Blood transfusions have saved many lives, both animal and human. But the donor’s blood must match the recipient’s to avoid serious reactions.
While it is not a common practice for human blood to be used in animals, new research submits that a blood serum called albumin can be used to save pets’ lives.
Blood is made up of many cells and chemicals necessary to maintain life. Besides red blood cells that bring oxygen to all parts of the body, there are white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection and cells and chemicals that help to clot the blood after an injury and protect against excessive blood loss.
Albumin is a blood protein that helps maintain the water content of the blood in veins and arteries. The blood vessels are connected to each other much like a hose, the joints of which are not watertight. Serum albumin acts like a sponge that attracts water to prevent leaking through the joints of the blood vessels.
When albumin is at a low level, water can leak from blood vessels into body cavities. Animals with hypoalbuminemia (low serum albumin) due to intestinal problems, can have a pot-bellied appearance. Intestinal parasites will consume all the diet protein. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) thickens intestinal linings making it difficult to absorb protein. Other diseases can interfere with protein absorption. Hypoalbuminemic animals can accumulate fluids in the abdomen and chest cavities which is a life-threatening situation and can lead to drowning in the body’s fluids.
Treatment is transfusion of blood serum. At the College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, researchers transfused dogs with hypoalbuminesia with human serum albumin. Their findings were that these transfusions were safe and effective with rejection rates no different from other transfusions.
These findings could mean that we pet parents can help our pets if they are in need of serum albumin.