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Dog Blood Types: Understanding Your Pet’s Blood for Health and Transfusions

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dog blood types

Just like humans, dogs have their own blood types that are important for veterinary medicine, especially when it comes to transfusions. Understanding blood types in dogs can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations. In veterinary transfusion medicine, over 13 canine blood groups have been identified, with eight DEA (Dog Erythrocyte Antigen) types recognized as international standards. These DEA types include 1.1, 1.2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, among others. Your pup may naturally have antibodies against certain blood types, affecting which type of blood they can safely receive.

When you delve into the world of canine blood groups, you’ll find that some of these antigens, like DEA 1.1 and 1.2, can trigger severe reactions if a dog receives the wrong type of blood. This is why veterinarians must carefully type and match a dog’s blood before a transfusion. Interestingly, there are typing sera produced for six of these types based on canine alloimmunization, highlighting their significance in the process. Natural antibodies are particularly relevant for DEA 3, 5, and 7, potentially posing a risk without proper blood typing.

Making sure your dog gets a safe transfusion requires up-to-date research on dog blood types and an understanding of their implications. If your canine pal ever needs a blood transfusion, it’s vital that the blood they receive matches their type. This could help avoid complications, enhance recovery, and ensure that they are back on their paws as soon as possible.

When it comes to transfusions and other veterinary medicine, there are eight Dog Erythrocyte Antigens (DEAs) that are internationally recognized standards.

Here’s a breakdown of some DEAs you should know about:

  • DEA 1.1 and 1.2: These guys are pretty important. If they’re not matched correctly during a blood transfusion, they could cause acute hemolytic reactions — that’s a big problem!
  • DEA 3, 5, and 7: Antibodies can react against these antigens too, though it’s typically a bit slower, causing red blood cell loss over three to five days.
  • DEA 4: Exhibits no harmful interaction. It’s kind of cool because if a dog has only this antigen, they’re considered “universal donors” — great for emergency transfusions!

Veterinary medicine has gotten super smart about making sure transfusions are safe. They now recommend that blood for transfusions be both typed and crossmatched. This means that they test to see if the donor’s and the recipient’s blood types are compatible. This is super important to avoid reactions that could harm your pup.

Although canine blood typing is pretty common in service labs, there isn’t an easy in-clinic test available for every blood group just yet. Scientists are on the case, though, creating new solutions such as monoclonal antibodies to understand these blood groups better.

And it’s not just about transfusions, understanding a dog’s blood type might even help spot certain diseases down the line. It’s a growing field, and who knows? It might just lead to some tail-wagging discoveries in canine health!

Do Dogs Have A Universal Blood Type?

vet drawing blood to test blood types on West Highland Terrier dog

Like humans, dogs have several blood types, but the concept of a universal blood type among canines is not as straightforward. The most well-known canine blood groups fall under the Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) system. There are several DEA types, with DEA 1.1, DEA 1.2, and DEA 4 being most significant for transfusions.

In the past, DEA 4 was considered a potential universal donor blood type because it was thought that DEA 4 positive blood could be safely given to most recipients without a major risk of an immediate hemolytic transfusion reaction. However, this assumption has shifted over time due to a deeper understanding of canine blood types and the reactions they can cause.

It’s crucial for your dog to be blood typed or crossmatched before receiving a blood transfusion to ensure compatibility. This is especially important because, unlike human blood transfusion practices, veterinary medicine does not have a standardized universal donor type that is completely devoid of risk.

Adverse reactions can still occur even with so-called “universal” donor blood, depending on a patient’s past exposure and the specific blood components involved. Additionally, there is an ongoing discussion in veterinary circles regarding other blood types, such as the recently identified Dal antigen, which further complexifies the issue of blood transfusions in dogs.

To learn more about canine blood types, consider reviewing detailed resources dedicated to Blood Groups and Blood Transfusions in Dogs, which can provide further insights into this topic. Remember, always consult with your veterinarian to ensure the safest course of action for your pet’s health.

All About The Different Canine Blood Types

Golden Spaniel having blood transfusion

Your dog’s blood type is crucial for transfusions and breeding. Canine blood types are designated as Dog Erythrocyte Antigens (DEAs). If your dog needs a transfusion, knowing the DEA is vital for compatibility.

DEA 1.1 Positive

Dogs with DEA 1.1 positive blood are considered universal recipients within the DEA system. That means they can receive blood from most donors without complications. However, they can only give blood safely to other DEA 1.1 positive dogs.

DEA 1.1 Negative

DEA 1.1 negative dogs are more versatile donors. If your dog is DEA 1.1 negative, they can donate to both DEA 1.1 positive and negative dogs, but they could have reactions if they receive DEA 1.1 positive blood.

DEA 1.2

DEA 1.2 is another antigen that’s less understood but is considered significant. Dogs with this type can donate to DEA 1.2 negative dogs, but the reverse may cause a reaction.


DEA 3 type isn’t as common, but if your dog has this type, be aware they can have serious transfusion reactions if given the wrong type of blood.


DEA 4 is widely found among dogs. Fortunately, DEA 4 positive dogs can donate to other DEA types without many adverse reactions.


DEA 5 positive dogs are less common. Like DEA 3, incompatible transfusions involving DEA 5 can lead to harmful reactions, so it’s essential to match blood types carefully.


DEA 7 blood type can present complications. Dogs positive for DEA 7 might react if they receive blood from a DEA 7 negative donor.


Finally, DEA 8, while rare, is another type to be cautious about during blood transfusions. Always ensure blood compatibility to avoid your dog experiencing unnecessary distress. If you ever see blood in your dog’s stool, it’s a serious concern and could relate to numerous health issues. In such cases, make sure to consult with your veterinarian or seek expert advice to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. Similarly, if your dog is vomiting blood, it’s critical to get immediate veterinary care.

Blood Typing and Crossmatching

Before considering a blood transfusion for your dog, understanding blood typing and crossmatching is crucial to ensure compatibility and reduce the risk of adverse reactions.

Importance of Blood Typing

Blood typing in dogs identifies specific blood group antigens present on the surface of red blood cells. Over 20 canine blood groups have been identified, but only a handful have been standardized internationally. The most significant of these is the Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) system, with DEA 1 and DEA 7 having multiple alleles. It’s vital to know your dog’s blood type, particularly DEA 1.1, as it’s the most antigenic and can cause severe reactions in incompatible transfusions. Not all blood types have naturally occurring antibodies in dogs, so mismatches may remain undetected without proper typing. This underscores the importance of blood groups and typing, particularly before a transfusion is needed.

Crossmatching Procedure

Crossmatching is a laboratory test to ensure the donor and recipient blood are compatible. This involves mixing a small amount of the donor’s red blood cells with the recipient’s plasma and vice versa. The process includes two stages: the major and minor crossmatch. In the major crossmatch, your dog’s plasma is tested against the donor’s red blood cells to check for agglutination or hemolysis — clear signs of incompatibility. 

Conversely, during the minor crossmatch, the donor plasma is tested against your dog’s red blood cells. A successful crossmatch means there’s no reaction and the transfusion is likely to be safe. This procedure helps to prevent adverse effects, ranging from mild allergic reactions to a severe, possibly fatal, hemolytic transfusion reaction due to incompatible blood.

How Much Blood Can Dogs Donate?

White dog donating blood

Hey there! Ever wondered how much blood your pup can safely donate without any harm? Well, it’s pretty interesting. Your dog can actually be a little hero by donating blood, just like you!

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Small dogs: If you have a tiny tail-wagger, say about 4 kg (that’s around 9 lbs), they can donate roughly 40-50 ml of blood. That’s about the size of a shot glass!
  • Big dogs: Larger dogs, on the other hand, like those weighing around 30 kg (approximately 66 lbs), are able to donate much more — up to about 300-450 ml. Think of a soda can, and that’s the ballpark we’re talking about.

But remember, just like us humans:

  • Dogs should only donate about 10% of their total blood volume at a time. It’s a safe amount that won’t tire them out.
  • After donating, they need a bit of time to bounce back and replenish that liquid life force.
  • Always ensure your pooch is healthy and meets the criteria set out by veterinary professionals before embarking on this life-saving journey.

To get super specific, there’s this canine donor selection guideline that dives into the nitty-gritty. Check it out to learn about the fine details.

So next time you think of your pup as just a cuddle buddy, remember they could be saving lives, one donation at a time! Isn’t that pawsome?

Blood Transfusion in Dogs

Blood transfusions in dogs are critical treatments that can save lives. It’s important for you to understand when they’re needed, the risks involved, how they’re done, and what to watch for afterward.

Indications for Transfusion

Transfusions aren’t just given for any reason. Your vet may recommend one if your dog has severe anemia, bleeding from surgery, or has been in an accident. Conditions like hemophilia, where blood doesn’t clot right, or when they’re fighting off a bad infection can also need a transfusion.

Transfusion Reactions

Just like people, dogs can have reactions to transfusions. Watch your dog for signs of fever, weakness, or red urine after the transfusion. These signs can mean there’s a problem, and your vet needs to know right away.

Transfusion Protocols

Before getting a transfusion, your dog will be cross-matched to find the best donor blood. During the transfusion, your dog’s vital signs are watched closely. Usually, the transfusion is done slowly to lower the risk of problems.

Post-Transfusion Monitoring

White Poodle Cross dog testing blood type

After a transfusion, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your dog. Monitoring is key. Your vet will tell you what signs to look for, like if they’re really tired, not eating, or acting strange. If you notice these things, it’s straight back to the vet you go.

Donor Selection

Selecting the right dog as a blood donor is crucial. You want to ensure they are healthy and their blood types can be safely given to others.

Criteria for Blood Donors

  • Age: Your dog should be between 1 to 8 years old to donate.
  • Weight: Ideally, they need to be over 50 pounds to give blood safely.
  • Health: Dogs must be free of infectious diseases and up to date on vaccinations.
  • Behavior: They should be calm and able to handle interactions with people and other dogs.

Donor Screening

Before your dog donates, they will be thoroughly screened to ensure their safety and the safety of the recipient.

  • Physical exam: A vet checks your dog’s health thoroughly.
  • Blood tests: These check for diseases and determine your dog’s blood type.

Donor Blood Collection

  • Preparation: Your dog’s neck or leg area will be cleaned and prepped.
  • Collection: Blood is usually drawn from the jugular vein in the neck.
  • Duration: It takes about 5-10 minutes to collect the blood.
  • Aftercare: Your dog gets lots of praise and probably a treat for being such a good helper!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, you’ll find quick answers to some of the most common questions about dog blood types. You’ll learn about the various blood groups dogs have, how to determine your dog’s blood type, and more.

What are the different blood types that dogs can have?

Dogs have a variety of blood types, but they’re identified mostly through the Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) system. DEAs are numbered 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, and more, with DEA 1 being further classified into positive or negative.

What’s the most common blood type for dogs?

The DEA 1 positive blood type is quite common among dogs. Specifically, dogs with the DEA 1.1 positive type are frequently found.

Is there a blood type that all dogs can receive?

No, there isn’t a universal blood type that all dogs can safely receive. Compatibility testing is usually performed before blood transfusions to prevent reactions.

How many blood groups exist in dogs?

There are over 12 different canine blood groups identified, but the DEA system is the most recognized and includes 8 main DEA types.

How do you find out what blood type a dog has?

To determine a dog’s blood type, a veterinarian can conduct a blood typing test using commercial kits like the QuickVet®/RapidVet® canine blood typing kit for DEA 1.1.

Which blood type is the rarest in dogs?

Specific data on the rarest canine blood type isn’t widely published, but blood types other than DEA 1.1 are less commonly encountered. DEA 1 negative could be considered among the rarer types.

Final Thoughts

When you’re looking into your dog’s health, it’s essential to consider their blood type, especially if they need surgery or a blood transfusion. Dogs have several blood types, and knowing them is crucial for vets to match donors and recipients properly.

DEA 1 is the most clinically significant dog blood type. If you’ve ever wondered how smart your dog is or how they perceive the world, remember that their health is just as complex. Their blood types require the same careful matching as ours when they need medical care.

To keep your pup safe, regular check-ups are vital. During these visits, talk to your vet about blood type testing. It’s a small step that can make a big difference. You could also consider having your dog join a canine blood donor program. It’s a way to help other dogs in need, and some programs provide perks for you and your pup.

Remember, each dog is unique, not just in personality, but down to their blood. Taking care of their health means ensuring they get compatible blood if they ever need it. Keeping this in mind can help your dog lead a happy, healthy life.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.