TAMPA, Fla. – When Gidget, a 2-year-old terrier mix, was suffering from a condition where her blood refused to clot properly, an infusion of plasma donated by a 4-year-old pit bull terrier named Salem saved her life.
The two dogs will get a chance to meet – and sniff – at Blood Donor Appreciation Day on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Tampa, 3000 Busch Lakes Blvd.
“Many people aren’t aware that dogs and cats can donate blood, just like humans do,” said Dr. Dee Ann Dugger, a senior clinician who runs the blood bank at BluePearl. “This day is our way of saying thank you to the pets who help us save the lives of so many others.”
In addition to Salem and Gidget, a number of longtime contributors and their owners are expected to attend Saturday’s event. Awards will be presented to top donors and retirement certificates given to the dogs and cats who are no longer eligible to donate.
There will also be treats for the pets, snacks for the pet parents, hospital tours and a photo booth.
The blood bank program was created at BluePearl about seven years ago. Blood is collected two to three times per week at BluePearl’s Tampa and Brandon hospitals. Dugger said there are also plans to start collecting blood at BluePearl’s hospital in Clearwater.
Pets can safely donate every two months, Dugger said. A typical collection session lasts between 45-60 minutes and yields about a pint of blood in dogs and 50-70 milliliters of blood in cats.
The blood goes to help pets treated at BluePearl as well as other veterinary practices and emergency hospitals throughout Florida. Some is also shipped to BluePearl hospitals in other parts of the country. And, just as in humans, there is always a need for more.
“As veterinary medicine continues to become more advanced, the need for blood just keeps growing,” said Dugger. “We’re always hoping to find suitable donors.”