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Blood Transfusion Restriction in Ferrets

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)

Small Mammals

|November 2014

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Blood transfusions have been used in ferrets to treat multiple causes of anemia. Using fresh donor blood within 4 hours poses little clinical risk, even without cross-matching of blood groups; however, blood banking is not routine for ferrets. This study aimed to determine the stability of ferret blood stored at 4°C in an anticoagulant citrate–phosphate–dextrose solution with adenine (CPDA). 

Blood samples were taken from 2 male donors once a month for 5 months and stored for 4 weeks in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) blood tubes at a ratio of 6 mL blood:1 mL CPDA. Glucose, pH, lactate, potassium, and sodium were measured in samples at days 0, 7, 14, 21, and 28. Hematocrit measurement and microscopic blood smear examinations were also performed.

Evidence of RBC deterioration was observed more rapidly in the ferret samples than in that previously described for canine or human samples, with significant biochemical and morphological changes by day 7 and hemolysis evident by day 21. Although further studies are needed, these results indicate that ferret blood stored in CPDA should not be transfused after 7 days.


Veterinary blood transfusions are not new science, but bank programs are currently limited to dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Successful transfusions have been reported in many exotic species (eg, ferrets, tortoises, rodents, birds). However, little is known about storing blood from nontraditional species; with advancements in exotic animal medicine, this research is immediately usable in practice. With continued research, routine transfusions should be an option in virtually any species.—Adolf Maas, DVM, DABVP (Reptile & Amphibian)


Assessment of a blood preservation protocol for use in ferrets before transfusion. Pignon C, Donnelly TM, Todeschini C, et al. VET REC 174:277, 2014.

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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