Can You Make a Pet Blood Donation?

By Laurie Fanelli in Helping Hands

While most people are well aware of blood drives and donation centers—and many have donated blood themselves—the concept of pet blood donation is relatively new.

A small study published in Vet Record found that, among a group of surveyed pet owners, most were not aware of pet blood donation, but many expressed a willingness to allow their pets to make such a donation. The BMJ breaks down the study's findings, explaining that "the desire to help others or save lives" was the most common reason for people to consider the procedure.

If you think your four-legged friend could be a purr-fect blood donor, discuss the procedure with your veterinarian. In the meantime, here's an overview of what you can expect during a pet blood donation.

Woman Sits on Bench at Vet Office with Dog

Pet Blood Donation Process

A paper published in Sociology of Health & Illness explains that the process of canines donating blood is somewhat similar to that of humans.

Dogs typically are not sedated. While the blood is collected, they remain in a lying position for about five minutes. Also, similar to people, the risks of dogs donating blood are minimal. Rarely, they may experience side effects of fainting, bleeding, or bruising.

The process of donating blood may vary slightly at different veterinary offices. The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine outlines how their dog blood donation program works:

  • An area of hair is clipped over the jugular vein.
  • The area is prepped with a sterile scrub.
  • Blood is collected through a needle into a sterile collection set.
  • The dog is given IV fluid to replace the pint of blood that was removed.
  • After the process, the dog is given lots of love, a toy, and a treat.

Cats can give blood, too; however, Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center notes that felines typically give blood under anesthesia. Both dogs and cats should be fed the night before the donation and skip breakfast the day of the procedure. They will be fed immediately following the donation.

Eligibility

Most healthy cats and dogs can give blood. The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine lists a friendly disposition, healthy weight (over 50 pounds for dogs and over 10 pounds for cats), and being up to date on vaccinations among its qualifications for donors. Dogs must also be on heartworm, flea, and tick preventives during flea and tick season and be between the ages of one and six when entering the program. Cats should be indoor pets between the ages of two to six, and they must be negative for feline leukemia or FIV.

Your veterinarian can provide more information about any necessary criteria.

Benefits for Pets and Their People

Pet blood donations help make life-saving medical procedures possible for other animals, but the Sociology of Health & Illness paper also notes a number of human benefits. During interviews with dog owners at blood donation centers in the UK, the owners noted a strengthened bond between dogs and humans throughout the blood donation process. Some owners even felt a reduction of guilt for their own inability to give blood when viewing their pets as "proxy donors."

One interviewee stated, "I feel as though I am doing something. Like I say it might be a child's dog or an old person's companion we might have saved."

Pets are members of the family, and while some fur babies may be ideal blood donors, others may not. Whether or not you decide to make your pet a blood donor is a personal decision, but it isn't the only way families can volunteer with pets. Certifying your dog or cat as a therapy animal or welcoming a foster pet into your home can also be rewarding options for giving back with your pet.

Pet blood donations can building upon the bond of pet and person

How do you and your furry friend give back to the community? Share photos of your pets with @toms_of_maine on Instagram!

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Why It's Good

A pet blood donation can save the lives of other dogs and cats while also strengthening the bond between pet and person.