Could your dog be a canine blood hero?

Canine blood heroes Grizz and Jasmine both made their 50th draws recently. Photos courtesy of Canine Blood Heroes

By Dr. Beth Leermakers

Although I’m a blood donor myself, I never thought about dogs donating blood until I saw a Facebook post for a new canine blood bank in Grapevine. As the proud mama of an American Staffordshire Terrier (a bully breed), I loved reading that pit bulls make good blood donors. Perhaps my boy Sparky could help save lives … Here’s what I’ve learned about canine blood donation.

The Need for Blood

Just like people, dogs suffer from anemia, cancer and trauma accidents, and they need blood. Dogs that have surgery for an illness or injury often require blood transfusions. Canine blood only has a shelf life of 30-35 days, so the blood supply must be constantly replenished so there’s blood available when it’s needed. Some veterinary clinics don’t need blood very often, so they don’t keep it onsite. Instead, they rely on regional or national blood banks to meet their needs.

There are seven blood types, but only one type is a universal donor. Dogs can donate blood every one to two months. A 55-lb dog can donate a full pint of blood, and one pint can save four dogs’ lives.

When a dog gets hit by a car or experiences another trauma, he may need an emergency blood transfusion to save his life, and acquiring enough blood takes time the dog may not have.

If there isn’t enough blood on hand, a technician at the emergency veterinary hospital may have to wake someone up in the wee hours of the morning to bring their dog in for a blood draw.

Canine Blood Heroes to the rescue! Canine Blood Heroes, founded in 2009 by Dr. Adam Petersen, an Idaho Falls veterinarian, has eight locations and about 140 donor dogs throughout the country. We’re fortunate to have a Canine Blood Heroes blood bank in our backyard — at the Animal Emergency Hospital of North Texas in Grapevine. However, there’s a serious need for donor dogs here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “As veterinarians, we’re facing a huge dog blood shortage,” says Dr. Petersen. “We have a long way to go before every one of our furry friends has access to blood.” Could your dog donate blood and save lives?

Donor Requirements

Donor dogs must be:

  • 1 – 7 years old (up to 10 years old for greyhounds)
  • At least 50 lbs
  • Healthy and free of disease
  • Current on vaccines and preferably on a monthly heartworm preventative
  • Happy and friendly

Breeds that are Good Candidates for Blood Donation

Greyhounds make excellent donors because their veins are easy to find, there’s a higher percentage of universal donors, and they create red blood cells faster so they can replace lost blood faster. They also have a good temperament for donating blood. Dr. Petersen told me the Grapevine blood bank has many greyhound donors who are associated with Greyhound Adoption League of Texas — thank you!

Other Breeds that Make Good Donors

  • Sighthounds (e.g., Irish Wolfhounds, Deerhounds, Salukis, Borzois)
  • Boxers
  • Dobermans
  • Pitbulls

The Donation Procedure

  • Your dog will have to be blood typed to be sure he’s a universal donor
  • The whole donation process, including shaving a patch of fur, takes about 20 minutes
  • The blood draw itself takes five to seven minutes
  • Canine Blood Heroes technicians draw 450 ml of blood — split up into two single units of packed blood cells and two bags of plasma
  • You must make an appointment

For more information and to make an appointment, contact Canine Blood Heroes at caninebloodheroes@gmail.com or 208-346-2542.

“Canine Blood Heroes are saving lives one best friend at a time. Local dog heroes can save the lives of other dogs in their community,” says Petersen.

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