Animal blood banks ask pets and their
people to be generous this holiday season
By Brendan Quealy
During this season of giving, animal blood banks across the United States are asking pet guardians to be generous and give the gift of life by bringing dogs or cats to donate blood at local veterinarians or animal hospitals. “There is a year-round need for blood,” says Amy Waggoner, manager of the animal blood bank at the Indianapolis Veterinary Emergency Center (IVEC). “We ship around the country. Everything we draw goes out and then some.”
“I think the issue is that people don’t know that this is a need. More would be willing to participate if they knew they could help,” Waggoner explains. The staff and marketing team at IVEC is doing what they can to spread the word about the need for more animal blood donors by conducting live blood draws on local morning television programs, doing interviews for local and national magazines, going on local radio stations to promote upcoming events they will be attending, along with other grassroots strategies.
“We try to talk to people, and we also have a referral program for clients who have pets that are already donating,” says Waggoner. “If they send us friends or family, we give them discounts on care and other benefits.”
Many of the blood banks across the country offer benefits to clients whose pets donate blood. Often times they are given free basic care throughout the year, free blood workups, discounts on vaccinations, medicine, and even hospital stays or procedures.
Of course, there are limits and requirements placed on the donations. To begin with, most animal blood banks do not allow dogs older than eight years old to donate since it can be taxing on the health of senior dogs, and recovery time can take much longer. Because of this, Waggoner says, there is “high-rate of turnover” that places a constant demand on blood banks to seek out new donors.
In many ways, the process is very similar to human blood donation. The blood is screened for any potentially harmful diseases like heartworm, anemia, feline AIDS, and other blood-borne afflictions. Doctors do a general health exam to see if the animal is healthy enough to undergo the procedure, as well as a behavioral consult to make sure that the pet is well taken care of and mentally sound.
“We go through a lot of testing before we take any blood from the animal,” says Waggoner. “We look for any sign that drawing blood might be difficult on them or put them in distress.” The procedure itself is so similar to humans that the same exact bags and needles are used on the bigger breeds of dogs such as Great Danes and St. Bernards. Each time one of those dogs donates blood, which can be up to six times a year, the lives of four other animals can besaved. Smaller dogs that donate, those that fall into the “half pint” (35-50 pounds) category, have the potential to save two lives each time they donate.
Waggoner says cats that donate are often put under general anesthesia because they are “usually uncooperative and finicky,” but dogs are either left alone or given a mild sedative to calm them down. The blood is drawn from the legs of bigger dogs, but smaller breeds, as well as cats, they use a vein in the neck which provides a much stronger flow. That way the procedure goes quicker and is less stressful on the animal.
Other than the slight prick when the needle goes in and some mild bruising at the point of injection, no harm is done to the animal. The animal’s body immediately begins to replenish the blood that was just taken out and is usually back to normal within a couple of days. The red blood cell count, however, may take up to a month to return to normal levels.
The blood is used during transfusions, during surgeries, or to replenish a dog after a massive amount of blood loss after a traumatic incident such as being hit by a car. It also helps to clear the blood of flea anemia and can help puppies survive the Parvovirus, which is often deadly. The most important part is that the donated blood helps to save lives.
Since dogs have different blood types, animal blood banks throughout the U.S are looking for more donations from universal donors. Waggoner explains that most “Bully breeds,” i.e. Pit Bulls, Bull Dogs, Boxers, etc., are usually carriers of the universal type.
Please consider making your pet a blood donor year-round. The donation that your cat or dog gives truly is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.
If you would like your animal to be screened for a possible donation, please contact your local animal hospital, veterinarian, or animal blood bank (see box, top right). If your dog or cat does not qualify, please do your part and spread the word to other pet guardians and caretakers.
Animal hospitals all around the country are looking for donations from our four-legged friends. If your animal meets the general requirements and is in good health, we hope that you will consider contacting this or one of the many other animal blood banks to make an appointment. You and your pet can make a positive impact—the life of one animal may mean the world to someone else.
New England Animal Medical Center Blood Bank
595 West Center Street, West Bridgewater
Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center
3123 North Clybourn Avenue, Chicago,
Phone: 773.281.7110 x1067
Indianapolis Veterinary Emergency Clinic
5425 Victory Drive, Indianapolis
Animal Emergency Centre
11730 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City
Kentucky Animal Blood Bank
2120 Pimlico Drive, Richmond
The Animal Medical Center
510 East 62nd Street, New York
Penn Animal Blood Bank
3800 Spruce Street, Philadelphia
Visit upenn.edu/PennVet for information about the Vet Penn Bloodmobile as well as locations and dates of future blood drives.
Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center
141 East Ft. Lowell, Tuscon Phone: 877.762.9828
St. Louis Animal Blood Bank
9937 Big Bend Boulevard, Kirkwood
Twin Cities Animal Blood Bank
14690 Pennock Avenue, Apple Valley