Canine Blood Donors: Does Your Dog Qualify?

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Every day, thousands of dogs globally need to receive blood. Whether due to surgery, accident or illness, transfusions are vital. It can literally mean the difference between life and death.

My first German Shepherd, Schatz, was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and during a three-week period required four transfusions. Without the dedication of a small, volunteer army of dog owners whose dogs are donors, these lifesaving transfusions would never be available to dogs like my precious Schatz.

Where does blood for canine needs originate? The short answer is healthy dogs.

Here are the generally accepted requirements:

  • Healthy (no previous diagnosis of heart murmur, seizures, heart worm disease, chronic illness, or a disease that required a blood transfusion)
  • Good body condition (not obese or underweight)
  • Between the ages of one year and six years
  • A body weight of no less than 55 pounds
  • A calm temperament
  • Universal blood type (any type lacking Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) 1.1)
  • Currently not taking any medications (no antibiotics, antihistamines or anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Once a donation has occurred, a rest period of a minimum of 14 days is required
  • Current on all vaccinations (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, leptospira and rabies) including flea, tick and heartworm preventatives (given at least four weeks prior)

If your dog is accepted into the donor program, you should be aware the need for blood does not usually happen during regular vet practice office hours. You could, and, most likely will, receive calls during the night or on weekend days/nights. Accidents, illness and surgeries are prime reasons for canine blood donors to be called into service. Most doggie parents of canine blood donors understand the gravity of the situation when they receive the call to come in to donate. Another dog’s life is hanging in the balance and time is of the essence. Your dog is the link for another dog between survival and a less than optimal outcome.

Donation times will vary but it normally takes less than thirty minutes for a canine blood donor to give a pint of blood.

Big blood banks for dogs are not widely available but a few do exist. Check your local listings to see if one is located in your area. For this very reason, dogs are usually called upon to donate as the need for blood presents itself.

In return for your dog’s availability to donate and your commitment, some veterinary practices will offer the cost of your donor dog’s annual visits and vaccinations at no cost as long as they are in the donor program.

Knowing how vital blood donations were to Schatz’s treatment many years ago, I had Scout, my German Shorthaired Pointer, tested when he was younger to determine if he qualified to enter the program. He met all the requirements but one. He was not a universal blood type.

Most dogs will never need a transfusion or need to be the recipient of any blood. But for dogs who do, your dog can be a lifesaver. Literally. It’s so easy. Go to your vet and inquire about entering the canine blood donor program. If your pup is accepted and called upon to donate, you will have a doggie’s undying gratitude.

Cindy Dunston Quirk is the Chief Dog Lover at Scout & Zoe’s Natural Antler Dog Chews. Scout & Zoe’s chews are allergy-free and a green, organic, renewable resource created only from 100% naturally shed elk antlers.

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