The gift of life – pet blood donors

written by Dr. Luminita Sarbu

Years ago, during my internship in Florida, the phrase “This patient needs blood!” used to frequently echo in the busy ER where I did my emergency training. Among the 3-4 doctors on duty, it was bound to happen that one of us would ask for it on any given day. The need for blood was caused by various condition: the small kitten whose blood was sucked by the numerous fleas infesting it, the sweet Cocker Spaniel whose body was destroying its own red blood cells, the hit-by-car cat struggling for its life, the cancer patient bleeding in its belly, needing emergency surgery. In that moment of urgency, there was little time to stop and think of the source of the blood. All I remember is wanting to see the rich, red fluid flowing in the veins of my patient...a gift of life. But when the rush was over and emotions settled in, along with joy or pain came the question..."who was the one that generously helped today?"

Every day hundreds of animals need blood transfusions. Which means that every day, somewhere out there, a dog or a cat spares some to share it with a perfect stranger in need. There are few animal blood banks and there is always a big demand...just like in people. The most common blood types in cats are A, B and AB. Most non-purebred and Siamese cats are type A. Type AB is the most rare (less than 1% in US). In dogs there are more than 13 different blood types, 8 of which are recognized as DEA international standards. The most important canine blood type is DEA 1.1 because it creates the worst reaction when mismatched. DEA 1.1 positive dogs are considered universal recipients. DEA 1.1 negative dogs are universal donors and can give their blood to any other dog.

In Seattle area we are fortunate to have ACCES Blood Bank, a vital source of blood for patients in many local hospitals. The blood comes from volunteer donors (dogs and cats) in the community. To become a blood donor, a pet must meet certain criteria. This is done to make sure the blood donation is safe and it will not endanger the life of the donor in any way. Donors are blood typed and screened for infectious diseases. A complete physical examination is performed prior to each donation. The staff from ACCES Blood bank thinks that "the people of the community are our greatest allies. We appreciate everyone who comes to us willing to have their pet donate blood. For your support and dedication to the ACCES Blood Bank, we humbly thank you."

The staff at ACCES Blood Bank is absolutely fabulous and is dedicated to making the blood donation experience as pleasant as possible for the donor. This involves lots of treats, toys, praises and hugs! How do I know that? From personal experience!

Meet ACCES blood donors Daisy and Sam – they are my kids.

SamSam found his way in my life in New Orleans. While doing rescue work after Hurricane Katrina I I came across this sick puppy that was really struggling for his life. He was about 13 weeks old and it was a miracle he was still alive. A rescuer dropped him off to the warehouse we used as a rudimentary veterinary care place in the middle of the devastated city of New Orleans. Dehydrated, malnourished, full of worms, he laid on his side and as he found the strength to open his eyes and fix them on me, I knew I was taken. The next week was a bonding trial for the two of us – he needed to be on IV fluids, hand fed and constantly cared for. This earned him the right to sleep on the merchant-marine ship that served as our night sleeping quarters. I remember the night adventures of having to take him out to go potty – walking the maze of hallways in the huge ship trying not to get lost, down a really long and scary staircase along the outside of the ship to reach the land, always on the lookout for hungry wild dogs looking for a meal. But those days have passed and Sam has turned into a healthy mutt that loves the outdoors as much as he loves the couch.


DaisyDaisy adopted me a few years later. She was sick with parvovirus and being treated at the clinic where I worked. Things were touch-and-go for her for a while. One day as I passed by the isolation ward, my attention was caught by the thumping noise coming out of there – inside there was a happy tail banging against the cage walls, connected to the slender body of a youngster and then there were the eyes...and with that I was taken again! Obviously she beat the parvovirus and turns out her blood was even more valuable for the first year, since her antibodies could help another puppy fighting the same disease. 

In a world where we are not always given second chances, Sam and Daisy have gotten theirs and so have I. They came into my life to fill it with joy, which they do every day. Their blood donations give others the gift of life and a second chance to happiness...

I hope you will consider getting involved with the ACCES Blood Bank as well – either as a pet volunteer for blood donations or as humans helping to spread the word. For more information, please visit their website at

Sam and Daisy