Canine Blood Donor Exclusions
Infectious Disease Concerns
As much as in human blood banking, infectious disease screening has become pivotal in reducing the risk of transmission through blood transfusion. Due to recent information regarding the higher incidence of certain infectious diseases in a few specific canine breeds, PABB has updated its blood-donor recruitment policies.
Babesia, a parasite that lives in the red blood cell, has become more commonly recognized in certain breeds. The parasite is introduced into the host by the bite of an infected tick. Active infection with Babesia most often results in a severe anemia (decreased red blood cells), lethargy, fever and in some cases low-platelet counts, predisposing the animal to bleeding tendencies. Blood donors actively infected with Babesia may not show clinical signs but could readily transmit the parasite to patients receiving blood. The increased susceptibility of specific breeds to Babesia infections is not fully understood; however, genetic and environmental factors may play a role.
American Staffordshire and Pit Bull Terriers
In certain areas of the country, the rate of American pit bull and Staffordshire terriers acting as carriers for Babesia gibsoni (i.e., actively infected with the parasite but not showing clinical signs) was quite high (55 percent in the southeastern United States were identified to be carriers). In addition, some dogs treated for Babesia gibsoni do not adequately clear the parasite and thus remain carriers. In another study, a high proportion of all dogs that tested positive for Babesia gibsoni were either American pit bull or Staffordshire terriers. Due to this information, until the transmission of Babesia gibsoni is better understood and more sensitive and specific screening tests are developed and made available, American pit bull and Staffordshire terriers, or any mixed-breed dog that closely resembles either breed, must be excluded from the PABB blood donor program.
Body Conformation Concerns: English Bulldogs
As a result of some common anatomical features of certain breeds, blood collection can be quite difficult and/or not in the dogs best health interest. English bulldogs are excluded from the blood donor program because they are a brachycephalic breed, which means they have a comparatively short nose and head. Brachycephalic dogs are predisposed to a disorder known as brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS). This syndrome means that due to their upper airway anatomy, virtually all brachycephalics have some degree of increased work associated with breathing from the time they are born. The increased work is caused by any or all of the following abnormalities: narrowed nostrils, elongated soft palate, or small air passageways in the larynx and trachea.
Problems associated with this syndrome range in severity, with most brachycephalic dogs snuffling and snorting to some degree. Some will have no further difficulties, but many will have problems such as increasingly noisy breathing, coughing and gagging, fainting or collapsing episodes and a decreased tolerance for exercise (i.e., they tire easily).
Overheating is especially dangerous in these breeds. Increased panting when hot—the normal mechanism for cooling in dogs—can cause further swelling and narrowing of the already constricted airways. This narrowing causes more difficulty breathing ,which can increase the dog's anxiety and make it want to pant, creating a vicious cycle of more swelling and more anxiety. Triggers for this vicious cycle can be excitement, exercise or warm weather (and especially a combination of these factors).
Quite often, excitement goes hand in hand with the blood donation process. So as not to put these dogs at risk for any breathing compromise, it has been decided to exclude this breed from the blood donor program.
Again, all of the listed guidelines have been established to ensure the safety of each and every canine volunteer, as well as our life-saving blood supply. It is extremely important to adhere to these guidelines to keep the donation process as safe as possible.