Dogs | Cats | December 21, 2015

Quiet heroes; Pets that are blood donors

Ember the dog giving blood

Being a human blood donor is a well known and highly valued practice, but did you know that there are also pet blood donors who willingly help other pets with vital life-giving blood?

Ember is a Canadian Kennel Club registered German Shepherd who is loved and nurtured by April and Brian Spiess. She is an active girl who enjoys doing nosework, participating with April in a canine drill team, and most of all pulling her cart in parades and other community events. But perhaps her most important activity has been as a regular blood donor since 2009.

Years ago when Ember was a puppy, April attended a pet fair where she met a representative for the Vancouver Emergency Animal clinic who told her about the blood donation program they were starting. At the time, Ember was too young to participate, but when April was at another Emergency Clinic in the Fraser Valley several years later, she inquired if they had a donor program. They did! Ember gave her first donation on December 13, 2009. Since then, she has donated blood a total of 20 times and her last donation was in November of 2015. Normally dogs are ‘retired’ from regular donations at the age of 8 since as they age, dogs need all of their resources to keep their bodies healthy.  However, Ember was in such good health that her retirement was extended to age 9.

Animals who are going to be donating blood are given a health exam and their blood is ‘typed’. The program also extends to cats. After the initial exam, suitable candidates receive a number of tests like CBC, a Chemistry Screen and heartworm or FIV testing. Both cats and dogs must be between the ages of 1 and 8 years and their body weight must be a minimum of 50lbs for dogs and 8lbs for cats. They must be spayed or neutered, be in good physical condition with a good temperament and have had no previous transfusions, among several other requirements. A total of 450ml of blood was taken each time Ember donated.

The donated blood is stored on site and when veterinarians are in need of it, they can call and ask for it. Currently there are approximately 30 dogs in the Fraser Valley program, but more are always needed to fill the high demand. To inquire or find out more information about this program, click here or ask your vet about blood donor programs in your area.

Amongst the rewards of participating in the program, (i.e. LOTS of cookies and a gift card each time she donates as well as free transfusions should she ever need one), Ember and April have been able to see the results of their labours firsthand. They had the opportunity to meet Molly, a golden retriever who received Ember’s blood in 2012 and is still going strong at 11 years old. How gratifying!

There are many donation programs spread across North America. Why not check around your region and see if there is one locally that you can contribute to with your pet, and give a very special gift to another pet and their family.