How your pup can help with the nationwide dog blood shortage

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Jennifer Galvan - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is still trying to bring in hundreds of blood donors before the Labor Day holiday, but humans aren't the only ones facing this issue. Man's best friend is also in need, and they're dependent on other dogs.

This summer, the blood supply for dogs has been especially low.

Just like humans, our four-legged friends count on blood supply donations when they experience trauma or need surgery.

Local veterinarian Dr. Leslie Bauer, with Emergency Pet Clinic, said pet emergency hospitals count on bags of blood that are shipped to them from three dog blood banks in the country.

One blood bank is in Michigan, another is in California and the other is in Seattle.

Bauer said sometimes, veterinarians must wait three to four weeks for blood shipments to come in and supplies are limited due to a nationwide shortage.

“So we try to have a donor pool available so that we can call on those dogs and say: ‘Listen, you know, I have this dog available. I don't have blood in the hospital. Can you come in and see if your dog is able to donate?’” Bauer said.

Bauer said at Emergency Pet Clinic, it’s ideal for them to have five bags of blood available going into the weekend but there are some days when there is only one bag left.

Having blood in supply is crucial to saving dogs’ lives.

For example, Rowdy, a terrier, was bitten by a rattlesnake this weekend. He needed two procedures that required two bags of blood, which saved him.

“There's definitely other emergency clinics in town, too, and so we all kind of talk to each other and, you know, if we don't have it, we'll send you up to another facility,” Bauer said. “All of us are using donors intermittently right now just to keep up with what we need.”

Any dog taken in for a donation must weigh at least 50 pounds and must undergo a physical exam. A donor dog’s blood is also tested to make sure the animal is disease-free.

Blood types differ for dogs, but if they have a negative blood type, they are a universal donor. Bauer said it's preferred to use dogs with negative blood types to increase the blood supply.

If a dog is eligible, it can become a monthly donor to save other dogs’ lives during a critical time.

“Our hope is to get enough of a pool and have enough of those animals that we don't have to get into that situation,” Bauer said.

Depending on a dog’s size, about a half-liter of blood is drawn from them with little or no sedation.

Anyone interested in the donation process should speak with their pet’s veterinarian.

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