WASHINGTON - You know your dog is great, but did you know your dog can be a real lifesaver?
And all it takes is hopping on a veterinarian's table for a procedure that takes three to five minutes.
"Dogs need blood," says Christy Bell, a licensed veterinary technician with the Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank. She says that just like humans, animals have accidents and treating those traumas requires blood "whether it's a heat-related injury, a stress-related injury or a medical emergency."
The blood bank is based in Purcellville, Va., and operates blood drives that benefit recipients across the country.
Unlike some veterinary blood banks that house animals in cages, Bell says Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank doesn't operate that way. Instead they rely on doggie donors.
"The dogs that we use sleep on your bed, your couch, cuddle with you, sneak food off your breakfast plate and live right in your home!"
Just about any dog can donate, although there are a few basic requirements: donor dogs must be 35 pounds or more and between the ages of nine months to seven years. The dog's breed doesn't matter, but Bell says "pit bulls, boxers, German shepherds and dobermans tend to be universal donors."
One donation can save up to four canine lives.
Each dog must be screened, and an appointment will run about 20 to 30 minutes. But the actual donation takes just a few minutes. No anesthesia is needed.
Jocelyn Pratt, who manages the program, says when the dogs are evaluated, the team considers the animal's comfort. If a dog seems unwilling or stressed out by the procedure, they won't go forward. Most dogs do seem to enjoy the donation sessions.
"You would be surprised the relationships that the team and the dogs develop," Pratt says. The dogs donate every five to seven weeks with a year-long commitment.
Pratt says the appointments become more like a cuddle-fest. "They're wagging their tails, they're comfy, they almost take a little nap on the table sometimes." It doesn't hurt that treats, including peanut butter, are involved.
Your dog won't be worn out after donating, but Pratt and Bell say you'll want to make sure your donor doggie takes it easy for the rest of the day: no marathon runs, just a quiet evening at home is recommended.
Just like human blood banks, supplies for dogs can dwindle in the summer when everyone, including the family pet, goes on vacation. That's why the the blood bank is teaming up with the Old Dominion Animal Health Center in McLean to hold a screening on July 24.
For more information visit the blood bank's website.
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