How To Help Your Dog Become A Blood Donor And Save Lives

Dr. Ann Schneider(L) holds up the donated half-pint as Vetererinary Assistant Dave Anderson holds and comforts "Jackson", who is donated one-half pint of blood August 10, 2009 at the Eastern Verterinary Blood Bank in Severna Park, Maryland. The blood is collected in a bag atop a scale on the floor(bottom). Each day throughout the country dogs need blood for serious procedures from accidents and illness. Without dog blood donors, veterinary surgeons could not perform these important and lifesaving operations. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

You may have donated your own blood to help medical patients in need of blood transfusions, but dogs sometimes need to get blood transfusions, too. Not many people think about donating their dog’s blood. After all, it can be pretty scary, even for humans who know it’s for a good cause. However, if your dog is calm and comfortable around veterinarians and meets all the requirements to be a donor, a blood donation from your pup may end up saving the life of another dog in need. If you and your dog would like to make a small sacrifice to help other pups, becoming a blood donor may be the right thing to do. Here’s what you should know about helping your dog donate blood.

Can Your Dog Donate Blood?

WHEAT RIDGE, COLORADO--JANUARY 27, 2005--Sporting a bandana that says "blood donor", Otis the greyhound, gets an animal Powerbar treat from Kim Cook after he donated blood at the Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital. Just like their human counterparts, treats are offered to animals who have just donated blood. Wheat Ridge Animal hospital is one of the few clinics that take blood donations year-round and even has older cats donated from shelters kept in a comfortable room solely for the purpose of blood donations. Otis's owners are regular customers of the clinic and offer Otis for emergency blood donations. (PHOTO BY GLENN ASAKAWA/DENVER POST STAFF) (Photo By Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The first step in finding out whether your dog is eligible to be a blood donor is talking to your veterinarian. Some vets are able to collect blood on site, while others will send you to a blood bank or veterinary school to donate. Different areas have different regulations with regard to canine blood donations, and your vet will be a good source of information about your local laws.

When it comes to eligibility, each facility has its own requirements. Generally, eligible dogs must have a calm disposition when it comes to vet visits. They must be in good health, be free of any communicable diseases, have no signs of heart murmurs, and not be on any medication other than flea or tick medicines. Usually your dog will have to weigh at least 50 to 55 pounds without being overweight, and they must be between the ages of 1 to 7 or 8 years old. If your dog does not meet these requirements, you should still ask your veterinarian about blood donation, as other facilities may not have the same rules.

Some blood donation facilities require your dog to have a universal donor blood type. Like humans, dogs can have any of five different major blood types, and the universal donor blood type is the equivalent of the human O negative, though canine blood types are designated differently. Short-haired dogs are also preferred, as there is minimal risk of contamination while drawing blood. Greyhounds are usually considered perfect for canine blood donations as they are most likely to be the universal donor type, they are the proper size, and their short hair makes it easy to draw their blood without contamination. If your dog does not have the universal donor blood type or you don’t know your dog’s blood type, you should still ask your veterinarian about donation.

What Is The Blood Donation Process?

MUMBAI, INDIA - APRIL 7: Dog blood donation camp as a part of the Annual Fest Spandan 2017 at Bombay Veterinary College, Parel, on April 7, 2017 in Mumbai, India. It was a unique blood donation drive as the institute’s student council aimed to boost their blood bank for dogs. This blood-donation drive, along with a stray animal adoption day and other events is part of the institute's annual festival - Spandan. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Dogs who may be eligible to donate blood will be screened for any blood-borne illnesses. The actual process of donating blood is very simple and only takes a few minutes. Unlike humans who have blood drawn from the arm, the needle will be placed in the donating dog’s jugular in the neck. The veterinarian or technician will begin by shaving and disinfecting the area to make the process easier and reduce the chance of contamination during the blood drawing.

The dog will be placed in a comfortable position, usually lying on their side, while one person holds their head in place gently. No anesthesia will be necessary. The veterinarian or technician will insert the needle into the jugular. They may collect 250 to 450 ml of blood in one visit. Once the donation is complete, the dog can go about their normal activities. They may want to take a nap afterward. A bump may appear at the site where the needle was placed, but it should disappear fairly quickly.

Dogs who donate blood are usually given plenty of treats, as they can’t eat cookies like humans. Some veterinarians provide an incentive to donate blood by giving a credit for future medical treatment. You should ask your veterinarian if they do this. Dogs that are good candidates for blood donation may be asked to be repeat donors. The dogs that donate 250 ml of blood can donate again within 10 to 14 days, while dogs that donate 450 ml of blood can return after three to four weeks. Most donors make donations every two months or so and usually don’t donate more than six times per year.

If you and your dog make the decision to donate blood, you should know that you are saving lives. Veterinarians are often in desperate need of donations, and canine blood only has a shelf life of about 30 to 40 days. One 250 ml donation can be used to save the life of a 30 to 40 pound dog depending on the condition being treated. Small dogs obviously require less blood during transfusions while larger dogs need more. If your friends ask about the shaved spot on your dog’s neck, it can be a good opportunity to spread the word about canine blood donations and to take pride in your dog’s brave sacrifice.

Has your dog ever donated blood? Would you recommend blood donation to other dog owners? Let us know in the comments below!

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