Good Boy: Canine Blood Donors Are Saving Dogs’ Lives

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Dogs are some of the most social, pack-minded animals on the planet, with a seemingly endless desire to be good boys and girls (Really, do we deserve them?).

Perhaps that’s why Jax was all smiles, even after getting stuck with a needle at a vet’s office in Bristow, Virginia. The pit bull-bull dog mix wasn’t there to get a checkup, though: He was donating blood.

It’s an often-unconsidered fact that in case of illness or injury, blood transfusions can save the lives of not just humans, but those of our furry companions too.

That’s what happened after Indy, a Lab who’s now 5 years old, ate gum containing xylitol — which is fine for humans, but very poisonous to dogs.

Indy’s owners rushed her to the vet, where she had a seizure because of low blood sugar. The pup was transferred to Virginia Vet Centers in Fredericksburg, and over the next seven days, received intensive treatment including IV fluids and antibiotics.

Indy went into liver failure and was given six double units of canine plasma to keep her from bleeding to death, her owners said.

It took seven days before Indy was recovered enough to head home. Now, her blood is back to normal and she’s happy at home.

“Without the plasma donated from other dogs, Indy surely would not have survived this ordeal,” her owners told News4 in an email.

Not every dog gets so lucky. Casey Mills, an account manager at the North American Veterinary Blood Bank, shared the story of another dog who came in to the emergency room needing multiple blood transfusions.

There was no blood available, and the dog died.

“There is a critical shortage of animal blood affecting the D.C. area right now,” Mills said.

The North American Veterinary Blood Bank (NAVBB) is battling that shortage. It currently accepts donations at a vet’s center in Bristow, Virginia, and is looking to expand to D.C. and Maryland. That would allow more people to donate conveniently.

A wide donor pool is needed: Animals have blood types just like humans. Cats have three different feline-specific blood types, and canines have a whopping 12. 

Blood types aren’t breed specific, but greyhounds are known for being universal donors, Mills said. Most dogs aged 1-7 that are in good health, have a good temperament and weigh more than 50 pounds can donate. (Cats must weigh 9.5 pounds. Here’s more information on requirements).

“Many people do not realize the significant impact their dog could make,” Mills said.

The dogs that donate under NAVBB’s community donor model live at home with their families and come into the Bristow office to donate once a month.

Of course, dogs and their owners get perks for their efforts.

“They’re always so excited when they come in the door to see us because they know we’re going to give them tons of peanut butter or Milk-Bones … whatever their little heart desires,” Mills said.

The owner of one donor dog, Freddie, told News4, “Honestly, he does it for the peanut butter!”

Smiley Jax, who was rescued from a junkyard, hardly even notices the procedure, his owner Kristina says.

Pet owners get discounts on checkups and disease screenings — plus the satisfaction of knowing they could be saving the life of someone’s best friend.

Claire Savage reported on this story

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  • Towels and blankets - Shelters are often cold and animals like to have a blanket to curl up on. Towels are a big help to dry animals off after being bathed or if they come in wet. Towels can also be used to line the bottoms of cages. The towels or blankets don't have to be brand new or in perfect condition. The animals won't mind, as long as they're usable.
  • Canned and Dry Food for Cats and Dogs-Healthy - Healthy pet options for nourishment
  • Kitty litter and cat boxes - Cats go to the bathroom- a lot. Shelters are constantly using bag after bag of litter. Their supply runs out fast.
  • Puppy or kitten formula and nursing bottles - Sometimes there are situations where a young puppy or kitten who is not weaned gets separated from their mother. In these situations they need puppy or kitten formula to survive.
  • Old newspaper - When you're done with your newspapers you usually just throw them away or recycle them, right? You could help animals at no cost to you if you just save up your old newspapers. Newspapers are used in the bottoms of cages. They get soiled quickly, so they're in constant demand.
  • Collars, harnesses, and leashes - Dogs who are taken out on walks need a leash and collar or harness. The shelter loses some because adopted dogs often go home with their leash or harness.
  • Grooming supplies - Grooming supplies can include shampoo, brushes, combs, haircutting scissors, etc. Dogs and cats often come in dirty or end up getting dirty. Grooming supplies can keep them fresh, clean, and adoptable.
  • Toys - You would get bored if you had to lay in a crate alone all day, wouldn't you? Animals in shelters get bored, too. It keeps the animals from being so lonely and bored and allows them to get exercise. You could go out and buy new toys, or you could donate toys your pets or children may have not gotten much use out of. It's as simple as that.
  • Crates and carriers - Animals need to be transported somehow, and the cost of multiple crates and carriers can add up quickly. You can donate ones you stopped using that are still in good condition or you could go buy one for a decent price. This helps the shelter tremendously.
  • Paper towels and cleaning supplies - There are a lot of situations that get messy, so paper towels are a big help.
  • Hand wash and hand sanitizer - People who work at shelters need to keep their hands clean for their and the animals' health.
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, and bleach - Towels and blankets get soiled often so the washing machines are being used a lot
  • Dog and cat beds - this can offer the animals a soft place to lay instead of a kennel or cage floor.
  • Heating pads - Many animals come in cold or are young and need warmth. Heating pads can replace a mother's warmth.
  • Copy paper and pens, pencils, post-it notes and staples - You can't forget about all the paperwork that has to be done. Donating these items makes it so the shelter doesn't have to buy them on their own.
  • Garbage bags, mops, brooms, and sponges - The shelter uses these every day and clean up supplies can get expensive.
  • Food bowls - As new animals come in, the shelter needs new places to put food. Having an adequate supply could mean life or death for an animal in a shelter.
  • Rubber and latex gloves - A lot of messy stuff happens and gloves are necessary to lessen the spread of germs.
  • Plastic shopping bags - Plastic bags can be used to clean up dog mess and to store things in.

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