A popular vet chain is recruiting dog blood donors to help ill or injured canines.

Franklin Vets, which operates eight clinics in mostly rural South Auckland and North Waikato, is asking local owners to register their pets as donors.

Dogs, just like humans, need blood transfusions when they have lost a lot of blood or have an illness affecting their blood. Poisoning caused by eating rat bait is another common reason dogs need donated blood.

Staff members' dogs have often donated blood in the past, but as the pack is now ageing, the clinic needs more volunteers.

Advertisement

To donate, dogs must weigh 28kg or more, be aged between 1 and 7, be fit and healthy and be available at short notice, according to promotional material from the clinics.

Franklin Vets director Dr Paul Eason said a handful of people had responded to the call since his clinics started promoting it a few weeks ago.

During a transfusion vets take about 450ml of blood. Franklin Vets doesn't bank blood so it's only donated when another dog urgently needs some.

Many other vet clinics around the country also have donor programmes. Pet Vets in Lower Hutt has 14 cats and 13 dogs registered as donors. Bay of Plenty Vets promotes its blood donation service on its website.

Read more: Cat gets saved with dog's blood

New Zealand Vet Association spokeswoman Dr Rochelle Ferguson said it was generally safe for large young, fit and healthy dogs to donate blood and vets wouldn't accept donations if it would possibly harm the animal.

Before every donation vets assessed the dog's overall health and made sure they're not anaemic. They then gave them a light sedative,

"We just ask them to lie on their side for about 10, 12 minutes and just clip a bit of fur over their jugular, pop a needle in," Ferguson told the Herald on Sunday.

Advertisement
Denise Sharp, of the German Shepherd Rescue Trust, has used the dog blood donation service both to donate blood and to receive blood. Photo / Dean Purcell
Denise Sharp, of the German Shepherd Rescue Trust, has used the dog blood donation service both to donate blood and to receive blood. Photo / Dean Purcell

Although vets had been giving dogs blood transfusions for decades, the service - and the need for it - had become more visible to the general public with the rise of social media, she said.

Read more: Brighter diagnosis for "miracle dog" Meg, who returned injured five weeks after Dunedin crash

During the past 15 years German Shepherd Rescue Trust founder Denise Sharp's dogs have been both blood donors and recipients on a few occasions.

"It's their way of helping their fellow man, [a] pay it forward sort of thing," she said.

Sharp's local vet in Forrest Hill on Auckland's North Shore first asked her whether one of her pets could donate blood during an emergency in 2003.

"It was for a lovely golden retriever who had a ruptured spleen. The owner was absolutely so grateful. It certainly gave [the dog] more time with her owner and that made me quite confident about having my dogs do it," she told the Herald on Sunday.

A few years later Sharp's 10-year-old german shepherd, Maya, was diagnosed with a ruptured spleen and needed a transfusion. Another local dog donated blood.

Although Maya died soon after the procedure, the transfusion helped her gain consciousness and she lived long enough for Sharp to say goodbye.

"She saw me there, that I was with her, and I think that eased her passing," Sharp said.