NOT SO RUFF: The University of Queenslands VETS Small Animal Hospital lead nurse Gary Fitzgerald with Ernie the greyhound.
NOT SO RUFF: The University of Queenslands VETS Small Animal Hospital lead nurse Gary Fitzgerald with Ernie the greyhound. Lachlan McIvor

Dogs asked to donate blood in order to save lives

JUST like their owners, our canine friends now have the opportunity to put their best paws forward and donate blood to save a life.

For the first time, the University of Queensland's VETS Small Animal Hospital are running a community blood donation program and encouraging the community to get involved.

The Hospital Heroes Community Program recruits dogs as donors to help maintain blood product levels within the hospital to be used in times of emergency.

Lead nurse Gary Fitzgerald said a surge of emergency cases over the winter months had sparked the decision.

"We found out regular stocks of blood haven't been getting us quite through so we're trying to find more, just to make sure that we've got enough on hand when we need it," Mr Fitzgerald said. "We've had a blood donation program at UQ forever but not a community blood donation program.

"Just like people, our pets can suffer serious medical conditions and injuries that require blood transfusions.

"Like human blood donations, it's a relatively painless procedure for the animal, but it could mean that a pet in need survives."

He said many people don't understand animal blood donors are essential.

"It's a little bit like human donations. It means they can contribute to saving another dog's life in need," he said.

"It's quite surprising how many people don't realise... we've administered blood donations at the hospital here for reptiles, for birds, for cats, dogs, horses and cattle.

"Having healthy donors that we can screen is the optimal so that we don't have to rush to try and get life saving blood that may not be suitable."

The hospital is looking for healthy dogs who weigh more than 25kg, are between one and six years of age and are up-to-date with their vaccinations, worming and heartworm prevention.

The response to the program in its first week had been positive and as an emergency clinic that services the entire Lockyer Valley, it will also benefit other vet practices around the region.

"They'll always know they can send something here and we'll have blood in stock," Mr Fitzgerald said.

Dog owner Courtney Smart said that a pet blood donation to the hospital helped save her four year-old Maltese cross.

"Earlier this year Monty became very ill, very suddenly, and was immediately admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital," she said.

"He was eventually diagnosed with Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia, a deadly blood condition that caused his body to destroy his own red blood cells at a rapid rate.

"This condition, we were told, has an 80 per cent mortality rate but the multiple blood transfusions Monty received at the hospital saved his life.

"Our family is beyond grateful to the beautiful dogs that saved his life simply by donating blood, and I'd encourage owners to sign their pets up if they're eligible.

To sign up your dog to the blood donation program, contact the hospital on 5460 1788 or email uqvets.sa@uq.edu.au.