Pets save lives in K-9 blood donation program

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Hazzy gets rewarded with a pup-cup of ice cream and lots of belly rubs when she donates blood to the K-9 blood donation program. (Photo courtesy of Brooke Neiberger)

When dogs undergo surgeries where blood loss occurs, endure injuries or consume toxins that cause internal bleeding, they all need a life-saving treatment: a blood transfusion.

Many people volunteer for their local Red Cross blood drive to help other people in these same situations, but how often do they overlook their beloved pets? Dog owners expect a cure when their pet needs help but might not realize where it all starts.

Kansas State’s Veterinary Health Center offers an opportunity for anyone to step in and help save the life of a dog or help a furry friend have a quick recovery — the K-9 blood donor program.

Dogs over 55 pounds and aged one- to five-years-old can donate blood to the program, and — although humans take the initiative and volunteer for a K-9 blood drive — their fur babies are treated as the real heroes.

When a dog donates once, that blood can save up to two dogs, and if the donor stays in the program it can save even more lives. After donating, pets are pampered and rewarded for their hard work.

It’s important for vets to have what a dog needs when it matters, registered veterinary technician Brooke Neiberger said.

“I try to put myself in every owner’s shoes and think of every one of my patients as if they are my own dog,” Neiberger said. “I think to myself, ‘What if I was to take myself to a place and they didn’t have blood when my dog really needed it the most, and blood is the one thing that could really help my dog get better?’”

Neiberger said one of the doggie donors, Hazzy, donated blood 10 times since 2018.

“Hazzy, short for Trip Hazard, is a 3-year-old Labrador Retriever owned by current DVM-PhD student MaRyka Smith,” Neiberger said. “On the days that she donates, she is rewarded with a pup-cup of ice cream and lots of belly rubs.”

Not only does Hazzy commit her time to help her canine pals, but she and her owner are also certified in human remains detection by the Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States.

“The pair enjoy playing fetch and tug-of-war, which is Hazzy’s favorite game, at the parks around Manhattan and honing their search and rescue skills at training seminars around the Midwest,” Neiberger said.

K-State’s K-9 blood donor program began in 2015 and more than 70 dogs volunteered to give blood since then. There are 12 dogs with negative blood types and 17 with positive dogs enrolled at the veterinary health center.

“Negative blood type is the type we look for and use the most of, as this blood type can be given to any dog, where on the other hand the positive blood can only be given to positive blood typed dogs,” Neiberger said. Positive blood type is more common, but we really look for having those negatives.”

To find out if your dog is qualified to save a life, visit the veterinary health center’s website or contact vhcblooddonor@vet.k-state.com for more information.

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