Blood donor dogs save lives at K-State

Transfusions are crucial for many canines at the university’s Veterinary Health Center

Donor dog Oliver at Kansas State University (K-State) Veterinary Health Center (VHC). Photo courtesy Piper Brandt/K-State Today
Donor dog Oliver at Kansas State University (K-State) Veterinary Health Center (VHC).
Photo courtesy Piper Brandt/K-State Today

Ensuring the safe treatment of canine patients is the goal of a community-based, volunteer canine blood-donor program at the Kansas State University (K-State) Veterinary Health Center (VHC).

Launched in 2015, K-State’s Canine Blood Donor Program oversees the collection, process, and storage of blood needed for transfusions to treat a variety of conditions in dogs. Since its inception, the service has seen more than 70 canine donors, most of which belong to VHC staff and students, as well as area residents.

“Just like in people, blood transfusions can be crucial for many of the canine patients staying in the hospital,” says the program’s head, Brooke Neiberger, a veterinary nurse. “Having the blood on hand really helps, as many patients are in life-threatening conditions when they arrive.”

Among the emergencies that may require canine blood are poisonings, trauma, injuries, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, clotting disorders, and surgeries.

“The unit of blood is collected from the jugular vein in the neck since this is the most accessible site for venipuncture in the dog,” Neiberger tells K-State Today. “The dogs lie quietly on a table for about five to 10 minutes during the collection process and are praised and petted to provide comfort and positive feedback. After collection, a temporary bandage is placed around the neck covering the venipuncture site and the unit of canine blood is separated into red blood cells and plasma. This processing supplies enough blood for two patients.”

At present time, part of the hospital’s blood supply is ordered off-site, as donations are unable to keep up with current demands. This can result in a waiting period of up to 10 weeks, K-State Today reports.

“The volunteer blood donor program helps to meet the transfusion needs of the patients here at the VHC,” Neiberger says. “The demand for blood products for our patients increases every year, which then increases the need for more volunteer blood donors to ensure that every patient in need can be treated.”

The goal of the program, K-State says, is to grow the number of canine blood donors to have entirely universal donors and, ultimately, increase the blood supply at the VHC.

“Similar to humans, to be an eligible blood donor, dogs must be in good general health,” Neiberger tells K-State Today. “All prospective canine donors must be friendly—calm—while being cooperative without their owners present.”

Other requirements include:

  • Dogs must be between one and five years old and heavier than 55 lbs.
  • Dogs be current on required vaccinations and free of any medications other than flea, tick, and heartworm preventives.
  • Females need to have no history of pregnancy; males must be neutered.
  • Dogs cannot have previously received a blood transfusion.

Participants in the program receive a free bag of dog food after each donation, along with flea and tick preventives, heartworm preventives, and annual vaccinations and blood work.

For more information, click here.

Written with files from K-State Today.

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