Man’s best friend, the dog, can be a companion, a guide dog or even a working dog. Not many people think of them as a blood donor. At the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, greyhounds are used as blood and plasma donors for canine patients.
“This program has been around longer than what I have, which is at least 20 years,” said Dr. Leah Cohn, veterinary specialist at MU.
Because greyhounds are lean, muscular and have prominent veins, this makes collecting blood easy. Cohn said they also have a blood type that is unlikely to cause adverse reactions in transfusions, and are large enough to give a full unit of blood monthly. This makes them the ideal donor.
After the 3- to 5-year-old dogs retire from the racetrack, they serve as donors for one to two years then are offered for adoption.
The veterinary teaching hospital currently has seven dogs as donors. They can be seen wearing basket muzzles on walks with veterinary students on campus. The muzzles are used to prevent the dogs from eating something they find on the ground.
Matthew Haight, an internal medicine technician, has the opportunity to work with the dogs that come to MU.
“In the past we have had dogs that have gobbled down dead squirrels, cigarettes, chicken bones and other trash,” Haight said. “So to prevent foreign bodies in their stomach we implemented the basket muzzle rule.”
Volunteers also help exercise the dogs twice a day in order to keep them in top shape. The dogs undergo routine exams, tick prevention and exercise to ensure they are at the peak of health.
The donated blood from the dogs has been used to treat animals with anemia, bleeding during surgery and reactions to ingesting poison. Approximately 10 units of blood a month are used for dog and cat patients combined.
“It is hard to put a finger on why I love greyhounds so much,” Haight said. “Greyhounds are such awesome dogs.”
When it comes to the adoption process, it is never a challenge to find the dogs a home.
“There is one out there for everyone, maybe even two,” Haight said. “Once you know one you will love them.”