Jacob the Greyhound, a five-year-old dog belonging to a Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital surgeon, is a regular blood donor at WSU. Because of his size, he’s able to provide 450 milliliters, or about two cups, of blood for the treatment of other ailing canines.
One afternoon this winter we followed Jacob through the donation process. He was content to nibble dog snacks while the students led him, tail wagging, into a small room and prepared him for a blood draw. They lifted him onto a cushioned table, shaved a spot on his neck, and tapped into the jugular vein. He lay still while the students stroked him, talked to him, and worked the equipment, the same type of blood-donation equipment used with humans.
In order to give blood, a dog must weigh at least 60 pounds, be one to six years old, and be able to lie still for 10 minutes. Jacob, who easily meets these requirements, gives blood every two months or so.
The canine blood donor program has been in place at WSU since 1988 and has saved or prolonged hundreds of lives. Workers at the hospital perform blood draws twice a week under the supervision of veterinarian Jane Wardrop. The blood is usually separated into red blood cells and plasma. While most of the donations are used in the hospital, some are sent to veterinarians in the Spokane area.
Dogs can need transfusions for many reasons, including anemia, blood loss after an accident or surgery, liver disease, or bleeding due to the ingestion of rodent poison.
On this day, Jacob’s donation went straight to a similar-sized yellow lab named Murray who has lymphoma and was waiting with his owner, Kelly Hightower, in another room.