Pet blood donations increasing since COVID-19

Jenn Soroka with her greyhound, Zuko, 5, who recently gave blood for other dogs for the first time. Picture: Matt Loxton
Jenn Soroka with her greyhound, Zuko, 5, who recently gave blood for other dogs for the first time. Picture: Matt Loxton

Upon adopting a rescue greyhound, Jenn Soroka knew she would be taking Zuko to the vet on a regular basis.

But what she didn't know is that she would be taking her dog to the vet to directly help other pets.

Zuko is one of a growing number of dogs who are donating their blood to assist in transfusions or dogs undergoing surgery, and numbers are booming in the wake of coronavirus.

"If Zuko was ever in an accident, I would hope that there would be blood that was available for him," Ms Soroka said.

"I think pet blood donations are something that people really don't consider there being a need for. It didn't occur to me until I became a primary pet owner."

The five-year-old greyhound donated blood for the first time in July, having been part of a waiting list for blood donations organised by greyhound rescue groups and vet clinics in Canberra.

The breed of dog is often preferred for blood donations, with most greyhounds being universal donors for the 12 different types of dog blood.

"Zuko took it like a champ and he hardly even noticed the needle, and he was just happy to get a big bowl of chicken and liver treats afterwards," Ms Soroka said.

As part of a regular rotation of greyhounds, along with other breeds, donating blood, Zuko will make his next donation in coming months.

Despite the impacts of coronavirus, the numbers of pets who are donating their blood to other animals continued to rise even further during the pandemic.

Rebecca Charteris, the director of the Australian Animal Blood Bank, said vet clinics across the country were seeing more donors.

"In terms of requests for blood, we haven't slowed down," she said.

"While we're based in Sydney, we get inquiries from people all over the country as to whether their pets could donate."

There are just two blood banks in the country for pet blood. Ms Charteris said vet clinics the blood bank regularly work with had reported more patients coming in, largely due to people spending more time at home with their pets.

"It's reassuring that level is there and it's nice to see," she said.

"The demand for pet blood has always been there, especially with dogs having to go into surgery, and there will always be times where dogs won't be able to avoid accidents or illness."

One of the Canberra vet clinics where pets donate blood is the Animal Referral Hospital in Fyshwick.

Medicine nurse at the clinic Dani Taylor said similar trends had been reported there in recent months.

"It's definitely becoming more common for people wanting their pets to give blood, they get a lot out of knowing they have helped save a life," Ms Taylor said.

"With the power of social media it is becoming more common.

"We once did a call out asking for donors and we had 48 calls in half an hour.

"In this day and age, people adore their pets and will do anything for them."

While for many pet owners the incentive of helping other pets is enough, in many cases, owners get subsidised vet fees and blood tests for their four-legged friends.

This story Bloodhound gang: More pets are donating blood during COVID-19 first appeared on The Canberra Times.