Dogs donate blood at NAIT to help animals across Canada

Just like humans require blood transfusions for some medical procedures, so do dogs. The NAIT animal health clinic collects blood for the Canadian Animal Blood Bank, which is based in Winnipeg.

This was the first time Dogs with Wings partnered with the clinic

Nut, one of the service dogs trained by Dogs with Wings, prepares to make his donation to the Canadian Animal Blood Bank. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

When it comes to donating blood, it helps to be calm and relaxed — qualities that apply to both humans and dogs.

That's why Doreen Slessor thought the pups from Dogs with Wings would be ideal candidates to donate to the Canadian Animal Blood Bank. The organization trains service dogs and Slessor, the executive director, was excited to have the dogs contribute to something that helps animals across the country.

"[We] worked with our foster families to organize the dogs being here," Slessor said. "We worked with our staff team and our health team to organize this all. We are all just thrilled and excited and really honoured to have to be a part of this," she said.

Ten Labradors and Labrador retrievers from Dogs with Wings made their donations to the Canadian Animal Blood Bank (CABB) at NAIT's animal health clinic on Saturday.

Dog's with Wings executive director Doreen Slessor said after hearing about the clinic at NAIT she knew the service dog organisation needed to get involved. (Scott Neufled/CBC)

The animal health clinic at NAIT holds donor sessions twice a month, except in July when students are away. They welcome donations from dogs that are healthy, over 25 kilograms, between 1 and 8 years old and have up-to-date vaccinations.

The clinic also asks that dogs have an even temperament. Slessor said that is another reason their service dogs seemed like ideal candidates.

"We work really hard on brushing, handling, puppy yoga and them not being afraid to go to the vet," Slessor said. "So, when they come here this is old hat for them. They just go on up and [are like] 'Sure, I'll do this.'"

Dr. Elaine Degrandpre, NAIT's senior veterinary medical officer, encourages owners of large breed dogs to consider bringing their pets in to donate blood. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The NAIT animal health clinic acts as a satellite site for the main CABB clinic, located in Winnipeg.

The blood collected could be used by veterinarians across Canada, said senior veterinary medical officer Dr. Elaine Degrandpre.

"Veterinarians that are doing surgeries or they [are treating] a patient with cancer, they just phone the clinic in Winnipeg and they get a unit of blood shipped to them," Degrandpre said. "It's very, very important. Like humans, dogs need blood for many different conditions."

The clinic can ship blood across Canada overnight so, in many cases, it can be at a veterinarian's office the day after a request is made.

Service dog Nut is rewarded with a bandana and a treat after make his donation to the Canadian Animal Blood Bank. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

About 450 grams of blood is collected from the dogs, similar to the amount drawn from a person. Dogs can donate every three months.

"There's always a greater demand than supply," Degrandpre said.

She encourages dog owners to sign up for their next clinic on August 24.