Your dog could be a hero!  Did you know that your dog could help save other dogs’ lives?

January is National Blood Donor Month in the USA, an awareness day that has been recognised since the 1970s.  In the UK, we have a blood donation day in June but when I discovered an exciting UK programme recently, I couldn’t wait until June to write about it!  

How Your Dog Could Help Save Other Dogs’ Lives

Blood donation saves millions of lives annually and helps with the recovery and health of patients who have illnesses, injuries or complex operations.  I recently noticed a sign in my vet surgery asking for dog blood donors.  Although it seems obvious that there is a need for it, I was initially surprised.  It had never occurred to me before, but of course there must be a need for animal blood banks so that vets can perform life-saving surgery. 

Bracken Veterinary Practice is my local vets and they have cared for all my four dogs and two cats.  They are about to introduce the blood donation programme in the practice.  I spoke to Jenny Brown, Clinical Director of Bracken Veterinary Practice in Bracknell to find out more.

Bracken Practice Team with Violet
Bracken Veterinary Practice Team (Jenny, Grace & Nicole) with Violet

Can you tell me a bit about the pet blood donation programme?

The Pet Blood Bank was launched in 2007 and is the only UK charity that provides a canine blood bank service for all veterinary practices across the UK.  They are a not for profit organisation.  They currently have over 9000 registered donors and last year they sent out over 5000 units of blood.

Pet Blood Bank

What do they do?

They do more than just take and distribute blood donations.  Their aims include:

  • Advancing animal health and welfare and relieving suffering by providing vital blood products to the veterinary profession
  • Promoting an understanding of and educating those involved in the provision of health care to animals
  • Educating the general public about the welfare needs of animals
  • Providing and promoting a blood transfusion service for animals.

How long have you been involved in appealing for donors?

I graduated in 2004, before the Pet Blood Bank was launched, and remember the difficulties in sourcing donors in an emergency situation.  I have used blood and blood products from the Pet Blood Bank in many cases and it has often been literally life saving.  Our sister practice, Beechwood Vets in Reading (where I used to work), has been a donor centre for 3 years.  I’m hoping to get Bracken registered as a donor centre as well.  We are currently awaiting our practice visit.

Why would someone’s pet donate blood?

Each unit of blood your pet donates can help save the lives of up to four dogs.

Each unit your pet donates can help save the lives of up to four dogs.  I have used blood products from the Pet Blood Bank to treat dogs with life threatening anaemias (low red blood cells); Parvovirus and traumatic blood loss.  Having blood products on standby also allows us to perform more risky, but potentially life saving surgeries for dogs in our care.

I treated a really nice dog who had a bone marrow problem and wasn’t making enough red blood cells. The Pet Blood Bank couriered blood down to us for a transfusion so we could stabilise him enough to anaesthetise him for a bone marrow biopsy, and then again a week later when he worsened while we were waiting for his medication to work. He went on to make a full recovery.

If I wanted to donate blood from my pet, how does it work?

Dog owners can register their pet to give blood at one of the many sessions they run across the country (an average of 5 sessions a week).  There are criteria for donors to be eligible to donate.   Once you register your dog you will be sent out a Donor Information Pack, which includes a Donor Health Check form.

Donation sessions are run by appointments on special days, your appointment is split into two parts: a health check (by a fully qualified vet), followed by the blood donation. After donating you will stay at the venue for a short time to allow your dog to have a drink and something to eat and be observed by the team.  Then they get a goody bag and can go home!  They need to take it easy for the rest of the day but can return to their normal routine the following day.

The whole process takes about 45 minutes (although the actual donation only takes 5-10 minutes).

How do I register?

Visit the Pet Blood Bank website’s Session Locator page and enter your postcode.  You will be able to see which locations near you are registered with the programme.  There is information on the page about how to register and what to expect.

Pet Blood Bank

What types of pet can donate?

At the moment only dogs can donate, however they hope to be able to include other pets, such as cats, in the blood bank scheme in the near future, so watch this space.

What are the eligibility criteria for the donors?

Fit and healthy

Between 1 and 8 years old

Weigh more than 25kg

Have a good temperament

Have never travelled abroad

Vaccinated

Not on any medication

If my pets are not eligible, are there any other ways I can get involved?

Yes!  You can help by getting involved either as a volunteer: helping set up at donation sessions and meeting and greeting or by fundraising- more details are available on their website www.petbloodbankuk.org


Thank you so much to Jenny for answering all of my questions.  The Pet Blood Bank is a fantastic organisation and one I will be supporting.  My four little furry friends are not eligible to donate, but I will be volunteering at Bracken Veterinary Practice to help run donations sessions.  I will post again to tell you all about it!

The Pet Blood Bank is such a worthwhile cause.  You and your dog could help save lives, and maybe your dog’s life could be saved by a blood bank donation.


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