Donating blood is not just a human activity

Donating blood is not just a human activity

By Isabel Alvarez [File Photo]

My dogs recently applied to become blood donors. Well, I applied on their behalf, but they patiently went through the process to ensure their blood is worth collecting so that they could help other dogs.

Most people do not know that there is a massive shortage of canine blood available for veterinary transfusions needed to treat illnesses or injuries. It never occurred to me that dogs could — and should — donate blood until my business partner and friend asked me to accompany her to her dogs’ donor appointment.

I’m so thankful she did. I gladly accepted Beth’s invite and soon was so enamored with the idea of canine blood donation that it prompted me to make an appointment for my dogs.

The guidelines for donation are strict and for good reason. Dogs must be at least nine months old and no more than nine years old to donate, (but all dogs must be accepted as donors by the time they are approximately seven years old). Donors must weigh at least 35 pounds, be in good health and cannot be on medication. They also must be on all preventatives — such as monthly heartworm and flea/tick preventatives — and up-to-date on all vaccines. Finally, donors must commit to donating at least eight times each year. This makes the significant cost of the initial testing worthwhile.

Our first donor appointment at Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank was mostly an orientation of sorts but I was excited. I had met the veterinarian and her assistant during

Beth’s appointment and felt very much at ease with them. My dogs, Titan and Sox, seemed to mimic my energy, or maybe they could smell the snacks from the second we walked in the room.

After some nosh-filled encouragement, Sox was placed on what resembles a stretcher and the assistant laid behind her, holding her in place while the veterinarian took a blood sample. I sat at Sox’s head with a platter full of peanut butter, cheese spread, kibble and treats. I fed Sox with the help of a tongue depressor while the veterinarian held a razor right by her ear, attempting to gauge Sox’s anxiety with different aspects of the donor experience. As expected, Sox was far more engrossed in the plate of food than she was with the needles and other equipment.

Sox must have thought she had died and gone to heaven. They could have shaved her beautiful fur into a Mohawk and she would never have noticed.

After her, Titan was just as comfortable, if not more so. He is very motivated by food but not always a fan of cuddling. I thought he might dislike having a stranger hold him down. I was wrong. An explosion may have been the only thing getting Titan off that stretcher while the snack platter was near.

We are waiting on the results of their tests to learn their blood types and rule out any disqualifying illnesses, but we already made an appointment for them to donate later this month when the bank is back in the area. We should be getting a call to review the results this week.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Titan and Sox will be able to donate for the next couple of years. I much prefer voluntary donation to enslaving dogs in a lab for the same purpose. I also appreciate that the extensive tests the blood bank runs are complimentary as part of the donor application process. Most of all, I love the idea that Titan and Sox can make a difference in the life of another dog and family who may be facing a medical emergency.

Titan and Sox are, of course, crossing their paws that they may be invited back to gobble up the seemingly endless supply of peanut butter, cheese, treats and love that are part of the experience. It truly is an experience where everybody wins!

The writer is the owner 
of The Wag Pack.