If you’re a dog lover then you already know that Greyhounds are the bee’s knees. They have the doggy equivalent of a supermodel’s physique, they run like Cheetahs, and they make incredibly loving pets.
There’s another fabulous fact about this breed that you may not know: the majority of Greyhounds are universal blood donors. Their unique genetics could possibly save your pup’s life one day.
I have the pleasure of knowing two of these hero hounds personally – Blaze and Kinky Pike are patients at Waterway Animal Hospital where I worked for 6 years before embarking on my BarkPost career. Although they are not retired racing dogs, Blaze and Kinky are quite connected to the Greyhound racing world.
They are what’s known in the biz as “Oops Puppies”. Blaze and Kinky were born to racing mothers that became pregnant by accident. In these scenarios the puppies cannot be registered because the sire is unknown, therefore they are of no use to the racing industry. According to adopt-a-greyhound.org only one out of ten professionally bred Greyhound puppies will ever run a single race. The rest face unknown futures, and the Oops pups are at even greater risk.
Janet Pike adopted both dogs when they were 7 weeks old. Blaze is now 9, and Kinky is 6. She learned about NC State Veterinary Hospital’s blood donation program in 2009 from a friend whose Greyhound was already a donor. Janet decided to bring Blaze and Kinky in for the required screening process to see if they too were universal blood donors.
The process of becoming an NC State blood donation dog is quite comprehensive. According to the NC State website dogs must “be of excellent temperament, weigh more than 50 pounds, must be between the ages of one to five, have a clean health history, and should have the likelihood of remaining in the area so they can serve as donors for up to three years.”
If they meet the criteria, the dogs are asked to come in for three screening appointments. At the first visit the dogs are blood typed. Next they receive a complete physical exam by a vet and are screened for infectious diseases such as tick borne illnesses. If they are found to be universal donors free of disease they are asked to return for a comprehensive blood draw, heartworm test, fecal analysis and urinalysis.
While the results of the testing are extremely important, the hospital staff will also be assessing how the dogs handle the experience. Greyhounds are known for their easygoing, docile temperament, another reason they often make excellent donors. The goal is to help dogs in need, but not at the expense of the donor dog. If a potential donor finds the experience too stressful, he or she is not asked to participate in the program.
Blaze and Kinky both passed their behavioral assessments and health screenings with flying colors and went on to donate faithfully every 8 – 10 weeks for three years. This meant a nine-hour roundtrip drive from Myrtle Beach to Raleigh, NC, but Janet was happy to do it for the chance to save pups in need.
Janet refers to Kinky as her “Walmart Greeter” – he is outgoing and loves everybody. On his trips to NC State he would literally drag Janet into the clinic in order to greet the friendly staff. Blaze is more reserved and shy. Happy to donate, but much happier when it’s all over!
During her participation in the blood donation program, Janet received regular newsletters from NC State detailing the cases of dogs saved with donor blood. Being able to see their furry faces and share in their families’ stories made the magnitude of Blaze and Kinky’s contribution all the more real for Janet.
Although Blaze and Kinky have now aged out of the program, Janet plans to have her new Greyhound, Hawkeye assessed as a potential donor when he is old enough. For now she is happy to enjoy her exceptional dogs in their retirement, and raise her latest Oops pup.
They no longer donate blood, but that doesn’t mean Kinky and Blaze have become couch potatoes! They are involved in nose work, or scent searching competitions, and both are decorated champions!
According to a post on the NC State School of Veterinary Medicine blog, the blood bank is in need of new donor dogs. As more and more humans treat their pets as family, the demand for life saving treatments is increasing. The bank stores the blood for use in surgery, trauma and anemia cases at their own hospital, and also provides it to veterinarians in the surrounding area.
Although Greyhounds are the most likely breed to have a universal blood type, they are certainly not the only ones! If your dog meets the initial criteria for a donor, consider having him or her screened. Along with the knowledge that your dog is saving lives, you get the additional benefits of an annual in depth health screening, annual vaccinations, a complete physical exam by a board certified clinician, and a unit of blood product for every unit donated, if your dog ever needs it. All of this at no cost to the pawrents!
To get more information, or start the screening process, visit ncstatevets.org/bloodbank and fill out the online form. You may also call 919-513-6999 or send an email to [email protected]. Not in the North Carolina area? Other universities also participate in similar programs including Michigan State, Ohio State, the University of Florida and Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
Not near a university? Let your vet know that you are interested in having your dog become a donor. There are independent blood banks all over the country searching for life-saving pups!
Even though we are a DOG blog, I feel I must mention that NC State also has several generous feline blood donors! Meow – those are some cool kitties!
Featured Image Courtesy of Janet Pike