Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Animal blood banks

On my way home from work, I saw a bumper sticker “My pet gave blood at the [location specific clinic]!”

I started thinking about it, and what it meant. What it meant, specifically for those of us who care for companion animals, and also what it means for those of us who are vegan. Specifically of the anti-exploitation stance.

If our “pets” give blood, it is because we’ve decided that they will. That makes me uncomfortable right from the start.

But what if our companion was injured in some way that required a blood transfusion for them to have a hope of a survival? When I adopted my cat, it was a commitment to care for her as best I could. I have to make decisions for her all the time.

tempest on the patio

No, she’s not allowed to be outside unsupervised. (she goes out with me on my fenced in patio because it has been made escape proof, something that’s easy given that she isn’t a jumper and has no actual desire to escape.)

No, she’s not allowed to eat as much as she thinks she should. (She gains weight incredibly easy, and we’re always battling to keep her weight in the healthy range. I’ve never not had a vet tell me she needs to lose weight.)

No, she’s not allowed to try to chew my arm off. Ouch! Tempest!

Whenever we have responsibility for the care of someone, whether they are a companion animal or a young child or an elderly parent or rescued farm animals or whoever it is that needs our care for whatever reason and is thus a dependent…we make decisions. Some of them, at least. That’s the nature of things, as the world is now, and we have to deal with that, and weigh and consider and think and do our best.

tempest playing with sparkly wand

So, the blood donating. I have my doubts as to whether it would be responsible for me to volunteer Tempest to give blood. Not that she, at 10 and as a cat (I’m still researching), even qualifies, but this is a theoretical thing at this point. Yet if I decide that ethically I can not make the decision for her to donate blood, then wouldn’t I be bound to not receive blood in the event she was in need? And that means I’m making an even more drastic decision for her – that I won’t allow her the option of a potentially life-saving transfusion.

That seems even worse to me. Better, isn’t it, to decide for her to periodically donate blood (assuming that it is risk-free, with the most minimal discomfort) than that she should die even if it was preventable with a transfusion?

This leaves me a lot to think about. I haven’t come to any conclusions, it was just sparked by seeing that bumper sticker on my ride home.

Has anyone had their dog (or cat? can cats give blood?) donate blood? Been on the receiving end? Have other thoughts, perhaps more thoroughly thought-through logic?

I have an acquaintance (a friend of a friend who I have met only once, and hardly had a chance to talk to) who is a vet. A vegan vet! Our mutual friend has advised me to ask her about the Canadian Animal Blood Bank. I checked out their Donor FAQ and zeroed in straight on the cat-specific questions:

Can cats donate blood?

We do not collect blood from cats at the CABB. There are more complications involved when collecting from a cat. As you probably know, most cats will not sit still and would have to be sedated. We only use minimal physical restraint on our canine donors. The amount of blood volume needed to be taken from a cat and their small size in combination with using a sedative may increase the risk of an adverse reaction such as low blood pressure.

What happens when a cat needs a transfusion?

The need for transfusions in cats is not as common as in dogs. Transfusions for cats are dealt with on an as needed basis. A volunteered cat will be brought in to the vet clinic to provide an immediate transfusion to the recipient cat.

A volunteered cat? Where do they come from? Are they on call?

I have lots of questions. I hope to get in touch with the VeganVet to see what her thoughts are on this.


29 responses to “Animal blood banks

  1. Kelvin Kao June 17, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I don’t have an answer either. Instead, more questions came to mind:

    How interchangeable are the bloods of different dogs?

    Would people resort to using blood from dogs in the pound
    that’s about to be killed?

    Is there an organ donor program or animal organ transplant?

  2. Nancy June 17, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I know that if we don’t offer our cats, or dogs they take a stray and almost bleed the life out of them. this seems to be standard veterinary practice, along with selling inferior “prescription” food and dangerous vaccines.
    I have a friend who is a veganand a veterinary nurse and this is how she acquired her cat. Megan the cat, was older and anemic from so many “donations.” My friend took her home and even though she had a wonderful home. Megan never really recovered.
    This is a tough ethical decision, much like how we have to feed our feline friiends flesh so that they will survive.

    I think there is a kidney donor transplant program, but it is just as hard to get on the list as the human counterpart.

  3. kelly g. June 17, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    In the strictest sense of the word, perhaps donating your fur-kid’s blood isn’t “vegan” (where “vegan” is an animal rights/abolitionist stance), since it isn’t yours to give – but then neither is choosing to have your fur-kid spayed or neutered, since it’s not your body being altered. But as long as your kid is eligible and it won’t cause him undue physical or psychological stress, I think it’s okay. A mighty admirable thing to do, in fact, as it can save the lives of other dogs, cats etc.

    (Another way to look at it: let’s say there was something fundamentally different about human children’s blood such that they could only receive blood from children. Would it be unethical to compel your child to donate her blood, as long as doing so doesn’t prove too stressful or physically harmful to her?)

    When I first heard about animal blood banks, a few years back, I started to do some research, and found out rather quickly that dogs have to be a certain weight to give blood. My dog-kids are all too small (a dachshund and four rat terriers), and our cat-kid is older and has kidney problems, so I didn’t get too far into it.

    I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has done so, though!

  4. Mo June 17, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    One of my cats received a transfusion back in 1998, and it was somewhat of an emergency situation. The clinic had a couple of “clinic cats”, and they periodically donated blood for cats in need. I recently went on a tour of a local large, high-profile emergency clinic that helps a lot of injured strays, etc., and they have a blood bank with both dog and cat blood stored. They explained that the cats do need to be sedated, and most of their “donors” are also clinic cats – cats that were treated but have no homes or families, so their sort of job is to hang out and be admired and loved all day by the staff and clients, and to donate blood periodically. Also, some of the clinic’s employees bring their cats in for donation periodically.

    If you have an ER clinic in your area, you might be able to talk to some of the staff and get some first-hand insight into how they came to their decisions, etc. (in fact, your own vet probably knows of clinics with donors – it’s not uncommon). I’d give serious consideration to the type of sedation used, and I’d personally be reluctant with a 10-year old kitty, not only because of the stress involved – although most clinicians would probably say there isn’t a lot of risk with most sedation, any unnecessary risk with a 10-year old is probably too much risk. They probably wouldn’t recommend 10-year old to be a donor. In the event that Tempest ever needs a transfusion and you find yourself with that ethical dilemma, you could consider any younger kitty you might adopt one day as a donor, to sort of help the community on Tempest’s behalf. I think that laid-back kitties are candidates as donors.

  5. nothoney June 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Tempest is a lovely cat. Nice pics of her.

    My vet is a vegetarian and there are vegan LVTs at Mina’s cancer vet’s office. So, I do get some acknowledgment from them, i.e., during Mina’s first visit for evaluation and lymphoma staging our vet, Dr. B., explained that chemotherapy drugs are tested on animals. Since Mina can’t make that decision, I chose for her. Chemo is an emotional roller coaster but Mina is still with me and feeling a lot better so I mostly think I did the right thing.

    If Mina’s vet had ever mentioned blood donating it’s likely I would’ve volunteered Mina for the reasons mentioned by the others, i.e., I’d want Mina to have blood if she ever needed it and to spare strays and other “clinic” animals from the stress of constantly donating blood.


  6. pitbull friend June 17, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I’m with nothoney. While it’s our duty to think of the individual animal who has been entrusted to us, it’s also our duty to think of the animal we’ve never met. Else why would we be vegan? (This is why I have a hard time understanding vegans who feed cats meat – I know it’s supposed to be better for the cats, but it is so very much worse for the dead animals they eat, isn’t it?)

    Also, some dogs are very little stressed by such things. My Akita mix, for instance, LOVES going to the vet, wags her tail while they’ve got a thermometer in her butt, etc. It would be no problem at all for her to donate if she didn’t have a slow-growing lymphoma now. (Too bad I didn’t know about it when she was young!) I don’t think it’s any worse than bringing one’s child along on a volunteer project when the child might have preferred to stay home.

  7. Deb June 17, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    @kelvin – I was wondering the same thing about blood-typing, and whether it is similar in other animals to humans.

    @Nancy – I hadn’t even considered the issue of the strays being used like this, and to the point of abuse. yikes.

    @kelly – yeah, i hear you on the spay/neuter issue. plus the indoor/outdoor issue and a million other things. no matter what, we are making decisions for them left or right, as soon as we adopt them. creates no end to the dilemmas.

    I did read that one blood donation could potentially save the lives of 4 other animals.

    @mo – thanks for sharing your experience! i’ll definitely talk to the vet about this next time i visit. we’re due, actually, for a routine checkup, so as long as I remember to ask…i might go to a different vet anyway; the clinic i’ve been going to, i never have seen the same vet twice. :/

    @nothoney – glad to hear that mina’s been doing and feeling better. terry was wondering how you and mina were doing last weekend, if i’d heard anything. (if i kept up on facebook, etc, i’d have had an answer for her, i’m sure!) chemo is a great example of a really difficult decision, on many levels, that i hope most of us never have to face.

    @pitbull friend – well, i’m a vegan who feeds her cat meat. it isn’t something i do lightly, and this is an issue that vegans can have endless conversations about. i take it that you don’t have cats, and don’t know much about them, from your comment. (i.e., that they are carnivores is physiologically and thus ethically significant.) there are a lot of conversation out there on this topic; i’d suggest you read through them, and come to a fuller understanding of the issues and risks of feeding carnivores a vegan diet before you casually condemn those of us who have decided that we can’t, ethically, choose to risk our cats’ lives. I choose my diet, and as a human I’m easily compatible with a vegan diet. I know people whose cats have died on vegan diets. And yeah, there are others whose cats seem to be doing fine. Doesn’t change the fact that it is a risk, and a deadly risk, and that i’d be imposing that risk on someone who is 100% at the mercy of the decisions i make.

    Whether vegans feed their cats meat or not, it is NEVER an easy decision. Any vegan who treats it as an easy decision is, imo, not acting responsibly. (no matter which direction they choose.)

  8. pitbull friend June 17, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    How rude! How convenient it is for you to decide that, if I were better “informed” I would agree with you. I am well-informed on the subject and I don’t. Objectively speaking, how is it better to keep a cat alive than to keep alive the dozens of animals she might eat in her life? The only thing that makes the cat superior is that I have chosen that she be superior, yes? I don’t want to be in that position, so I’m not. You have decided differently. The level of preachiness at which you come at me on this makes me think you’re just a tad defensive about your decision. I can empathize with that. I would be, too. Sucks to be you, as they say.

  9. Deb June 18, 2009 at 4:18 am

    I actually was making the point that no one makes the decision easily, and that if YOU thought it was an easy decision, then you didn’t know the issues. If that is being rude, so be it. I call it plain speaking.

    It is a difficult decision, emotionally and ethically, and anyone who says different is acting in ignorance. Yes, that is indeed what I believe.

    I do not believe that everyone is going to agree with me, nor do I think that people are right or wrong…unless they maintain the ignorance that makes them believe that it is an easy decision to make.

    Because, let’s face it, that they are carnivores makes it ethically dubious to feed them vegan. Just as feeding them meat is ethically dubious AS a vegan.

    You insist that you are well-informed. You should know, then, that this is neither a clear ethical issue nor an easy decision to make. Too bad you’re not showing it.

  10. pitbull friend June 18, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I never said it was an easy decision. You read that into what I wrote. I didn’t even mean to take anything off topic. Just had a comparative-type thought, as, you know, us humans often do.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your stories about the farm animals, but I don’t need to get into stupid flame wars with delicate little flowers who can’t stay on topic. (If you felt a need to register your disapproval of my side comment, it really didn’t need to be more than one sentence, like “I totally disagree with you about cats because, from what I have read, they are obligate carnivores, so I have made the difficult decision to feed mine meat.” ) So, I don’t know, there are lots of good blogs out there to read, written by folks who behave rationally. I’ll go read those, and wish you good luck.

  11. Kristen June 19, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Good topic Deb – one of the things I have found that has helped me make decisions about my dog is to not think of her as an animal that I am exploiting but as a member of my family; she is essentially my adopted daughter. Most humans don’t donate blood, so I guess you have to look at what would you do? Do you donate blood? Why? If so would you encourage your human children to donate blood, knowing that it will save the lives of others?

    About being vegan and feeding your pets a vegan diet…unfortunately at times we have to remember that while cats and dogs are family members they are not of our species therefore we have to do what is best for their species in terms of a diet. You wouldn’t feed a Siberian tiger a vegan diet, hopefully. I tried a vegan diet on my dog, and she got really sick so I had to go back to one that included meat. It doesn’t bother me because in the wild that is how she would probably eat, same with cats. You are technically forcing your beliefs on a cat whose inherent nature is to eat meat (cruel as it may seem). If it bothers you so much don’t have carnivorous animals as companions.

  12. Deb June 19, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    @pitbull friend – to quote you “This is why I have a hard time understanding vegans who feed cats meat…”

    If you have a hard time understanding, what else are we to think but that you believe it is an easy decision, an unambiguous issue?

    @Kristen – that sums up how I feel, in part, regarding forcing beliefs on the cats for their diet, and not having carnivorous companions if it is such an issue. It will always bother me, can’t get around that, but she is who she is.

    The thing about encouraging human children is that there’s the implied choice that you’re giving them, and the implied ability to explain to them what’s going on and why. We can’t do that with our companions. Deciding that our companions will give blood is more like taking an infant human in to give blood. A good cause, sure, but we don’t really know if parents would do so because they never have to. (I don’t think.) Would they be okay with it, if their infant had to be anesthetized (with the associated dangers)? Or even if (like dogs) their infant had to only be restrained?

    I honestly don’t know, and I don’t have kids so I won’t even guess as to how parents would feel about that.

    This reminds me of a book, “my sister’s keeper”.

    Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of leukemia. Her sister, Anna, was conceived to provide a donor match for procedures that become increasingly invasive. At 13, Anna hires a lawyer so that she can sue her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned.

    I admittedly have only read the start of the book, but it starts with Anna planning on refusing the transplant, knowing that her sister will die without it.

    Not that giving blood is the same as the situation with Anna in “my sister’s keeper” but…it makes me think and wonder just how far “for a good cause” can go.

    I’ve gotten in touch with the vegan vet, and I’m going to email her some questions tonight. She worked with the Canadian Animal Blood Bank, so she will likely be able to answer a lot of my questions!

  13. Mo June 20, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Re: blood typing. I forgot to touch on that in my first post. When my cat Lucky received his transfusion, the vet at that clinic told me that most cats are pretty “universal”, but some breeds are more specific in terms of blood type they can receive. This (as you can see!) is vague…I didn’t press the issue, but during the ER clinic tour the subject came up and the clinic person giving the tour (not a vet clinician) said that blood types are important for both dogs and cats, similarly to humans. I questioned that because of what I’d been previously told; she was going to ask a vet but there was a lot going on that day and never did. It’s not really an “answer”, but I’d say to presume that yes, typing is important.

    FWIW, in terms of cats and meat, etc., *we* aren’t really making the decision; nature/their biology is. We are simply giving careful, researched thought into what we’re feeding our cats, and then accepting that if we do not feed them what their bodies need in order to function properly they will become sick, suffer, and die (solely for the purpose of satiating our own anxiety about accepting their reality…now that is irresponsible and cruel). Personally, I don’t consider this an ethical issue (though every time I buy their food I think about it!); I think it is an issue of necessity, nature, and life. If we don’t want to feed meat to our animal companions, then we would need to have dogs, rabbits, or any other animal that is not a true carnivore.

  14. Mo June 20, 2009 at 3:14 am

    I meant to say – I really hope you can find a vet that you like and can build a solid relationship with. It’s so very important! I’d have been a complete and utter mess without that.

  15. Nancy June 20, 2009 at 11:45 am

    The issue of whether domesticated (enslaved) non humans should eat a diet that is biologically correct should be as moot as the diet of enslaved humans. There were many vegeterian abolitionists in the ante bellum South who did not force their beliefs on the people they saved. This does not make them any less admirable.
    Felines are not indigenous to North America, they were brought here and enslaved just as my ancestors were. I feel that we who rescue enslaved non humans, cannot enforce our views on them on this issue because it would be another form of oppression.
    I fed my beloved Emily, (who at nine years of age only went to the vet once a year) the vegan food touted as being the same as their “natural” diet. I will always regret that decision. Within six months of feeding her Evolution as prescribed, she started getting ill. 4 months later she had kidney failure and, her veins were so shot, they could not euthanize her quickly so they had to inject her in the stomach until she died an agonizing 20 minutes later.
    I cannot save every non human that is suffering, I can only make sure that the ones who have chosen me as their friend and guardian in this human dominated world have the best life possible.

  16. Deb June 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    @Mo – thanks for the additional info on blood typing! It is one of the questions I’m going to ask the vegan vet, once I gather all my thoughts together.

    As for the possibility of vegan food for cats, it becomes an ethical question because of technology. There have been some vegan cat foods developed, and I do know some cats who have done well on vegan cat foods. Not all do. Not all vegan cat foods are of similar quality, of course, but one of the things that it comes down to for me, at this point, is that what we know of cat and dog nutrition is so slim….we don’t even know everything there is to know about human nutrition. It is more complex than it seems, because as much as they like to research individual elements of nutrition, it is the interaction of all the nutrients together that becomes important. If we don’t know everything about human nutrition, you can guess how lacking our knowledge is about any other species. What we do know is mostly what we’ve learned from animals dying of certain deficiencies. You might remember when it was discovered that taurine needed to be added to cat food (it is destroyed in the processing and needs to be added back) because cats were dying from taurine deficiency problems? That was, as best I can remember, in the past 15 years!

    So, though there are vegan cat foods, and though they do meet the published standards for the nutrients, the published standards reflect only what we already know. Which doesn’t seem to be enough, as there are definitely risks from vegan cat foods.

    Nancy’s story is just one heartbreaking story I’ve heard over the years; they all seem to have similar paths. Healthy cat who goes downhill so quickly that it is too late by the time it is known to be serious.

    But part of me believes that someday we’ll have enough knowledge and a deep enough understanding of nutrition that a healthy vegan diet might just be possible for cats. That’s where it becomes an ethical issue, I think. If it IS possible, shouldn’t we try it? I just am not convinced it is safe…yet.

    Here’s where vat-grown meat would be fantastic.

    @Nancy – you make really good points. Even in rescuing, though, we end up making a lot of decisions for them. I go back and forth on this because of that. Even in feeding a meat-based diet, we’re still making decisions as to what, specifically, is best for them. It is a big responsibility, all around, and of course the absolute best thing would be if we didn’t have to rescue them at all.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your Emily. The other cats I know of who died from their vegan diet were also on Evolution. (Animal Voices did at least one show about Evolution and this issue; it was a couple years ago, not sure if you heard it.) I have heard better things about Ami, I think it is, but I still don’t feel I can justify the risk to someone who is completely dependent on me, and the decisions I make.

    Thanks for sharing your story. The issue of vegan cat food has become a bit of a tangent here, but I always worry when it is brought up as if it is an obvious solution that other people (you never know who will stumble on a post and comments) aren’t going to realize that there are definite and severe risks for cats.

  17. Mo June 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Nancy’s story is indeed heartbreaking…I am so sorry. I’ve heard of Evolution before, but not in terms of being a vegan cat food, nor of stories of it’s effect on cats.

    Deb, I would love to know when safe, vegan or even vegetarian diets become available for cats! I agree that much (if not all) is related to our lack of knowledge of cats’ physiology…but I’m always afraid to start asking for further in-depth research because I’m afraid they’ll experiment on cats and harm and kill them. It’s all a vicious cycle, and all money-oriented, when humans are involved, especially when related to business in any form.

    The issue of food is high on my priority list right now because I’m changing the diet of my two remaining cats, as they don’t need a special diet. I’m not sure whether I mentioned that my beloved Daemon died on the 11th (his pic is my avatar). There are so many “healthy” foods to choose from, I don’t know which way to turn, and I certainly don’t trust that they’re all necessarily “healthier” than any other. Do you mind my asking, what food do you feed Tempest, and has she been on the diet for a long time? She’s healthy, so I’d probably check her food out first. They eat primarily dry, but these two can also have wet supplemented (Daemon couldn’t).

    (oops, I’ve further tangent-ed things!)

  18. Deb June 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Mo, that’s a real worry if the mainstream brands get involved. As it is, there are several brands of meat-based cat and dog food that are known to test on cats and dogs (in deadly ways).

    I didn’t know that your Daemon died. I’m so sorry to hear that. It is heartbreaking to lose them, as we know.

    I started feeding Tempest wet-food only about four years ago. I had a great food store in Denver (where I lived at the time) and in talking to the women who owned it, I was convinced that wet food was the healthiest thing for them. (except maybe raw, but i haven’t looked into that at this point, and i’m not sure I could handle it.) When I was growing up, wet food was seen as junk food, and we were told that the dry food helped clean their teeth.

    But next time you go to the dentist, ask him or her if you can eat cookies instead of brushing your teeth! That’s, essentially, the argument for dry cat food. We actually should ideally be brushing their teeth regularly (something i always mean to start doing for Tempest), regardless of what we’re feeding them.

    Dry food is too high in carbs (to process into kibble, it can only contain so much protein, and kibble will never match the profile of what they’d eat in the wild due to that) and cats evolved to get most of their moisture from their food. The carbs are a problem (it is thought that the almost universal kidney disease/failure in cats is due to the too-high-for-them carbs in the dry foods) and they can’t drink enough water to counteract this.

    Or that was the argument anyway. I haven’t found anything to contradict it.

    Avoid fish.

    I feed a variety of wet foods. Evo, Wellness, Organix, others as well. There is a dry food that is lower in carbs that I supplement with every once in a while. That’s Evo as well.

    Not all vets know much about nutrition (much like the way almost no human doctors know anything at all about nutrition; it is not covered in any real way in med school; i’ve had a new med school graduate ask me how i get protein if i’m vegan!) but if yours does, or if you can find maybe a holistic vet who does or a vet who specializes in nutrition, it might be helpful too.

  19. KaliMama June 21, 2009 at 12:25 am

    I have two blood donors at my house – one dog, one cat. I’m a huge supporter of volunteer animal blood banks, and my main reason for that is the troubling issue of the alternatives, such as the use of strays and animals kept for the primary reason of collecting and using their blood. I used to think that veterinarians who kept animals in their offices (the strays, the amputees, etc.) were just the biggest-hearted people ever, until I worked for couple and learned that these animals are the regular blood donors for the practice. They may be loved and well-cared for captive blood donors, but it still creeps me out.

    There are thirteen known canine blood types, some of which are “universal.” Their blood can be given to any dog, but those same universal donors can only receive blood from another universal donor. Most volunteer blood banks will accept donations from healthy dogs between 1 and 7 years old and weighing over 45 pounds. Cats are all universal donors, in the sense that they can all be donors and only a few have specific needs when receiving blood.

    The majority of volunteer blood banks have generous perks for donors. Some even pay cash, which feels odd to me, but it’s really no different than receiving services or goods. My guys get their ears cleaned, nails trimmed, and blood levels checked every 6-8 weeks when they give blood. They’re also kept up to date on their vaccines and given flea preventive and wormers as needed, all free of charge, and have a complete blood workup annually.

    As my companion animals are all fed vegan diets, I am particularly grateful for the frequent bloodwork to assist me in monitoring their health. With cats especially, so many diseases can be caught early through blood screening, while the same diseases may not show clinical signs for months or even years.

    Here’s a good article on animal blood banks:

    And yeah, I know that my companion animals aren’t actually doing the volunteering. But they are heroes to me, and I am ridiculously proud of them all the same. My vegan dog has consistently healthy blood and is a favorite donor at our clinic. We occasionally get a call to come in and give blood because of an emergency, and I hope that if we are ever the ones with a dog on the operating table, some other soul will bring their healthy, well-loved dog in to save us. 🙂


  20. Deb June 21, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    KaliMama – thanks for sharing your experiences! And for the article as well. I read through it, and will spend some time later reading through the links at the end.

    What is the experience like for your cat?

  21. Mary Martin June 22, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Nancy makes me rethink my decision for my own Emily to eat Ami vegan food (one of two meals a day, the other a meal is canned and filled with animal parts). It’s on backorder so i don’t even have it yet, but still . . . that’s why I won’t go more than 50%.

    Greyhounds, you may know, are the most popular dog for blood donation and I think that’s what makes me cringe. We do so much to them to begin with, and now we’re going to use them for blood, too? Can’t we just leave them alone?

    They’re docile (and read: accustomed to abuse) and universal donors, so they’re an easy target. Maybe if blood donation didn’t focus on greyhounds I wouldn’t get triggered about it because that blood saves lives!

    Violet wouldn’t even qualify, and Charles is a mess and Emily’s an FIP cat so I don’t have any viable donors in my house. If the blood were for anything other than helping other animals, I’d have more of a problem with it. It’s the concept of making that decision for another, and then making him/her do that thing (have blood taken) that I have a bit of trouble getting over.

  22. Mo June 22, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks, Deb, for the food help! Mine are not really jumping on the wet food wagon, but I’ll keep trying. I’m trying a variety of things now (and hoping I don’t give anyone GI problems).

    Just my 2 cents: KaliMama’s post was great!

  23. Deb June 22, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    @Mary – I did read in an article that Greyhounds are often adopted post-racing specifically to become blood donors. I can see why the topic makes you cringe. What are your thoughts when you think of it from the other direction, if you ever needed to decide whether to accept a blood donation for one of your three?

    I don’t like the idea of making the decision for them to donate blood either, but it doesn’t make me discount the idea entirely because I’m already making so many decisions for her. Well, Tempest herself isn’t a candidate due to her age, but theoretically if I were making the decision. It is harder, in a way, with cats because Tempest at least hates getting in the car, is stressed at the vet, etc, so it would be a fairly traumatic experience for her. Not all dogs would be so stressed. Since they don’t exactly hide their feelings, maybe being sensitive enough to how they handle it is an approximation of letting them decide?

    KaliMama linked this post into a thread on VeganRepresent, which I skimmed through, and she made a good point on that thread – if more people were taking their companions in to give blood, it would take care of the troublesome issue of animals being “rescued” only to act as captive blood donors in the clinics.

    @Mo – I’m lucky with Tempest in that regard. It is a rare food that she doesn’t devour! She also takes change really well. I forget sometimes that not all cats like wet food, and aren’t as easy in general as Tempest is in this regard!

    • KaliMama June 23, 2009 at 3:20 am

      I have read that about greyhounds – that they’re often used as captive donors before being adopted out. It’s one of the stories that initially motivated me to advocate for volunteer blood banks. It surprises me how negatively so many people react to the idea. But when I ask them to consider where the blood will come from if their companion animal ever needs it…yeah. Hrm. Um.

      Not all greys are universal donors, just a higher percentage of them than in the general canine population, and that’s true of some other breeds as well. If you know that your dog is a universal donor, then you also know that your dog can only receive blood from another universal donor. That makes me appreciate the other volunteers even more.

      Cats are fully anesthetized (asleep) for the procedure. Dogs are lightly sedated but awake. Potential donors are screened for blood type and diseases, and any that react badly to being handled, restrained, and having blood drawn aren’t accepted as donors. (This is at the blood bank that I use, YMMV.) Overall, it’s about a bazillion times more fun than say, getting their teeth cleaned.



  24. Marina July 8, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Like you, I was taken aback the first time I saw an ad for blood donation at my vet’s office many years ago. I thought about the discomfort my dog felt at having a tiny amount of blood drawn and couldn’t imagine making her sit through the length of time needed to get the required amount for a donation. I recognized the need, but felt uncomfortable about it.

    Then, years later, our little dog (a different dog) was diagnosed with immune mediated hemolytic anemia, a deadly condition, which, may, at some point, require a blood transfusion to save his life. Countless dogs have “crashed” due to this condition and were brought back by transfusions.

    Suddenly, I found myself feeling grateful that the life saving option exists. I thought again about the discomfort involved in giving blood. Some dogs tolerate it well, others do not. If they tolerate it, as they do vaccines and other treatments, perhaps the short lived discomfort is worth the life it brings to another.

    Is this unethical?

    Technically, yes, because the decision is made by someone other than the donor.

    Is it wrong?

    I don’t know.

    I only know that we live on the brink of needing a transfusion every single day and to not have one available would mean certain death to our loved family member.

  25. Deb July 14, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    @Marina – I have talked to a friend who volunteers with the Canadian Animal Blood Bank, and if I get organized enough I’ll post a follow-up on this post. She’s a vegan vet, which was important to me because she’d get the ethical concerns, understand where my questions were coming from. And though I suppose you never know if all vets are as conscientious as she is, but given that the donors for dog blood are not anesthetized and need to lay quietly for 10 minutes in order to donate the blood, I think it actually gives the dogs a chance to have some say.

    It isn’t perfect, because we can’t truly ask and receive consent, but at the very least we can know that the donors of blood from organizations like CABB were calm and relaxed during the procedure, presumably comfortable and not bothered by it all.

  26. Marina July 29, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    That’s good to know. I never thought about it in this way (ie. if they are awake, it is a way for them to have a say). I guess I’m seeing the process through Corcodel’s experiences when he has to undergo blood tests (which he does on a regular basis). It is a nightmare for him every time and I wish he could benefit from some kind of anesthetic. 9 times out of 10 I end up crying in the car on the way home because I feel so helpless in at least making it tolerable for him.

    A vegan vet? Would she be anywhere near Toronto?

  27. Deb July 29, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    @Marina, I know what you are going through with Corcodel – I had a very sick cat a few years back, with severe anemia issues, and we’d be at the vet every 2 weeks for a blood test. Despite the anemia, despite that she was all of 8 lbs, they’d need at least 2 techs holding her down while she fought viciously (she was otherwise the sweetest cat on the earth) while they pulled some blood.

    Definitely not all dogs would be okay with the process of giving blood. I wonder if there is anything that can be done to make it easier on Corcodel. I’m sure you’ve tried a lot of things though.

    The vegan vet that I talked to is in Winnipeg. Definitely “near Toronto” if you’re comparing it to where I live, but not quite near enough for you to go to her clinic!

    I met another vegan vet from San Francisco area recently. There must be some around, I wonder if there is a network, a listing of them somewhere. I’ll ask my friend!

  28. Marina July 30, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Yeah… Winnipeg is quite a trek. 😦

    It’s the holding down part that gets to me. The poor little guy struggles and screams so much that it becomes unbearable after a while. They never find his vein right away, so they end up sticking a needle in his neck and hunting for it by poking around while a tech and I try to hold him. He looks at me as if to say “why aren’t you protecting me?”. It’s more than I can take most of the time.

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