Dr Larry Kraitzick
Bruma Lake Vet
At some point, you may have wondered about your pets’ blood type and in actual fact probably asked yourselves, do animals have different blood types to humans?
Indeed they do.
Cats have three basic blood types, namely Type A, B and AB which is extremely rare.
As in humans, the blood group antigens for cats are determined by carbohydrates on erythrocycte membranes.
Cats also share another characteristic with humans in that their blood contains naturally occurring antibodies.
If a cat of one blood type receives blood from a cat from another type, this could have serious and even fatal consequences.
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This does not usually occur as 95 per cent of domestic shorthairs are type A, so the chances of incompatibility are slim.
An important note here is that the frequency of blood types does vary according to the breed and geographic location in the world and within a country.
It is therefore preferable to establish the blood type of the donor and recipient before a blood transfusion.
Problems are much more likely to occur with some of the imported breeds such as Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, British Shorthair and Persian, which have a higher prevalence of individuals with the type B blood group.
In these breeds it is crucial to match the donor to the recipient.
Type AB cats can receive either type of blood without a reaction but cannot be blood donors for the other types.
And what about your faithful dog?
The blood groups of dogs are determined by the different antigens that are present (or absent) from the surface of the red blood cells.
Although more than a dozen groups have been described, most dogs fall into one of eight Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) blood types as recognised by international standards and include: DEA 1.1, DEA 1.2, DEA 3, DEA 4, DEA 5, DEA 6, DEA 7 or DEA 8.
Some 40 to 45 per cent of all dogs have a universal canine blood type.
Sixty per cent of Greyhounds have a universal blood type.
Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Pit Bulls are often universal donors as well.
Only dogs with the universal dog blood type (DEA 1.1 negative) can be blood donors.
Most dogs can receive the universal dog blood type, regardless of their own blood type.
Tests are available to ensure a good “cross match” between your dog and the blood donor.
If there is an emergency and universal blood is not available, your dog may receive a transfusion from any available dog that is healthy and large enough.
The reason for this is that dog blood does not contain naturally occurring antibodies.
After the first blood has been transfused, however, antibodies are produced by the recipient’s immune system.
Therefore the next transfusion will require a very accurate crossmatch with the next donor.
It is preferable to test the donor and recipient before the transfusion.
Although there is a small chance of a reaction taking place, this reaction is potentially life threatening.
An additional concern is that further blood transfusions may be required.
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