A trip to the vet can be an anxiety-provoking experience for any dog. Husky mix Glitch has no problem going in for a checkup, and the rescue dog likes the doctor.
Glitch’s early life was spent with medical care professionals because he was frequently sick as a puppy. Now that he is older and stronger, he has become a dog blood donor through the UK Charity Pet Blood Bank, saving the lives of fellow animals, one pint at a time.
Glitch is not the only dog giving blood. There are plenty of pups stepping up to make sure vets have everything they need in case of emergency. Just like humans, animals frequently need transfusions during surgery. However, there are few national canine blood banks or commercial operations that supply blood. Donors can make a difference, ensuring that vets have what they need without relying on disreputable organizations that “farm” dogs for their blood.
Here’s what you need to know about pet blood donations:
Does my dog have a blood type?
Glitch’s owner, Karl Sparham, asked that very question. While reading a Reddit forum one day, he stumbled upon a thread about pet blood donations that sparked a worry in his mind.
“There was a comment in which a user was talking about their dog who had been involved in an accident, and their vet didn’t know the dog’s blood group,” Sparham said. “He effectively had to choose what blood to transfuse at random, which could have had fatal consequences.”
There are actually five major dog blood groups, including a universal donor, the equivalent of the “O negative” blood type in humans. Greyhounds are frequently used as canine blood donor since the breed tends to have the type of blood that can be used for all dogs with minimal reactions.
Can my dog be a blood donor?
Glitch was “fit and healthy” with a good temperament, between 1 and 8 years old, fully vaccinated, parasite-free and over 55 pounds and met all the criteria to become a canine blood donor for Pet Blood Bank. Most hospitals do a screening to check for any blood-borne illnesses and require that a dog is not on any medication.
Recurring donors typically have blood collected between four and six times a year at veterinary hospitals. Pets are able to donate as often as every three weeks.
How long does the process take?
Donations typically take approximately 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish, with the actual donation only lasting for 10 minutes. Some vets will offer your pet a free health check, or even monetary compensation.
When Glitch was about to give blood, the process was fast and surprisingly simple. The dog was led into the donation room and laid on his side while one veterinary assistant monitored his pulse, checking for signs of distress, and two others inserted the needle and comforted the pup. Blood is taken from the large jugular vein in the neck, and dogs do not experience any side effects besides occasional slight swelling where the blood was drawn.
When Glitch’s session was completed, he was given food, dog treats and a toy.
Will it hurt my dog?
Sparham and his pup Glitch found the experience to be generally pleasant. No anesthesia is needed during the blood donation process, and it will not affect a dog’s energy levels or activities.
“Glitch seemed to enjoy the experience,” Sparham said. “At no point did he become submissive or fearful, and seemed happy with all the fuss he was receiving, which was helped by the familiarity of the venue and the staff.” Sparham is not done spreading the word.
“In a few weeks I’d like to have a ‘Blood Donor’ label for Glitch’s harness,” Sparham added, “and side bags filled with leaflets!”
Where do I sign my dog up to donate?
You can register your dog to be a canine blood donor, locate a pet blood bank near you or contact your local veterinary hospital and find out how you can help a dog in need.
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