Heroes During Pandemic Come in All Shapes and Sizes…and Species

Regnar, a 4-year-old German shepherd belonging to UC Davis veterinarians Drs. Boaz Arzi and Natalia Vapniarsky Arzi, was able to donate blood at the UC Davis veterinary hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regnar, a 4-year-old German shepherd belonging to UC Davis veterinarians Drs. Boaz Arzi and Natalia Vapniarsky Arzi, was able to donate blood at the UC Davis veterinary hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home and physical distancing orders, veterinary blood banks worldwide—including the UC Davis veterinary blood bank—are encountering shortages in blood supplies. In order to keep the hospital a safe environment, the blood bank is currently unable to enroll any new donors from the community. This has created a shortage of canine blood products (plasma, red blood cells, platelets) at the hospital.

dog getting treats while donating blood
Regnar gets treats as he donates blood at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

Following an internal plea for donors, nearly 40 UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine faculty, staff, and students responded within just a few hours to volunteer their dogs to be screened as potential blood donors. This immediate response resulted in 20 dogs meeting the minimum standards to be tested for the specific blood type needed, with 12 having the correct type.

Unlike plasma that can be frozen for up to one year, red blood cells and platelets need to be kept fresh, causing a need for continual donations at all times.

“This is a great example of our veterinary school coming together in these difficult times to help,” said Dr. Steven Epstein, director of the Transfusion Medicine Service. “These dogs will be able to help dozens of other dogs who may need blood product in the coming weeks.”

UC Davis operates the largest community-based veterinary blood bank in the western United States. The hospital collects, processes and stores canine blood needed for transfusions to treat a variety of conditions in dogs. When normal hospital conditions resume, the blood bank will re-open to new donor candidates from the community. In order to be blood donors, dogs must be 1-8 years old, weigh at least 55 pounds, and be in excellent health. To learn more, please visit the blood bank’s website.

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