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Giving Blood Not Just For Humans, Pets Do It, Too

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We’ve all heard the plea to donate blood. But it’s not just humans who need it during an emergency or surgery.

Blood can also save the lives of pets. And no one knows that better than the veterinarians at the University of Minnesota.

“Just knowing that she could be helping other dogs is great,” said Heather Stefanski, who has a 7-year-old black lab named Clementine.

Clementine is a long-time blood donor. She’s one of 52 dogs and cats that make up the vet clinic’s blood donation program.

And the need for blood is something Stefanski knows all too well. A physician herself, she understands the value of a well-stocked blood supply.

“We need to have it for our patients. We have a wide variety of patients that come in, be it for trauma, or surgical patients, or for chronic disease patients,” said Elizabeth Olmstead, a technician at the clinic.

As for Clementine, her commitment requires a visit every couple of months. Each time Clementine visits, she the gets a quick physical.

But that’s where the similarities between human and animal blood donation end.

“It’s a little different than a human giving blood, because they don’t just sit there and hold a leg out for us,” Olmstead said.

The prep work takes time, and blood is drawn from the jugular, a process that can take 30 minutes.

There are certain requirements if you want your pet to donate blood. Cats have to be 10 pounds, dogs have to be 50 pounds.

“We take a large volume…in order to get full unit of blood. So they have to be a certain size so we don’t remove too much blood,” said Dr. Julie Schildt, an assistant clinical professor at the U of M’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

During the blood draw, vet technicians are also replacing fluids, making sure recovery is quick.

“She never cries when she comes here and does very well,” said Stefanski. “I’ve never had issues when I get home.”

For Clementine, the reward is in a handful of treats. But for Stefanski, it’s saving the lives of dogs.

If you’re interested in the pet blood donation program, it’s a two-year commitment. The vet school will also run some tests to make sure your dog or cat is healthy.

For more information, click here.

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