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University of Saskatchewan expanding pet blood donor program at vet college

WATCH ABOVE: The U of S is expanding its animal blood donor program by welcoming donations from the public's pets.

When it comes to donating blood, four-year-old Asha is the pick of the litter at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S)’s Western College of Veterinarian Medicine (WCVM).

The lab-pitbull mix has the universal dog blood type, which is fitting since her owner considers her “one of the mascots” for the recently revamped WCVM blood donor program.

READ MORE: Adoptable dogs in Alberta are donating blood to save lives

“She loves it. Her tail wags, she’s happy and she gets tons of treats,” said Emma Thomson, a fourth-year U of S veterinary student.

Like humans, pets can need blood transfusions in hospital – especially in cases of trauma or illnesses. Dogs and cats can both donate and receive blood.

For years, the WCVM has welcomed blood donations from pets belonging to faculty and staff. Earlier this month, the program expanded to include donations from the public’s cats and dogs.

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“The more dogs that donate, the more lives we can save,” Thomson said.

The vet college’s clientele is increasing every year, and like their owners, pets are an aging population, according to Dr. Jennifer Loewen, an assistant professor in the small animal clinical science department.

WATCH (July 12, 2018): Signing up your pets for blood donations

Signing up your pets for blood donations
Signing up your pets for blood donations

Vet clinics can also order blood through the Canadian Animal Blood Bank (CABB), but taking blood donations locally helps everyone, Loewen said.

“As the demand for blood – national and international – is increasing, it is also taxing on [the CABB] to tap into their resources as well,” Loewen said.

Animals are screened as part of the WCVM’s initiative, allowing vets to check for infectious diseases, provide vaccines and do other bloodwork.

Animal donors must be lean, and between one and eight years old. Dogs must weigh over 23 kilograms, while cats are required to exceed five kg.

READ MORE: Mental health support at University of Saskatchewan’s veterinary college

Another important factor is the donor’s overall disposition. With some encouragement, dogs can be trained to view donations as an enjoyable experience.

“In cats, we do have a little be less luxury. We do have to sedate them often to get them to donate,” Loewen said.

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While animal blood donation is becoming a more common practice, it’s also a relatively new area of study.

“We’re not aware of long-term complications on the donors, but we can’t say that 100 per cent,” Loewen said.

Anyone interested in enrolling their pet in the program should email pawsblooddonor@usask.ca or contact the WCVM.