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Plasma Transfusion in Dogs

Sarah Gray, DVM, DACVECC, Horizon Veterinary Specialists, Ventura, California

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In the literature

Santo-Domingo NE, Lewis DH. Indications for use and complications associated with canine plasma products in 170 patients. J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2021;31(2):263-268.

This retrospective study examined records of dogs that received canine plasma products (ie, fresh frozen plasma, frozen plasma, cryoprecipitate) during a 2-year period to describe the population and the incidence of transfusion reactions. The study also aimed to identify whether transfusion reactions were more frequent when nonblood-type–matched products were used. 

This study included 140 blood-typed dogs given 350 plasma products. Transfusion types included fresh frozen plasma (n = 73), frozen plasma (n = 263), and cryoprecipitate (n = 14). Reasons for administration included colloid support/hypoproteinemia, coagulopathy, sepsis, internal bleeding, trauma, gastric dilatation-volvulus, and uncontrollable mucosal bleeding. 

Transfusion reactions were documented in 16 dogs, including acute hypersensitivity reaction (eg, facial swelling, pruritus, vomiting), febrile nonhemolytic reaction, and suspected transfusion-associated cardiac overload. Most reactions were mild; only one patient required discontinuation of the transfusion. 

The authors concluded that administration of canine plasma products in dogs is generally safe, and blood-type matching may be unnecessary.


Key pearls to put into practice:


Plasma products include fresh frozen plasma, frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitate.1 Fresh frozen plasma is separated and frozen at −0.4°F (−18°C) within 8 hours of collection, can be stored for ≤1 year, and contains all hemostatic proteins, albumin, immunoglobulins, and protease inhibitors. Frozen plasma is fresh frozen plasma that has been stored for >1 year at an appropriate temperature and is viable for 5 years; von Willebrand factor and factors V and VIII are lost. Cryoprecipitate is prepared by a freeze, thaw, and centrifugation cycle to attain a high concentration of von Willebrand factor and factor VIII.


Although canine plasma products appear safe to administer without blood-type matching, patients should be monitored during and after transfusion. Some reactions occur rapidly, but others can take several days.2 A transfusion monitoring sheet can help assess vital signs and watch for GI signs, angioedema/hives, and respiratory, mentation, or behavior changes during administration. Administration should start slowly; if no immediate reaction is noted, the rate can be increased.


Transfusion reactions are generally mild. Febrile, nonhemolytic, and allergic reactions can be treated, and transfusion can often be continued, but the rate of administration may need to be temporarily stopped or slowed. More severe reactions may require early discontinuation of the transfusion.2


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

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