9 min read

Your Dog Can Donate Blood To Save Other Dogs' Lives

“Glitch seemed to enjoy the experience ... and seemed happy with all the fuss he was receiving."

For many dogs, a trip to the vet can be an anxiety-provoking experience. But for husky mix Glitch, going in for a checkup is no problem at all — the rescue dog actually likes the doctor.

Because he was frequently sick as a puppy, most of Glitch’s early life was spent with medical care professionals, helping to make him the perfect patient. Now older and stronger, he has become a dog blood donor through the UK charity Pet Blood Bank, saving the lives of fellow animals, one pint at a time.

Glitch the husky after giving blood
Karl Sparham

But Glitch isn’t the only dog giving blood — plenty of pups are stepping up to make sure vets have everything they need in case of emergency, and your pet can, too.

Like humans, animals frequently need transfusions during surgery, yet there are few national canine blood banks or commercial operations that supply blood. Real donors can make a difference, ensuring that vets have what they need without relying on disreputable organizations that “farm” dogs for their blood.

Want to get involved? Here’s what you need to know about pet blood donations:

Does my dog have a blood type? Does it matter?

Glitch the husky smiles for the camera
Karl Sparham

It was this very question that got Glitch’s owner, Karl Sparham, interested in donating in the first place. Cruising a Reddit forum one day, he stumbled upon a thread about pet blood donations that sparked a worry in his mind.

“There was a comment in which a user was talking about their dog who had been involved in an accident, and their vet didn’t know the dog’s blood group,” Sparham told The Dodo. “He effectively had to choose what blood to transfuse at random, which could have had fatal consequences.”

There are five major dog blood groups, including a universal donor, the equivalent of the “O negative” blood type in humans. Greyhounds are frequently used as canine blood donors, as the breed tends to have the type of blood that can be used for all dogs with minimal reactions.

When checking blood type, vets will test for DEA (dog erythrocyte antigen) 1.1 negative and positive. Dogs who present as DEA 1.1 positive are considered universal recipients, while those who test negative are considered universal donors. Negative blood types, which are more common in breeds such as Dobermans, boxers, German shepherds, greyhounds, Airedale terriers and Weimaraners, are often in demand by blood banks — though almost any dog can donate and make a difference.

Can my dog be a blood donor?

Every blood donation program will have slightly different requirements for its donors, taking into account the health and size of the animal. If your dog is scared of the vet, he should definitely stay at home — even if he meets the other requirements.

Glitch met all the criteria to become a canine blood donor for Pet Blood Bank. He was “fit and healthy” with a good temperament, between 1 and 8 years old, fully vaccinated, parasite-free and over 55 pounds. Most hospitals will do a screening to check for any blood-borne illnesses, and require that a dog is not on any medication (besides heartworm and flea prevention).

For recurring donors, blood is typically collected between four and six times a year at veterinary hospitals, though pets are able to donate as often as every three weeks.

How long does the process take?

Glitch gives blood at Pet Blood Bank UK
Karl Sparham

Typically, donations will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish, with the actual donation only lasting for 10 minutes. To sweeten the deal, some vets will offer your pet a free health check, or even monetary compensation.

When it was time for Glitch to give blood, the process was fast and surprisingly simple. The dog was led into the donation room and laid on his side. One veterinary assistant monitored his pulse, checking for signs of distress, while two others inserted the needle and comforted the pup. Blood is taken from the large jugular vein in the neck, and dogs do not tend to experience any side effects besides occasional slight swelling where the blood was drawn.

After Glitch’s session he was given food, dog treats and a toy (no apple juice and crackers for this pup!).

Will it hurt my dog?

Glitch rides in car after donating blood
Karl Sparham

No anesthesia is needed during the blood donation process, and afterward it will not affect a dog’s energy levels or activities. Sparham and his pup Glitch found the experience to be generally pleasant.

“Glitch seemed to enjoy the experience,” Sparham said. “At no point did he become submissive or fearful, and seemed happy with all the fuss he was receiving, which was helped by the familiarity of the venue and the staff.”

Sparham is far from done with spreading the word.

“In a few weeks I’d like to have a ‘Blood Donor’ label for Glitch’s harness,” Sparham added, “and side bags filled with leaflets!”

Where do I sign my dog up to donate?

To register your dog to be a canine blood donor, locate a pet blood bank near you or contact your local veterinary hospital and find out how you can help a dog in need.

For more information of canine blood donation in the UK, or to donate, visit Pet Blood Bank’s website.