Let’s face it, most of us try our very best to avoid bloody situations. There’s just something about blood that makes some of us weak in the knees 😉. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the brave ones amongst us, who have made it their life’s calling to help the wounded; those who are (luckily) not as sensitive to dealing with traces, pools or bags of blood. Medical and paramedical heroes ‘caped’ with scrubs, laboratory coats, and uniforms, we salute you and even fellow humans who donate blood regularly. Thank you for playing a vital role in saving lives, helping people in times of need.
These heroes, however, aren’t always human… Come again?! Yup, sometimes dogs donate blood to other dogs. If a dog has lost a significant amount of blood during surgery, due to an accident or illness, his fellow furry ‘caped’ heroes can come to the rescue to donate the ‘liquid of life’. Just like us humans, dogs can save lives. Just when we thought it wasn’t possible to love and respect dogs any more than we already do!
Did you know?
Dogs have more than 12 blood groups, and their red blood cells may contain any combination of these since each blood group is inherited independently. The most important of these is called Dog Erythrocyte Antigen (DEA) 1.1. Typing of blood donors and recipients is done before transfusion. Dogs that are DEA 1.1 negative, can only receive blood from other dogs with the same blood group, while DEA 1.1 positive dogs can receive blood from positive or negative blood groups.
How does the dog blood donation process work?
Firstly, Oreo, your black lab, needs to fit the selection criteria to donate. Just like us humans, dogs need to be in tip-top shape to donate blood.
The selection criteria:
- The donor must be healthy and well-tempered.
- Between 1-6 years of age and fully vaccinated.
- Over 26 kg of body weight to be able to donate 450 ml blood.
- Tick control measures must be up to date.
- If a heart murmur, seizures or any other chronic disease has been diagnosed, the dog is not fit for donation.
- If your pet previously received a blood donation, it is not recommended that s/he becomes a donor.
- Pets can donate blood once every 3 months.
So, if Oreo is underweight and in his golden years he, unfortunately, won’t make the cut. If he, however, meets the criteria, you can proceed with the blood donation under the supervision of a registered and qualified vet. His blood could end up saving a pooch or three in the process! Aww… who’s a good boy? 😊
The entire donation procedure will take about 10 to 30 minutes to complete. Oreo will be gently placed on a table, laying on his side, while a technician pets him and gives him lots of love. A qualified vet then shaves a small amount of fur off his neck and uses a tiny sterile needle to collect the blood. Most dogs don’t even feel a thing, while others only feel a small pinch.
As soon as the blood has been drawn, Oreo’s system will produce more blood to replace the blood lost during the donation. Just like we get rewarded with cookies, fruit juice and other goodies afterwards, so do dogs. Their juice is just replaced with a healthier option – plenty of water. While some dogs may be sluggish or weak after donating, others have no reaction at all – each dog is different. Overall, dogs recover much quicker from a blood donation than humans do.
Animal blood banks are becoming more common in the cities. The blood is stored at blood banks around South Africa, such as the two mentioned below:
- Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty in Pretoria (0861 00 8387)
- Tygerberg Animal Hospital in Cape Town (021 976 3015)
If you want your pooch to become Iron-woof, please contact one of the above blood banks or ask your local vet for assistance.