Blood Transfusions

No Need for Concern about the Use of Jugular Veins


My 95 pound sheepdog mix has been a blood donor for the past year.  I was happy to allow him to give blood for other dogs until I learned that they draw blood from the jugular vein (I had assumed it was the leg). I am concerned about the risk in drawing blood from this vital blood vessel.


Dr. Nichol:

You and your excellent dog are providing an even greater service than you may realize. Upwards of 75% of dog and cat owners regard their pets as children. Your kindness and generosity have saved the lives of important family members.


Don’t worry about your dog’s jugular veins. These are big vessels that are easy to find, meaning that blood can be taken quickly, reducing the amount of time your dog has to hold still. The needle makes a tiny hole that heals fast, leaving no lasting impact. But even if both of your boy’s external jugulars became permanently occluded he would do just fine anyway.


One beautiful thing about canine anatomy is its redundancy. From my training in veterinary school (confirmed by anatomist Dr. Anna Fails of the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine) there are 6 veins that return blood from the head. In addition to a pair of external jugulars your dog has two internal jugular veins plus two vertebral veins.  He has veins to spare.


Transfusions are essential to survival for some pets, especially trauma cases. We share the plight of our counterparts in human medicine; there is seldom enough blood. Dog or cat owners who want to help should contact Kacey Gutierrez, lab manager for the Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque (505-884-3433). Canine donors must be 2-8 years old and weigh over 50 pounds. Cats must be 1-8 years of age and weigh 10-19#. Every candidate gets a full exam, lab profile, and blood typing, all at no charge.  Any pet who donates is entitled to free blood for life. There is good karma in donating blood.