Edmonton-area dogs are donating a healthy amount of blood, but local stores of the life-saving liquid perpetually run low.
The Canadian Animal Blood Bank (CABB) — a national non-profit that provides the products to veterinarians across Canada — runs a donor clinic in Edmonton twice a month out of NAIT where animal studies instructor Michelle Spurway aims to collect around 20 units of blood each time the event is hosted.
Spurway said while the NAIT satellite clinic donates around 15 per cent of the country’s dog blood collections, its supplies dry up quickly.
“There’s continually a shortage of dog blood in Canada, especially this time of year,” she said, adding that pets have more access to potentially poisonous foods like chocolate during the holidays.
“The shelves quite often do run bare.”
CABB also runs donation clinics out of other veterinary practices, though not as often.
Alberta purchases the second-highest number of bags of plasma and red blood cells for dogs in the country — 813 bags per year compared to Ontario’s 1,059 bags, on average — according to CABB.
But it’s an ongoing struggle to find canines suitable to give the gift of life. A dog needs to weigh 25 kilograms or more, and they often age out of eligibility at eight years old — functionally when they become senior citizens, Spurway said.
“They retire out of the program quickly,” she said.
“There’s not a lot of awareness out there that our program exists. People don’t think about our pets needing the same kind of medical care that we do.”
Once donated, the blood bags — usually a pint in volume, like human donations — are shipped back to CABB’s head office in Winnipeg, where they are stored whole or broken down. The separated components can be used to help two or three dogs, depending on the treatment and the size of the patient.
According to Daniel Joffe, national medical director with VCA Animal Hospitals Canada, larger and specialty clinics use the products daily.
Individual clinics also accept blood donations, and they often make use of staff dogs, Joffe added.
“By nature of the industry, a lot of staff have pets,” he said.
This is also the mechanism by which cats donate. According to Spurway, there is no national organization that takes in feline donations. Cats also need to be sedated for the process as its unlikely they will sit still.
“Cats are a little harder,” he said.