Can Dogs Donate Blood?
An Interview with Dr. Jean Dodds, the founder of HemoPet, the first commercial blood bank for dogs.
You have mostly likely given blood to be used in transfusions to save lives. I, myself, gave blood a few weeks ago, and in the Pet Treater office, the conversation came up about dog blood donations. Where does the blood come from for dog transfusions? Turns out, a brilliant woman named Dr. Jean Dodds had this same thought years ago.
Dr. Dodds, a veterinarian, immunologist and hematologist was in charge of regulating the human blood bank program in New York State during the discovery of AIDS. Managing the blood safety during that time was a very serious issue, and this led to the question in Dr. Dodds’ mind: Why not have a Red Cross for dogs? Very soon after this initial thought, HemoPet, the first non-profit commercial blood bank for dogs was founded.
Operating since early 1991, HemoPet has impacted thousands of pup lives!
HemoPet is an organization that rescues greyhounds from Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona that were deemed unsuitable or were retired from racing. All of the donor dogs first selected to be free of blood-transmissible infectious diseases and then to have the so-called “universal donor” blood type (DEA-4). Because the blood type of a dog is not typically known, this universal donor policy makes sure that dogs receive only blood that is compatible. Like blood type O in humans, this universal donor blood is compatible with all blood types.
Every 3 weeks, new dogs arrive at the HemoPet headquarters. Each dog goes through a screening process where they are identified as healthy. This includes a CBC, serum chemistry and full thyroid test, NutriScan, vaccine titer test and more! If the dog is not considered healthy enough to be a donor, the dog is adopted out as a family companion.
Dogs that are found to be healthy, have been neutered or spayed, and passed through the screening process start to donate blood. Twice per month, a pediatric size unit of blood (250 ml) is donated by each dog. This is well below the maximum amount that can be regularly collected, to make sure that they do not physiologically harm any of the animals. After one year of donating, the dogs are adopted by new families, following a rigorous pre- adoption approval process. The adopter of the dog goes to HemoPet headquarters as often as desired but at least one month prior to the adoption so that the dog gets to know the new guardian before the official placement.
HemoPet has a wonderful 3-acre facility with houses for all of the dogs. Click HERE to see the facility first hand!
50 full-time employees, hundreds of volunteers, and a variety of children with parental supervision, as well as adult individuals with special needs help make HemoPet run. However, even with all of this help and support caring for 200 + resident greyhounds, you can appreciate that HemoPet loses money every month. Any help you may be able to offer is gratefully accepted and much appreciated whether you chose to. donate to the organization or volunteer, if you are in the area.
After the blood is collected, what happens to it?
The blood, just like human blood, is fractioned into the red and other blood cells and the liquid plasma. The Plasma is quickly frozen and keeps for up to 5 years. The red and other blood cells have special nutrients added, are then chilled and shipped to the HemoPet repositories around the United States, Canada and Hong Kong where it is then used for patient transfusions.
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Pet Treater Team