The American Red Cross called me tonight to set up another appointment for me to donate blood. It got me thinking about the fact that dogs need blood transfusions just like humans do. My curiosity got the best of me and I started looking up information on blood donor dogs, which I found to be very interesting.
Unfortunately a blood bank concept in veterinary medicine is relatively new, but gaining steam as awareness and the need for these types of services increases. Currently there are a handful of animal blood banks, as well as several veterinary schools which have set up blood donor programs, and even a few blood mobiles. Prior to these programs, a vet needing a blood donation would need to rely on their own dogs, their staff’s dogs, or client’s and friend’s dogs if they needed to perform a blood transfusion. Many also still rely on larger emergency hospitals to provide blood.
Does your dog qualify to be a blood donor dog? Each program has their own guidelines, but these are rules to follow:
- Even temperament – dogs are not put under when they are donating, and therefore need to stay calm and relaxed during the donation process
- Weigh between 55 – 150 lbs – and these parameters need to be healthy weights for their breed.
- Between 1 – 8 years of age
- Are not currently taking or have not taken any medication in the last 14 days. This includes antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antihistamines, but excludes heart worm and flea prevention medicines.
- Have never been previously diagnosed with a heart murmur, seizures, heart worm disease, a chronic illness, or a disease that required a blood transfusion in the past.
- Current vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus and rabies (have to have had vaccinations at least 4 weeks prior)
- Willing to bring your dog in on a regular basis to donate – although dogs can safely donate after 4 weeks, generally the span between donations vary from 6 weeks to 4 months.
- “Universal” blood group, this is similar to our “O negative” – dogs have over a dozen blood groups. If a dog has met all of the above criteria, then the donation center will test your dog’s blood to see if it is “Universal”. They will also run other blood tests to make sure your dog’s blood is safe to give to others.
The donation process:
- takes less than 30 minutes
- dogs generally are put up on a table where they can lay on their side
- blood taken from the jugular vein in the neck
- small patch of hair is shaved and area is swabbed with alcohol before needle is inserted
- LOTS of pets, hugs, treats, food and water after donation
- some mild bruising could occur at the needle site
Once the blood is collected, it is separated into red blood cells and plasma so it can potentially save the life of two dogs!!! Not only will your dog save the lives of others, but many programs offer huge incentives for blood donor dogs.
Below is a list of canine blood banks. This is not an all inclusive list and you should check in your area for any local blood donation programs.