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Adoptable dogs in Alberta are donating blood to save lives

WATCH: It's a lifesaving gift that's needed as much for our canine companions as it is for us. Now, a Calgary animal rescue agency is asking dog owners to step up and help other pooches in need through blood donations. Lisa MacGregor reports.

A Calgary animal rescue agency is asking dog owners to help other pooches in need by donating blood.

Christina Whelan’s adopted dog, Iggy, donated blood for the first time on Monday at the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS) in Calgary. Iggy is lucky to be alive because when he was a puppy, a blood transfusion saved his life.

“When I first fostered him, he was pretty sick. We weren’t really sure what was wrong with him,” Whelan said. “We were kind of at our…last resort when (AARCS) suggested that we try to do this (blood transfusion) for him.”

Now, Whelan’s dog is giving back the gift of life.

“It’s kind of a surreal moment,” Whelan said.

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“Proud of him for doing it. I feel really lucky. It never occurred to me that dogs could do that (donate blood) so to be here today with him doing that is pretty amazing,” Whelan said.

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READ MORE: Dog blood donors — yes, they’re a real thing

During Iggy’s treatment, AARCS discovered he has a universal blood type — so he can help every other dog in need.

“Each full size unit that’s collected can save up to three dogs. We do component therapy just like they do on the human side,” said Mary Robinson, donor recruitment director at the Canadian Animal Blood Bank.

Just like humans, dogs need emergency blood transfusions during surgery.

“A dog has come in. They need blood now, and the donor owners are really happy that their dog can actually donate and give this to a dog that needs it right away,” Robinson said.

To be a donor, dogs must be over 55 pounds, between one and eight years old, up to date on their vaccines and well-behaved.

“They have to have a good temperament because we do restrain them on their side. We do collect from the jugular vein,” Robinson said.

The process is very similar to the one a human goes through when donating blood.

It takes about 20 minutes start to finish, but most of the time is spent on prep and paperwork.

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WATCH: The importance of canine blood donations

Dogs can donate every three months, and for every time you donate, your dog can also receive a donation in return at no cost.

For more information on adoptable dogs, visit AARCS and the Canadian Animal Blood Bank.