Home News When sick pets need blood, animal ‘superheroes’ come to the rescue

When sick pets need blood, animal ‘superheroes’ come to the rescue

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“We’re not looking for a specific breed,” said Dr. Valerie Ratchford, a veterinarian and phlebotomist at Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank, a commercial blood bank in Virginia that relies entirely on donations from pet dogs. “We have dogs of all breeds, dogs that we’ve gotten from shelters, several from other countries, all the way to the finest Spinois ever” — a shaggy Italian breed — “to show dogs, service dogs.”

One thing that is non-negotiable: The dogs must appear comfortable with the staff and the process, and be able to remain relaxed for the approximately five minutes it takes to have their blood drawn. “They don’t sign a form,” Dr. Ratchford said. “But they do have the right to decide whether to donate.”

Dog owner Beth Acker witnessed it firsthand. Her previous dog, Harley, a Bernese mountain dog who craved food and attention, was donated to Blue Ridge for six years. While his blood was drawn, Harley lay on his side on the table and was spoon-fed by the blood bank’s designated “dog snuggler” while being fed cheese and peanut butter by hand. “He loved it right away,” Ms. Acker said. “I’m really proud of him.”

Halley ultimately donated nearly four gallons of blood; in the final years of his life, Halley himself required blood transfusions, which made his experience complete.

On the other hand, Ms. Acker’s coon hound and black Labrador mix, Pancho, didn’t seem too eager to donate blood, though he went along with Harley to “share in the delicious treat,” Ms. Acker said.


Cats tend to be tricky donors. “They won’t jump up on the table and lie down,” said Ms. Reinoehl of DoveLewis. Felines usually need to be sedated for blood donation, which is not a risk-free process. Therefore, DoveLewis only uses cats that have been raised by veterinary professionals. Ms. Reinoehl’s cat, Apollo, is a hardy Maine Coon and also a donor.

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