Dog-Blood Drive Finds Eager Donors, as Long as Treats Are Involved

By Nathan Carrick
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cooper, a 5-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, was so excited to give blood at Sandy Spring Veterinary Hospital that he slid and spun on the linoleum floor past the door on his way to the room where the procedure is done.

"He really loves this," said Ann Schneider, a veterinarian and director of Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank.

Her organization travels to veterinary hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region about every other week to collect blood from volunteer dogs, working much the same way blood drives for humans work.

While some dogs can be nervous, Schneider said most of them calm down when she gives them plenty of treats. Many repeat donors even look forward to the experience, she said.

"We don't do dogs that are upset," she said. "We don't do biting or growling."

Each blood drive visit can attract from three to 25 donors, she said, and anything more than 15 is considered a good day.

"Dogs need blood just like people do," she said. "If owners love dogs and want to help other dogs, this is a great way to do it."

Cooper, who belongs to Norman Roskin, a veterinarian at Sandy Spring Veterinary Hospital, gives blood every time the blood bank visits.

The Severna Park-based Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank supplies more than half of all blood used by U.S. veterinary clinics.

With his tail wagging happily, Cooper nosed in assistant Dave Anderson's apron pocket for treats.

After conducting a brief physical examination, Anderson and Schneider lifted Cooper onto a table in the center of the room. Anderson lay on the table next to Cooper, draping his arms and legs over the dog to keep him stationary.

"It's a very loose hold," Schneider said, noting that it was a precaution meant to protect the patient.

Next, Schneider shaved a small patch of fur from Cooper's neck and carefully inserted the needle. The bag slowly filled with blood -- up to a pint is not unusual for larger dogs, Schneider said.

Cooper's tail wagged as Schneider fed him peanut butter and treats while he lay on the table.

She said the blood is needed in veterinary hospitals for the same reasons humans need blood: operations, internal bleeding, immune diseases or injuries. Some dogs even suffer from forms of hemophilia, a disease that prevents blood from clotting properly.

Dogs have 13 blood types, compared with four human blood types. However, canine blood is much more forgiving in that only one type does not mix well with the others, Schneider said.

She added that having a dog donate blood is both important and easy.

"Two years ago a lot of owners wouldn't have pursued it," Schneider said. "A lot of people think their dogs won't do it, and they will."

She added that as with human blood, there are often shortages for dogs.

"We need more donors, more donors, more donors," she said.

When Cooper finished his donation, he hopped down off the table and devoured a few more treats before being led from the room.

Within minutes, Duncan, a 5-year-old golden retriever, skittered into the room and began rummaging for treats.

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