. Reactions can occur anywhere in the first 24 hours of a blood transfusion.  The most common reaction is an increase in body temperature but can be as severe as shock or death. Transfusion reactions can occur in up to 15% of patient which is why monitoring and hospitalization is so important.  


Blood can be a life-saving tool for pets in severe need. When the construction at Pennsauken Animal Hospital is complete we are excited to start blood drives so we can save more pets like Munchkin!




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