What Are The Different Dog Blood Types?

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Do Dogs Have Blood Types? 

A dog’s red blood cell membrane contains a unique combination of proteins and sugars that form a surface antigen. The surface antigens determine dog blood types. There are 13 different dog blood types. If your dog needs more than one blood transfusion in its lifetime, its blood type becomes very important. 

Veterinary Blood Test Examination

What Does a Dog Blood Transfusion Entail?

A blood transfusion can be a matter of life or death. If your dog needs a blood transfusion, it is best to act fast and make decisions quickly. Your vet will offer a blood transfusion if your pet is in hypovolemic shock or if the concentration of blood cells in your pet’s circulation is too low.

The indications for a blood transfusion can range from acute trauma with a large amount of bleeding to a chronic autoimmune disease attacking the patient’s red blood cells. A blood transfusion is a severe and costly procedure, but it could save your pet’s life. 

A dog blood transfusion procedure requires the following steps:

  1. The golden standard of vet care recommends that the attending vet determine the transfusion patient‘s blood type before the transfusion. If your dog has never had a blood transfusion before, this step is unnecessary. In an emergency, there is no time for blood typing.
  2. The clinician determines the red blood cell or hypovolemic deficit and the infusion rate. The calculated blood volume required comes from a clinic blood bank, an online source, or directly from a blood donor dog.
  3. Patient preparation involves intravenous catheterization and the controlled transfusion of the calculated blood volume through a drip set and pump.
  4. Support staff must closely monitor patients during a blood transfusion. Transfusion reactions occur quickly. The symptoms start subtly but progress quickly.
  5. Once the patient receives the complete transfusion volume, they still need to remain hospitalized for at least 24 hours under observation.

A blood transfusion is a treatment option; it is not a cure. The clinician needs to determine the cause of the blood loss or anemia. The attending vet for the patient must treat the diagnosed condition to recover fully. To determine the cause of anemia, a clinician needs to perform a complete medical workup. 

Your vet will take a complete medical history, perform a battery of blood tests and determine if further diagnostic imaging is required. Repeat transfusions may be necessary in cases of autoimmune disease or clotting disorders.    

The severe complications from a blood transfusion include the risk of anaphylaxis or acute hemolysis. These complications can be fatal.  

What Are Blood Dogs?

Dogs enlisted in a blood donor program are known as blood dogs. Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston started the first pet blood bank. In addition, veterinary teaching hospitals, private clinics, and commercial blood banks run blood donor programs to help stock blood for transfusions.

To qualify as donors, blood transfusion dogs need to be healthy and above a certain weight and age. Greyhounds are mostly DEA 1.1 negative, so they are a popular breed of blood dogs. Most dogs are trained and undergo the donation procedure without sedation in return for treats and lots of affection. 

Once the clinician collects the blood from the donor, it may be cross-matched, stored whole, or sent off to a processing center to be separated into either plasma or packed red cells. A standard collection unit for whole blood is 17 ounces or 500 milliliters. 

The Cost of Canine Blood Transfusion

The cost of a canine blood transfusion depends on the cause of the anemia or hypovolemia. The National Center for Biotechnology Information released a study that found that most private practices purchase 17 ounces (500 ml) of whole blood for $100 to $300 per unit. The actual transfusion procedure can cost between $450 to $700.

A complex medical workup or severe trauma incident that would require a blood transfusion will incur several additional costs. The consultations, blood tests, hospitalization, intensive care, and medications can push bills over the $2000 mark. 

Do Dogs Have Blood Types Like Humans?

Dog blood types differ from human blood types. Human blood types have four main groups (types of blood) – A, B, AB, and O. All blood groups contain a Rhesus factor which can be either positive or negative. This means there are eight possible human blood types compared to the 13 different blood types found in dogs.

Various blood types image

What are the Different Dog Blood Types?

There are 13 different dog blood group systems. For example, dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) is a vital blood group factor equatable to the Rhesus factor in humans. Each blood group factor is independently inherited, resulting in many combinations. 

The seven main dog blood types found are DEA 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, DEA 4, DEA 3 and 5, and DEA 7. The most common blood type is DEA1.1. Approximately 40 percent of dogs have this blood type.

Some breeds are more likely to be DEA 1.1-negative, including Greyhounds, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Pit Bulls. Conversely, breeds that are more likely to be DEA 1.1-positive are Golden retrievers and Labradors.

Dogs who are DEA negative are better suited to being blood dogs as they have a lower risk of causing the development of antibodies in transfusion recipients. A DEA-positive pet is considered a universal dog transfusion recipient and can receive positive or negative blood. 

Why Would my Dog Need a Blood Transfusion?

Several circumstances may lead to a patient needing a blood transfusion. Signs that indicate severe anemia include rapid shallow breathing, pale mucous membranes, loss of consciousness, and a rapid pulse.  

Infectious causes of anemia can include tick-borne rickettsial diseases like Biliary fever and  Ehrlichiosis. In addition, heavy burdens of external and internal parasites such as ticks, fleas, or intestinal worms can cause anemia in compromised or neglected patients.  

Autoimmune causes of anemia can include immune-mediated thrombocytopenia or hemolytic anemia. Clotting factor abnormalities can also lead to hemorrhages and regenerative anemia. In addition, some chronic endocrine diseases or renal failure can result in severe non-regenerative anemia.

Toxins such as rodenticides, onion or garlic ingestion, or estrogen-containing medication can cause anemia too. In addition, traumatic lacerations or internal bleeding leads to rapid decreases in blood volume and will require a transfusion to help replenish the lost blood.

The Recovery Rate for Dogs After a Blood Transfusion

A blood transfusion without complication will improve clinical symptoms almost immediately. However, the patient needs close monitoring for any adverse reactions. Adverse reactions may be acute or take up to 24 hours to develop.

Treatment of the underlying condition or trauma determines if a patient will make a full recovery or not. For example, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia has a guarded prognosis. 

Regenerative anemias or hypovolemic cases usually make a full recovery. 

What is the Dog Blood Transfusion Success Rate?

The purpose of a blood transfusion in a dog is to supply red blood cells to transport oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body. There is a high success rate if the underlying conditions have a good prognosis and no complications during the transfusion.

Blood transfusion failure occurs for the following reasons:

  • Anaphylaxis: A severe allergic reaction that leads to the body rejecting the red blood cells and destroying them. 
  • Contaminated blood: Dogs can develop sepsis from blood contaminated with bacteria.
  • Hemolyzed blood administration: If blood is incorrectly stored or collected, or processed, it can break down the red blood cells and cause significant problems for the recipient dog.  
  • The citrate preservative in the blood collection bag can cause hypocalcemia.
  • Hypervolemia caused by underlying chronic heart failure or incorrect volume determination in small patients can affect the positive outcome of a blood transfusion.

How Long Does a Dog Blood Transfusion Take?

The transfusion time depends on the infusion volume needed to achieve the desired pack cell volume. A transfusion can take one to four hours. Most patients will remain in the hospital for at least 12- 24 hours to ensure they are stable before going home.

Blood type test


Dogs have six main blood types that are either DEA negative or positive. Therefore, if your dog should ever need an emergency blood transfusion, it is a good idea to already have them cross-matched to determine their blood type beforehand. This can be during an annual routine visit. 

A clinician needs to consider the risks carefully if a patient has had a previous blood transfusion. It is also essential to gauge a pet’s clinical symptoms and not just their hematocrit reading to determine if a transfusion is necessary.  

You can discuss options with your vet if you and your pet would like to consider being part of a blood donor program. You could change a dog’s life. 

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Dr. Kaylee Ferreira, a South African vet from Johannesburg, excels in diverse veterinary roles. Founder of Kubuntu Veterinary Services, she's a dedicated animal lover and adventurer.