Dogs and cats have different blood types which can be an important factor before a blood transfusion is given. Just like humans, animal blood types do not change so the test would only have to be done once. Also, just like humans, if an incorrect blood type is given to an animal, especially in cats, reactions can occur.
The blood types for cats are A and B with a rare type of AB. Cats with the rare AB type can be universal recipients for blood transfusions, which mean they can receive either type A or Type B blood. The majority of cats in the United States are Type A. For dogs, there are eight to twelve canine blood groups which are categorized under the DEA system. DEA stands Dog Erythrocyte Antigen with Erythrocyte being the red blood cells. The system is grouped into a DEA category followed by a number or numbers which indicates the antigens that are present on the red blood cells. An antigen is something that can induce the formation of antibodies.
In order to determine what blood type your dog has, the veterinarian, veterinary technician or veterinary assistant must draw a blood sample. This blood sample is dropped onto a type of well that contains certain proteins that is then mixed with a blood typing fluid. This fluid is then checked for clumping. If clumping occurs, the dog would be considered a DEA 1.1 positive. Dogs do not seem to have any naturally occurring antibodies as cats or even humans. Cross matching, which is used to detect antibodies in the dog that is receiving the transfusion with the antibodies in the dog that is giving the blood, may seem less important. However, if the dog receiving the blood has had a transfusion before, it should be cross matched to make sure the blood is compatible before receiving subsequent blood transfusions.
For cats, blood must be drawn and deposited in two wells, one marked “A” and one marked “B”. If the blood that is dropped into well A clumps, the cat is a Type A. If there is clumping in well B, the cat is type B. If the clumping occurs in both well A and well B, the cat is type AB. There are certain disorders or diseases that will cause the blood to clot. This means that the blood must be sent to a special laboratory that would be able to detect the blood type despite the naturally occurring clumping.
If you are interested in having your dog or cat tested for blood type, contact your veterinarian and speak to the veterinary assistant about scheduling a test.