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Our Pets Give So Much Already – What More Can They Give?

There is an important and life saving program in Calgary that you and your greyhound can participate in. It is the canine blood donor program established at the Western Veterinary Specialist Center, 1802 10th Ave. S.W.
WVSC is a specialty practice and referral center that requires canine (and feline) blood for use during the emergencies, surgeries and therapies they encounter daily. WVSC also supplies other local veterinary clinics with needed blood products when possible.

Greyhounds, as well as certain other large breed dogs, make ideal blood donors. Greyhounds normally have a negative blood type, which makes them universal donors able to donate their blood to other breeds of dogs that need it. Their blood is rich in red blood cells because like most aerobic athletes, greyhounds require a large number of red cells to sufficiently oxygenate their bodies during strenuous runs.

From a procedural viewpoint, the greyhound’s lean physique, short coat and normally docile nature make it easy for technicians to access veins.

The program works as follows...if you would like to have your greyhound take part as a donor for the blood bank, your dog will need to be healthy, between the ages of 1 and 7 and weigh more than 20-25 kg or 50 lbs. You can leave your contact information with Trish Lindsay A.H.T., Janine Simpson A.H.T. or Beckie MacLean A.H.T. at WVSC either by phone 770-1340 or via email.... blooddonorprogram@westernvet.ca with “Blood donor program” in the subject line. They will ask when you are available to bring your dog into the center for an initial meeting and testing. This initial exam consists of a brief questionnaire regarding your greyhound’s history, a general physical as well as the drawing of a small amount of blood to do blood typing and a blood panel. The blood panel includes testing your dog for some of the more common tick borne diseases that can afflict our ex-racers...ehrlichia (e. canis), babesia (b. canis), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (R. rickettsii) and Lyme (B. burgdorferi). The cost of this initial testing and processing is covered by the clinic and the results of these tests are given to you as well as sent to your veterinarian for your dog's file. This testing is a definite benefit to our potential donors and has already alerted some greyhound owners to previously unknown health concerns with their dogs. WVSC must do these preliminary exams to make sure the dogs are not anemic, have heart/kidney/liver problems or any other diseases that would eliminate them as donors. Once established as healthy, your greyhound ’s name will go onto a blood bank list and you will be called to bring him or her into the clinic every few months to donate blood to the bank.

The process of donation takes approximately 30 minutes from arrival at the clinic. A small area on the dog's neck is shaved and blood is taken from their jugular vein while they stand or lay down. Dogs who need it can be sedated for this procedure but it is definitely easier for the dog, the owner and the technicians to have the more docile dogs take part. It is not a painful procedure for the dogs and the techs are wonderful to help keep the dogs calm.

Apart from the satisfaction of knowing your pet has helped to save the life of another, the additional benefits of being a blood donor include... a snack for your pet after the procedure, a gift pack which includes treats for your pet, a purple heart tag for their collar stating they are a donor, and a blood buddy pin for you.  A payment of $50.00 per donation is offered to the donor's family in the form of a cheque for $200.00 (after four donations) to be used however you wish.

If you think you would like your greyhound to take part in the blood donor program or need further information, please call or email Trish or myself.  For those interested in canine blood donation programs outside Calgary, please contact your veterinarian for information in your area.

My participation in this program is in memory of my cherished 3 year old retired racing greyhound, Cold Cash Chris, who was diagnosed in January 2003 with a rare form of bone marrow cancer that, I believe, resulted from a long-standing, untreated tick borne disease that I was unaware of. Chris required 9 blood transfusions over the course of his illness and subsequent death so I can attest to the need for this program and the good that it does for many of the patients requiring the blood products.

Nina Howe

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