How Canine Blood Donors Save Lives
Lilly, a large mixed breed dog brought into Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank in Purcellville, Virginia, was having a hard time birthing her pups. She'd been brought into the clinic by a local rescue and labored all night. Finally, after losing some puppies and having a C-section, she became the proud mamma of 10 beautiful babies.
Lilly needed a blood transfusion to help her recover. Thanks to the volunteer canine donors at BRVBB, she was able to get the life-saving transfusion and take care of her newborn litter.
"A dog blood bank provides the same blood providing service for dogs that human banks provide for sick and injured people," explains Jocelyn Pratt, director of BRVBB. "Our blood components are used for cancer treatment support, rodenticide ingestions, burn victims, parvo puppies, intestinal parasite and flea infestation that has caused anemia, snake bites, massive blood loss trauma, auto-immune diseases, surgeries and clotting disorders."
Many pet lovers don't realize there is such a thing as dog blood banks until their pup is in need of them. In fact, they're located throughout the country and work to save dogs' lives every day.
How Dog Blood Banks Work
Volunteer blood banks like BRVBB rely strictly on people who volunteer their dogs to be blood donors. There are a few "closed colony" blood banks in which dogs are rescued and live there for a certain number of years to donate before being adopted out. California, for example, requires canine blood banks to be closed colony. There are also some university veterinary medical clinics that bank their own blood. Like a lot of human blood banks, Pratt says dog blood banks are always in need.
How Dogs Become Donors
BRVBB first does a telephone screen with pet owners. Qualifying dogs must meet certain age and health requirements. Once a dog is prescreened, their owners bring them in for some tests, like for heartworm and other issues.
Owners of accepted dogs are asked to agree to at least five to seven donations per year. Each dog donates between about one and two cups of blood each visit, depending on size and age, and can give up to eight or nine times per year. The blood bank then sells the blood to veterinarians and emergency clinics across the country. Pratt says the fee charged only covers their operating and shipping costs.
Most dogs are completely comfortable with the procedure, and some even appear to look forward to it, Pratt says. A staff member actually gets paid to lie on the table with the donating dogs and give belly rubs and treats — if the dog doesn't have dietary restrictions!
Dogs in the program get treated to a wellness exam every other month (or upon each donation) and annual blood screenings.
How to Find a Blood Bank
Pratt says BRVBB is part of the largest all-volunteer canine blood banking network in the country with 26 sites across Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. The staff draws from approximately 3,000 dogs per year. "We typically draw 15 dogs per site at four sites per week," says Pratt. “And we are always in need."
While RRVBB is an all-canine program, kitties also can be donors at feline blood donor banks.
According to an online list of canine blood banks, there are at least two dozen such networks across the country. If you're interested in volunteering your pup for blood donations, the best place to start would be to ask your veterinarian about blood banks in your area.
Have you ever had a dog who needed blood or became a blood donor? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
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