Canine Blood Donation: History
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Canine blood donation is a noble, altruistic, and empathetic process. It is an act of human–animal kinship and always features three inseparable figures—a veterinarian, an animal owner or caregiver, and a dog.

  • human–dog interaction
  • canine blood donation
  • animal welfare
  • dog

1. Introduction

Numerous techniques such as advanced blood typing [1], crossmatching [2], transfusion collection, administration, blood products production, and complication algorithms have been developed and have improved the safety of blood transfusion in dogs as well as in other pets and livestock over the years [3,4,5,6,7,8]. Blood donor screening by currently available diagnostic tests for blood-borne pathogens minimizes the risks of blood transfusion [9] as well. Blood transfusion is not only the most common practice to save critically ill patients with low blood parameters [3] but it is also a safe procedure if veterinarians follow the necessary protocol [10].
As for canine blood donation, the demand for canine blood components for transfusion has led to the creation of different models for recruiting and maintaining a donor pool and the creation of a number of veterinary blood banks. Scientists state that complication rates for canine blood donation are low [5,11]. For example, when dogs donate blood, a bone marrow regenerative response is induced, which restores depleted blood cells within 10 days after blood donation and maintains the iron status within a calculated reference [12]. Despite the fact that small animal veterinary services are growing, blood services around the world are struggling with a permanent shortage of blood, and the proportion of pets that donate blood is unknown [11].
According to the authors’ observations (at Dr. L. Kriauceliunas’s Small Animal Clinic), anemic dogs that require a blood transfusion are common patients in emergency service. Even though an increase in cases of canine babesiosis in Lithuania was reported more than 17 years ago, in 2004 [13], it still remains the most common cause of blood disorders, followed by rodenticides intoxication, internal bleeding, and other pathologies. Despite the fact that blood products are in high demand, canine blood donation is still an emerging medical field in Lithuania. Unfortunately, the supply of canine blood products does not meet the demand, and veterinarians find it difficult to recruit blood donors. Improving the recruitment and retention of donors remains a high priority in human medicine as well [14,15,16].
There are numerous studies concerning transfusion medicine in dogs and cats, but there are few that discuss blood donation and human–dog interaction. Several previous studies have investigated dog owners’ awareness of and attitudes towards blood donation in the United Kingdom [17,18], but there have been no studies conducted to include the rest of Europe. It is known that socio-demographic factors affect the willingness and motivations of human blood donors [19,20], and therefore, we hypothesize that knowledge and motivation about canine blood donation can vary from human to human and from country to country. As previous studies have investigated neither the fear of canine blood donation nor its influencing factors, we decided to include the analysis of canine blood donation fear factors in our study.
Feelings of satisfaction, greater alertness, and increased well-being are the positive effects elicited by blood donations from human blood donors [21,22]. Among human blood donors, the general reasons/motives for donating blood with the highest ranking of importance are general altruism, social responsibility/obligation, and influence from friends [23]. There are numerous studies that discuss the motivation structures of blood donation in human medicine, but there are few concerning canine blood donation [11,17,24].
Some individuals who do not donate blood themselves present canine blood donation as a chance for them to relieve the feeling of guilt or obligation to society [24]—the authors call it “doing good by proxy”. A study conducted by Wang and Murison [17] revealed that owners were not donating their animal’s blood because they did not know where to take the dog to donate, veterinarians did not express a need for donors, and the owners had a lack of awareness. To improve the effective recruitment of canine blood donors, the understanding of pet owners must be increased as well [18].

2. Socio-Demographic Information

In total, 250 people were invited to participate in the survey, of which 207 completed the questionnaire and responded to all questions; 13 questionnaires were partially filled out (12 people did not fill out Part E), 21 people refused to fill in the questionnaire as soon as they were invited to participate, and 9 empty questionnaires were found in the box.
Most of the participants were women (65.7%). Almost one-third of the respondents (30.0%) were blood donors themselves, and two-thirds were not (70.0%), but 33.8% were interested in becoming human blood donors. The average age of the participants was 38.70 ± 11.87 years.
Almost half (48.3%) of the respondents were from regions of Lithuania, and 51.7% were from the three largest cities—the capital city Vilnius (20.3%), Kaunas (30.4%), and Klaipėda (1.0%). The participants’ places of residence did not affect the knowledge, the motivating factors, or fear.

3. Information about Owned Dog(s)

Out of the 207 respondents, three-quarters (75.8%) owned at least one dog and one-quarter owned more than one dog (24.2%) (Table 1).
Table 1. Survey respondents’ information about owned dog(s) and level of knowledge about canine blood donation.
Statement Answer 1 Answer 2
Ownership of dog(s) Owns one dog
(n = 157)
Owns more than one dog
(n = 50)
Current health problems of the own dog(s) Has minor or serious
health problems
(n = 153)
Does not have any health problems
(n = 54)
Needed emergency service in the past Yes
(n = 126)
(n = 81)
Knows that a dog can be a blood donor Yes
(n = 72)
(n = 135)
Owns a dog who donated blood in the past Yes
(n = 5)
(n = 202)
More than half of the respondents (65.7%) confirmed that their dog or one of their dogs had minor (40.6%) or serious (25.1%) health problems at the time of the survey, and 34.3% said that their animal was healthy. We asked our respondents if they had ever needed emergency care when their (current or former) dog’s life was in danger. More than half of the respondents (60.87%) never needed emergency care, and the rest (39.13%) had needed emergency veterinary service for their dog(s) in the past.

4. The Level of Knowledge about Canine Blood Donation in Lithuania

Just one-third (group B2) of the respondents were aware that dogs could be blood donors (34.3%), and two-thirds (group B1) were not aware (65.7%). Women (27.5%) were more aware than men (6.8%, p = 0.297). Analyzing the responses of group B2 (n = 71), we found that 14.1% of the respondents did not know that canine blood donation is available in Lithuania, even if they knew that canine blood donation exists in the world. Only 22 respondents (30.1%) were aware of what requirements apply to canine blood donors and just five (7.0%) were informed by their veterinarian that their dog was suitable for canine blood donation. In group B2, 7.0% of the respondents thought that blood donation is a risky procedure for a dog, 67.6% said it is a safe procedure, and 25.4% did not have an opinion.
Out of the 207 respondents, only five (2.4%) owned dogs who had donated blood in the past. We can conclude that dog owners’ awareness of canine blood donation is poor in Lithuania.

5. Motivation towards Canine Blood Donation

The median composite score of participants’ motivation was 48.0 (39.50–54.0).
Whether the participant was a blood donor or had knowledge about canine blood donation did not affect the motivational factors compared to the participants who were not blood donors (p = 0.49). There were also no significant differences between the male (48.0 (36.5–53.0)) and female (48.0 (41.0–55.0) composite scores for motivation (p = 0.405).
The results of the Kruskal–Wallis test and the Chi-square test of independence revealed that the health status of the owned dog(s) did not affect the motivating factors of the respondent either. The composite score difference between owners whose animals were currently healthy (n = 71, 49.00 (42.0–53.0)) and those whose animals had minor or serious health problems (n = 136, 48.00 (38.0–55.0)) was only one point and not statistically relevant (p = 0.48). We did not find any factors that would significantly affect the motivation of pet owners toward canine blood donation.

6. The Biggest Fears towards Canine Blood Donation

The median composite score of fear was 16.0 (11.0–21.0). As with motivation, the median composite score of fear was equal for males (16.0 (10.5–21.0)) and females (16.0 (11.0–20.50)) (p = 0.702). Participants were most afraid of the fact that complications are possible during donation (3.47 ± 1.36) and least frightened by the fact that, before the donation procedure, the temperature of the dog is measured and its general clinical condition is assessed (1.91 ± 1.44).
The results of the Mann–Whitney and Kruskal–Wallis tests revealed that there was a significant association between the fear of the owner towards blood donation and the health status of their dog. Owners who raised one or more dogs with health problems (median composite score of 18.0 (13.0–22.0)) were more afraid of canine blood donation than those whose dogs were clinically healthy (15.0 (10.0–19.5), p = 0.008). A significant association was also found between the single dog owners’ (n = 157) fear and the fact that their animal had needed urgent care in the past (p = 0.031). Respondents who were blood donors themselves were 19.76% less afraid of the blood donation procedure than those who were not blood donors (Table 2).
Table 2. The association between the statements from the survey about fear towards the canine blood donation procedure and the respondent being a human blood donor himself/herself. The values present the means ± standard deviation. Significant p-values are highlighted in bold.
Statement Respondent Is a Blood Donor (n = 62) Respondent Is Not a Blood Donor (n = 145) All Respondents (n = 207) p-Value
Before the donation procedure, an intravenous sample will be taken from a limb of your dog. 1.77 ± 1.33 2.38 ± 1.47 2.19 ± 1.45 0.003
Before the procedure, the temperature of the dog will be measured, and its general clinical condition will be assessed. 1.66 ± 1.28 2.02 ± 1.66 1.91 ± 1.44 0.108
Before the procedure, the dog’s fur will be shaved in the neck area. 2.27 ± 1.51 2.66 ± 1.5 2.54 ± 1.55 0.080
During the procedure, a needle will be inserted into a vein in the neck of the dog and blood will be collected. 2.53 ± 1.39 3.39 ± 1.34 3.13 ± 1.41 0.000
When collecting blood (about 10 min), the dog will have to sit quietly or lie down on the examination table. 2.69 ± 1.37 3.31 ± 1.34 3.12 ± 1.38 0.004
Complications are possible during donation (skin irritation, bruising at the blood sampling site, general weakness). 3.03 ± 1.4 3.66 ± 1.29 3.47 ± 1.36 0.003
Composition score 13.97 ± 6.16 17.41 ± 6.62 16.37 ± 6.66 0.001
Respondents who knew that a dog could be a blood donor and had some knowledge about canine blood donation were 22.22% less afraid of the donation procedure (p = 0.004).
We calculated the Spearman correlation coefficient to evaluate the correlation between motivation and fear concerning blood transfusion. There was no significant correlation between motivation and fear of all respondents, but there were some interesting correlations when we grouped the respondents into separate groups. Non-blood donors who were more afraid of canine blood donation were more likely to receive a souvenir if their dog became a canine blood donor (r = 0.498, p = 0.001).

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/ani11113229

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