Every six weeks or so, Wynn, a retired racing greyhound, eagerly waits for his turn to be lifted on a portable table, cradled by a large (very gentle) vet tech and hand fed pieces of kibble dipped in peanut butter.
Joining him at the private home in Northern Virginia, most times, are galgos, borzois and other greyhounds. It’s a bit of doggie party! But with a serious purpose. These are all volunteer canine blood donors for the Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank.
Sighthounds generally make great doggie donors. Almost three-quarters of greyhounds have a universal blood type that can be transfused into any dog. Their blood also has a higher red blood cell count than other breeds. Many retired racers are also pretty blasé about needles, and they have good-sized neck veins for drawing blood.
It all adds up to a regular gathering where dogs are more than happy to spend about 10 minutes or less donating. The procedure causes them no discomfort. The needle goes into a vein in the neck and gravity drains about a pint into a bag below the table. Any dog that frets about the procedure gets a pass – either one-time or permanently.
Each pint can make a live-saving difference to as many as four separate dogs.
The Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank goes to sites in D.C., Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Dogs can also come into their location to donate. Importantly, all the bank’s donors are much-loved family pets, not dogs kept only for donations.
Generally speaking, donor dogs need to:
• Weigh at least 35 pounds
• Be aged 9 months to 7 years old to start. (Dogs that are previous donors may remain in the program a year or two longer, but that’s decided case by case.)
• Have no history of serious diseases.
• Commit to donate at least five times over the course of one year.
• Be on heartworm preventive and current with their vaccinations.
Before their first donation, the dogs will be tested free of charge for some blood-borne diseases.
The Sighthound Underground supports volunteer blood donations. Get more information about Blue Ridge, and learn more about blood donation options around the country at:
Note: This is an especially urgent time for blood donors, according to the BRVBB. Blood is in such short supply that vets are having to prioritize recipients.