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Blood Transfusion Reactions in Dogs

Blood transfusions can lead to various reactions, which typically manifest during or shortly after the procedure. Purebred dogs, particularly those with a history of prior blood transfusions, face a heightened risk of experiencing severe reactions compared to other dogs. This medical condition can affect both dogs and cats.

Symptoms and Types

Reactions to a blood transfusion can be categorized into immune system-related, acute reactions (occurring immediately), or delayed reactions.

Acute signs of a reaction to a blood transfusion may encompass fever, vomiting, weakness, incontinence, shock, collapse, and a general decline in the effectiveness of the transfusion. Delayed reaction symptoms are typically not immediately evident and only lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of the transfusion.

Symptoms may vary depending on the specific cause. For instance, transfusion of contaminated blood may lead to fever, shock, and septicemia – the invasion of disease-causing bacteria into the bloodstream. Circulatory overload due to rapid or excessive transfusion can result in vomiting, coughing, and heart failure. Hypothermia, arising from the transfusion of cold refrigerated blood – typically observed in smaller dogs or patients already experiencing hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature) – is indicated by shivering and impaired platelet function.


Several circumstances can lead to a blood transfusion reaction, including the transfusion of mismatched blood types, contaminated blood from an infected donor resulting in blood-borne diseases, circulatory overload due to rapid or excessive transfusion, or transfusion of damaged red blood cells improperly stored (e.g., excessive heating or freezing). Apart from these causes, the dog’s immune system may respond to various components in the donor’s blood. Symptoms typically emerge within three to fourteen days.ins unclear. Nevertheless, dogs in middle age and older are at higher risk of developing this condition.


Identifying a reaction to a blood transfusion primarily relies on observing symptoms that manifest after the transfusion. Diagnostic procedures may involve urine analysis, retesting of blood type to confirm rejection of donor blood, and analysis of the transfused blood for bacteria. Symptoms indicating a reaction such as fever or hypotension (low blood pressure) may also be diagnosed as inflammatory disease, or they may be attributed to an infectious disease.


In the event of a reaction to a blood transfusion in your dog, your veterinarian will promptly halt the transfusion and provide fluids to help stabilize the dog’s blood pressure and circulation. Depending on the seriousness and underlying cause of the reaction, further interventions may be required. Treatment will vary based on the cause and symptoms, and medication may be prescribed accordingly. For instance, intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be administered for septicemia or bacterial infection.

Living and Management

It’s important to monitor the patient’s fundamental vital signs, including breathing and pulse, before, during, and after a blood transfusion. Furthermore, it’s essential to frequently assess temperature, lung sounds, and plasma color.


Blood transfusion reactions can be prevented by adhering to standard blood transfusion protocols, including rigorous cross-checking of blood types to ensure compatibility, ensuring the condition of donor blood to prevent infections or disease transmission, and proper storage of donor blood. Transfusions should commence at a rate of one milliliter per minute initially, and all transfusion procedures must be accurately documented in the patient’s medical records.

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