Pet blood donors help other dogs, cats through Michigan State University program

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LANSING, Mich. - Dogs and cats can help save the lives of other animals through a blood donor program at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The program, which has been around for more than 40 years, uses blood donations from volunteer dogs and cats to give transfusions to animals in need.

Dogs have 13 blood types, and cats have three blood types. Only one in 15 dogs is a universal donor, and there is no universal blood type for cats.

Animals may need blood transfusions to treat anemia, or a low red blood cell count. Anemia may be caused by blood loss during surgery or trauma, such as when an animal is hit by a car or involved in a fight.

Anemia may also be caused by chronic diseases such as kidney failure or cancer, immune mediated diseases or bone marrow issues.

Blood is also given to treat coagulopathies, or the inability of the blood to clot, some toxicities and poisonings, low proteins and snake envenomation, said Rose Wahl, a MSU veterinary technician.

According to Wahl, animals frequently receive blood through the program because not all hospitals have a donor program or access to the needed blood. Annually, the clinic at MSU gives about 400 units of canine blood transfusions and about 100 units of feline blood transfusions.

The program is always looking for pets to donate.

Dog donors must:

  • Be 1-7 years old
  • Weigh more than 50 pounds
  • Be healthy
  • Be easy to work with
  • Be up-to-date on vaccinations
  • Not be on medications with the exception of flea and heartworm preventatives

Cat donors must:

  • Be 1-7 years old
  • Weigh more than 10 pounds
  • Be healthy
  • Be easy to work with
  • Be up-to-date on vaccinations
  • Not be on medications with the exception of flea and heartworm preventatives

Pets in the program generally donate every four to six weeks. Dog owners will receive a $40 credit to be used at the veterinary medical center or a 40-pound bag of food per donation, and cat owners will receive a $40 credit toward the center or a 20-pound bag of food.

For more information on the blood donor program, contact Wahl at 517-432-4546 or walshr@cvm.msu.edu.

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