From the Floor of the DoveLewis Blood Bank

Kelsey Reinauer, CVT

Whether you’re a dog or a human, chances are that your blood donation experience will have some clear similarities—but there are some big differences, too.

Our team works hard to follow the available human blood bank model with adjustments that let us build relationships with our incredible donors and their families. Pet owners and veterinary professionals alike are curious about what the donor experience is like, so DoveLewis’ Kelsey Reinauer, CVT and Blood Bank Coordinator, answered some of the most common questions we get!

Do animal blood donors have the same donation requirements as humans?

Blood donors of the human and animal form follow similar routines, including duration between donations—about 6 weeks. Size and health prerequisites are also important factors we consider.

What are the main differences?

Veterinary blood banking doesn’t have federal oversight or accreditation bodies to dictate how it functions and practices. Each veterinary blood bank must figure out how to run a safe and effective blood bank on their own. By following the American Association of Blood Banking standards and adapting protocols for our dog and cat donors, we’ve created a successful program that values happy blood donors and provides safe blood products.

The families of our donors experience a key difference at the start of the process because a new donor cannot donate blood the first time they visit us. We do extensive testing to ensure that our donors are healthy and have a suitable temperament before admitting them into the blood bank program. Once approved, we perform annual lab work with additional tests as needed.

Why do people sign their pets up to be blood donors?

They want to help other animals! We call our blood donors “superheroes” because they’re saving lives through their donations. We meticulously record where our blood products are used which lets us share some information to the donor family about how many animals their Superhero has helped. Blood donor families enjoy seeing how their pet's blood products help locally, as well as all over the country. Sometimes I have an opportunity to talk to the owners of recipients and I get to tell them about their pet’s Superhero. The amount of gratitude that the families have for these life-saving dogs and cats is overwhelming, and I love sharing that with our donors!

Do the Superhero donors enjoy their experience?

We take pride in the way we treat our Superheroes! They are truly VIPs at DoveLewis. We want the donation experience to be memorable in a good way so that coming back is enjoyable—not something to get anxious about. Just like how humans get a snack after they donate blood, dogs and cats get to enjoy the special treat of baby food and they get to take home a toy which we often hear ends up being their very favorite toy for months. There are perks for owners too! Donors get free emergency exams, discounted flea and heartworm prevention, rewards for every 6 donations, and an annual Superhero recognition party where we celebrate milestones and retirees.

What would you tell a pet owner who is nervous about their pet's first donation?

We put a lot of time and energy into building relationships with the owners of the Superheroes and do everything we can to make sure that the experience is positive for all parties. By creating mutual trust with owners, we can have conversations about expectations, breakdown how the process works, how it impacts the donor’s health, and hold an open-door policy allowing for any other questions, concerns, or curiosity. We encourage them to be an advocate for their pet while also educating them on the need for blood products and the process it involves.

DoveLewis will always be proud to be a leader in the veterinary blood banking community. Our volunteer teams of dogs and cats donate enough blood for 700+ transfusions every year at our hospital and other clinics. As a nonprofit, this DoveLewis program is supported by generous donations. Learn more about our blood bank.

Interested in more materials from the DoveLewis Blood Bank?

Check out the YouTube channel for free educational videos!

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