Pet Connections


By: Dan Kavanaugh

We all love our pets, and we only ever want the best for them. We treat our furry friends like family and we extend that consideration onto their medical care. Many of the treatments we provide to each other can also be prescribed for our pets as well. Have you ever wondered about the procedures we perform at the veterinary hospital? Have you ever donated blood, and wondered if dogs and cats also have a need for blood products? The answer is yes! You may often see commercials or hear ads for prospective blood donors, and I can assure you that the need for blood products is just as urgent for our animals. There are unfortunate times when our animal companions have illnesses and emergencies that present a critical need for blood products. Blood products may be used to treat ill patients with anemia, cancers, issues with blood clotting, internal parasites, heat stroke, or blood loss from trauma. With the growth of veterinary speciality services, the demand for transfusion therapy to treat many diseases and ailments has risen drastically. The BluePearl Animal Blood Bank in Pittsburgh allows veterinarians to treat their patients quickly and safely with blood collected from volunteer donors. Each year at BluePearl Pittsburgh, we provide over 600 units of blood products to pets in need.

Transfusion medicine is a fascinating subject, especially when you take animals into consideration. We often think of blood product therapy for humans but rarely as a treatment for our pets. As it turns out, we all aren’t so different, and many of the life saving procedures that our own personal physicians can perform are also an option for animals at specialty and emergency facilities like BluePearl Pittsburgh. Dogs and cats have blood types just like us, they respond much in the same way as we do, and we take the same considerations and precautions for the donor and the recipient. Dogs have 13 different blood groups, and 8 specific types. We can safely narrow that down to designations of a Negative (Universal donor) blood Type and a Positive (Universal recipient) blood Type. Cats, as in most cases, are a little more discerning. Cats have 1 blood group and 4 specific types which we can also narrow down to Type A and Type B. Between 96-99% of domestic cats have Type A blood, and unfortunately there is no Universal type for cats.

You may then ask yourself, what is the process? How do these donations take place? What are the requirements or benefits? Firstly, the benefit of helping to save a life is incalculable. Knowing that your pet's contribution has allowed a family to stay whole is truly rewarding. The BluePearl Blood Bank network stretches all over the country, with programs in Seattle, Tampa Bay, and even right in the middle of New York City! Our program in Pittsburgh has been operating for over 12 years, with hundreds of donors throughout that time. We offer free yearly comprehensive blood work at a value of nearly $500 for all donors, as well as an exam prior to every donation and a blood type tag for the pet's collar. Everything that we offer is completely free to donor families! The donations take place in a quiet area of BluePearl Pittsburgh where we can spend time with the donors, offer them lots of love and attention, some small treats and an environment where they can feel comforted. Just as in human donor programs, we always ask that the pets are fasted for 10-12 hours prior to the donation. We conduct our donations in the morning and always offer a snack after we are all done so that the donors don’t miss their breakfast too much!

We currently only accept dogs from the community due to the added considerations we must make for cats. If you’ve ever tried to hold a cat when it doesn’t want to be held, then you’ll understand what I mean! We have many employees at BluePearl Pittsburgh with eligible cats that can participate in the donor program. Unlike human donations, we actually use the jugular vein in the neck to collect the blood. This sounds scary but it’s actually very safe and very common in the veterinary field. When you go to your family veterinarian for yearly check-ups or wellness exams, there is a good chance that any required blood samples are collected in this way. To further ensure safety and to add an extra layer of comfort we also give our donors a small amount of a sedative. Prior to pick up, we administer a reversal agent for the sedative and your pup returns to you just as happy as you left them. We collect close to half of a liter of blood, which is about 10% of a donor dog's total blood volume. The body begins to regenerate new blood cells almost immediately after the donation is complete. We only ask that while they are recuperating that pets refrain from strenuous activity for 24 hours or so.

If you are reading this article and have an interest in making your pup a life saving donor hero, we do have a few criteria to keep all of our donors safe. All dogs should weigh at least 50 lbs, be between 1-7 years old, must be up to date on vaccinations and on flea and tick preventative. The pets should be in general good health, and animals who have received a donation in the past can not participate unfortunately. Maybe the most important criteria to us at our blood bank is that the donor is comfortable with non-family members and has a gentle temperament. We go above and beyond to provide a comfortable environment for the pups that come in and we understand the stresses of a new environment with new people. The first appointment that you would schedule is a screening, where we evaluate the prospective donor and they evaluate us as well! The truth is that not all dogs want to be donors, and we understand this, we understand that they cannot give consent other than through their behavior. It’s imperative that the procedure is a good, positive experience for everyone involved, the donor most of all.

We love getting to know our donors and watching them grow through the years. We are always accepting new applicants and if this sounds like an option for your family please contact us at Thank you for reading and considering our program, all questions and comments are welcome as we continue on this path of wellness for our companion animal community.


December 14, 2023
December 14, 2023


December 14, 2023