Yes – much like the humans, dogs have different blood types. In fact, dogs have even more blood types than humans do. Knowing a dog’s blood type can be critical to saving their life. In this article, we'll talk about the different blood types that dogs have, as well as answers to common questions and the must know facts related to dog blood types.
Dog Blood Types of Most Breeds
DEA 1.1 Positive – Dogs with this blood type are universal recipients, meaning they can receive transfusions from all blood types, without risk of major complications or reactions. A large percentage of Labrador Retrievers have this blood type.
Note: this blood type can ONLY be transfused into dogs who also have a DEA 1.1 positive blood type and ONLY if cross-match testing shows that the blood is compatible.
DEA 1.1 Negative – Dogs with this blood type are universal donors, meaning their blood can be transfused to dogs of any blood types without complications or risks. In the perfect world, all dogs who need transfusion would receive this blood type. Unfortunately, there is not yet enough of this blood type available for that to happen. It is important to note that blood from dogs that are DEA 1.1 positive should never be transfused to dogs with DEA 1.1 negative blood type, as the life-threatening complications can occur (more about this explained in the facts section below).
DEA 1.2 – Approximately 7% to 29% of dogs have this blood type. Clinically significant reactions to this blood type have been known to occur. Dogs of this blood type will develop powerful and harmful anti-DEA 1.1 antibodies if transfused with either of the DEA 1.1 blood types.
DEA 1.3 – This blood type is only found in dogs that are from Australia, and appears primarily in German Shepherds.
DEA 3 – This is less common, and appears in only 5% to 20% of the general dog population, but can be found in ~23% of the greyhounds in America.
DEA 4 – This blood type can be found in 85% up to 98% of dogs, making dogs that have this common blood type, alone, universal donors who can donate blood to a majority of all dogs.
DEA 5 – Also less common, and appears in 5% to 25% of the general dog population, but can be found in ~30% of the greyhounds in America.
DEA 6 – This blood type can be found in 98% to 99% of dogs, making dogs that have this common blood type, alone, universal donors that can donate blood to a majority of all dogs.
DEA 7 – Appears in 10% to 45% of American dogs. This blood type may be a factor in negative transfusion reactions. Although reactions with this blood type are considered to have “low clinical significance” it is recommended to avoid using transfused blood of this type.
DEA 8 – Appears in up to 40% of the general dog population. There is little known about this blood type due to the fact that “typing sera” is not available for it.
Recently Discovered Blood Types in Dogs
DAL – Discovered in 2007, this blood type is now known to be present in 93% up to 100% of American dogs. It was named DAL because it was originally found in the Dalmatian breed of dogs.
Kai-1 and Kai-2 – These two dog blood types have only recently been discovered, and as such, there is more research needed on order to better understand the Kai blood types. In the general dog population, Kai-1 appears in up to 94% of dogs, whereas Kai-2 appears in only 1% of dogs. One research study revealed that out of 503 dogs that were tested, 94% were Kai 1+/Kai 2-, while 5% were Kai 1-/Kai 2- and only 1% were Kai 1-/Kai 2+, with no dogs being Kai 1+/Kai 2+, and are Kai blood types all unrelated to the DEA blood types. This information was reported in the following peer-reviewed study, published in the Journal of Internal Veterinarian Medicine in 2016.
Common Questions About Dogs' Blood Types
How Many Blood Types Are There in Dogs?
Currently, there are more than 12 blood groups that have been identified in dogs. However, with advances in veterinarian medicine taking place, new blood types are being discovered. The most common of the 12 dog blood types is Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) 1.1, which is found in ~40% to 60% of all dogs.
A chart that lists all of the dog blood types, the percentage of dogs that are known to have each type, as well as the transfusion reaction significance of each blood type can be found in the following article.
Are All Blood Types Compatible for Transfusions in Dogs?
No. Dogs that have DEA 1.1 blood types have antigens in their red blood cells. Therefore, if a dog with DEA 1.1 negative blood is given a transfusion of DEA 1.1 positive blood, the dog can produce antibodies that will rapidly demolish his or her own red blood cells. One blood transfusion will often not be enough to cause the dangerous destruction of red blood cells, but two or more transfusions will.
Dogs with a DEA 1.1 negative blood type are universal donors, meaning their blood can be given to a dogs of all blood types. And dogs with a DEA 1.1 positive blood type are universal recipients, meaning they can receive any blood type. Read more about the types of blood that dogs can have in an article written by Dr. Susan M. Cotter DVM, DACVIM, found in the Merk Veterinarian Manual.
How Are Dog Blood Types Determined?
A licensed veterinarian can determine which blood type a dog has based on evaluating a sample of blood drawn from the dog, in order to conclude whether or not the dog’s blood has specific reactions, which will indicate if the dog has certain antigens (sugars and proteins), on their red blood cell membrane. Read more about exactly how blood typing is done, in the following article (PDF) written by Registered Veterinarian Technician, Margie Sirois (EdD, MS, RVT).
When or Why Should Blood Type Testing Be Done?
There are several situations in which blood type testing can, or should be done by a well-trained, licensed veterinarian. Including, but not limited, to the following situations:
(1) to determine blood type before a transfusion,
(2) as a necessary pre-operation precaution so that the dog’s blood type is on file in case he or she needs an emergency transfusion during the operation,
(3) as part of routine testing so that the owner knows what blood type their dog is and the dog can wear their blood type on a collar tag, also if the owner would like their dog to be a blood donor,
(4) prior to any breeding decisions as female dogs with certain blood types should not be breed with male dogs of certain blood types because if dogs with incompatible blood types mate and the female nurses the resulting puppies, the puppies “will develop isoerythrolysis and may be susceptible to disease or even die”.
Do Dogs Have to Be Sedated to Have a Blood Type Test Performed?
A dog is not required to have sedation or anesthesia to have this test performed, but if the animal is particularly anxious, aggressive, or scared of having a needle pierce their skin, sedation or a very brief anesthesia will be administered in order to safely perform this test.
Where Does the Blood Used in Dog Transfusions Come From?
Similar to how humans can donate blood at donation centers around the country, there are animal blood donation locations found throughout the United States, as well. The blood is collected by certified veterinarian technicians and stored properly at veterinarian hospitals.
What Are the Requirements for a Dog to Donate Blood?
Healthy dogs that weigh a minimum of 55 pounds, are between 1 to 6 years old, have an exceptionally calm temperament, and are not on any medications (with the exception of heartworm prevention medications, and tick and flea control) can donate blood, explains veterinarian Dr. Dana Koch, in the following article.
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