As in human emergency rooms (ERs), pets who arrive at animal emergency hospitals are experiencing a wide range of illnesses. Some pets may simply have uncomfortable ear infections or diarrhea, while others arrive with life-threatening illness or injury. For many pets in the latter category, blood transfusions can mean the difference between life and death, but unlike human ERs, most animal emergency hospitals don’t typically have bags of donated blood waiting for a recipient. 

When patients in need of blood arrive at our clinic, they don’t have time to wait for us to acquire commercially available blood. Pet blood shortages have led to wait times up to a month or more, but for some patients, a delay of only a couple of hours could spell disaster. That’s why, at Pet Emergency Clinic, we maintain our own blood bank. To keep our shelves stocked, however, we need a little help from you and your best four-legged friend.

Our veterinary blood bank

Not all blood transfusions are the same—sometimes pets benefit from whole blood, which, except for the addition of anticoagulants, is unaltered blood from a donor. Some patients need a transfusion of plasma or packed red cells. At our state-of-the-art facility, we can separate donated blood into two products: packed red cells and plasma. 

Our blood centrifuge and blood storage unit allows us to store blood products onsite so they’re available when we really need them, but without blood donors, our shelves would be empty. We rely on the community’s four-legged heroes, and their owners, to help us save lives at the Pet Emergency Clinic, so we’ve set up a blood donor program, hoping that we’ll never have to rely on commercial blood again.

There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing that your blood donation helped save a life. The feeling is the same when your dog is the donor—like a superhero and his sidekick, you and your pet could save the day for area dogs in need. 

Blood donation process for dogs

We want to keep the shelves of our animal emergency hospital stocked with blood products, and we need donors to make that happen. We realize that if the blood donation process is stressful for you or your pet, you’ll both be less likely to participate, so we’ve developed a procedure that’s low on stress and high on reward. Here’s how it works:

  • Prospective donors should weigh at least 60 pounds and be between 1 and 6 years of age. 
  • Before a donor’s initial donation, he’ll need to participate in two short visits to ensure he’s a good donor candidate. 
    • Visit 1: We will take a small amount of blood to determine your dog’s blood type. Fun fact: There are at least nine different canine blood types.
    • Visit 2: We will perform a behavior assessment and health screening. 
  • Once the screening visits are complete and your dog is deemed a suitable donor, he is ready for his first donation. 

Before you rush to call us to schedule your dog’s first appointment, we should discuss the details of that second office visit a little more. We said we want to keep stress levels at a minimum, so we assess the behavior of all potential blood donors to ensure they’re a good fit for the program. We want dogs to be happy to donate, not shaking in their boots. After all, saving a life should be a good thing. 

We also perform a thorough health screening—we want our donors not only to be happy to donate, but also as healthy as possible when they donate. In addition to a physical exam, we will perform routine lab work—blood work, a heartworm test, and a fecal test—to ensure your pup has a clean bill of health. These tests will be provided free of charge, and we will send your regular veterinarian a copy of the results for their records, too. 

The big day for donor dogs

All the tests are out of the way, and your best bud is ready to donate his blood. He’ll come  to the clinic to hang out with us for the donation, and as his owner, you are free to wait around during the donation, or to drop your little hero off. The blood donation will take only 10 to 20 minutes, and during that time, your pet will be closely monitored. Once the donation is complete, donors get to chow down on a tasty meal, and we keep an eye on them for another 20 minutes or so to ensure they’re feeling well. 

Dogs can donate blood every six to eight weeks, and many donors become so accustomed to the procedure that they look forward to their donation days. We love our donors, and we also love the feeling of knowing that when pets in need step through the doors of our animal emergency hospital, we can give them the medical help they need without delay.

If you think your dog may be a good blood donor candidate, give us a call. We’d love to schedule your hero’s initial visits to get him started on the road to blood donation.