“There is a large group of patients who need blood and it does me good to be able to provide it to them”
Canine blood donation program in Guelph shows that dogs are not only man’s best friend, but they can also save lives.
The Ontario Veterinary College’s Canine Blood Donation Program is a program that collects blood products from canine volunteers to help treat animal patients at the Pet Hospital.
Currently 65 dogs volunteer in the program who donate every two to three months.
Ramona Fowler is a Certified Veterinary Technician and Program Coordinator for the Canine Blood Donor Program at OVC. She has been involved in the management of the program for 25 years.
Twenty years ago, Fowler explains that the program started receiving donations informally and slowly evolved from there.
“When I started we only had a few dogs that lived on campus and donated blood, like they were our own dogs, and then we had student dogs that donated blood. “
Fowler explains that the level of care was different back then, and there weren’t as many surgeries that required transfusions.
“As medical technology developed, as surgeons performed more complicated surgeries, and staff became more comfortable performing transfusion surgeries, we realized we were going to need more dogs. “
Today, Fowler said 25 dogs donate to the blood donor bank each month and stay in the program for two or three years.
“Once they get into the program and learn the blood donation routine, we like to keep them in the program for a few years,” she said, adding that many residents who had a dog previously volunteering can get it. a new dog. who will also participate in the program.
From just one unit of blood, a canine volunteer can help up to four other dogs in need.
“I can separate this blood into different components,” Fowler said. “We have a very large centrifuge, where we can spin the blood that we can turn into separate products. “
Typically, the dog’s blood goes to the dogs, but Fowler mentions that the program provided a transfusion for a ferret.
“We have cats that also donate (for use in cats), but they belong to us, we don’t use community cats.”
During the pandemic, Fowler said it became difficult to have enough staff and bring enough dogs to donate after a patient recently needed 15 units of blood from the program.
“Our demand for blood has increased tenfold, perhaps not just because of the understaffing in practice, but it’s just that we are able to deal with much more complex cases than before,” Fowler said. , who mentions many of the clinics that normally provide transfusions have not been able to do so.
“It’s not just for cancer patients, it’s not just for surgical patients, there are a lot of patients coming in, whose immune system, unfortunately, has turned on them and is attacking their own. blood cells and attack their own platelets, ”said Hunter.
She adds that the number of transfusions performed at OVC has also increased over the past two years to over 300.
As the demand for blood increases, Fowler mentions that there are a lot of dogs on a current waiting list to volunteer. Running the program in addition to his RVT duties, Fowler explains that they won’t be accepting new volunteers until next year.
“We don’t always have time to see as many people as we would like,” Fowler said.
As the program reviews its current volunteer waitlist, the OVC website lists all of the requirements to become a canine volunteer. All eligible dogs must be large, friendly dogs between the ages of one and five. Dogs should weigh over 55 pounds (25 kilograms) and should be on a cooked diet or kibble.
All potential volunteers are also brought to the clinic for testing, Fowler said.
“Not all dogs are suitable, whether it’s their personalities, or the owner didn’t realize they weighed no more than 55 pounds, or something comes up on their blood test that isn’t right.”
Once inside, canine volunteers receive a variety of benefits, including free heartworm prevention medication, an exam, nail trimming, and free dog food after each donation. Besides the benefits, Fowler mentions many people who have a dog on the program, saying that they are just happy to give back.
“I know a lot of people who find that (donating) is obviously very beneficial for their dog, where I find just as many people who say, ‘I just want to help. “”
Those interested in learning more about the OVC Health Sciences Center Canine Blood Bank can visit ovchsc.ca.