Most people know that there is a constant need for volunteers to donate blood. However, people are not the only species in need. Dogs are too.
"Just as with humans, there is always a need that is greater than the supply," said Karen Bracken-Penley, hospital administrator at Great Falls Animal Hospital.
That is where the Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank (EVBB) comes into play. The organization, which operates out of Severna Park, MD, travels to veterinary hospitals in the area to collect blood from canine blood donors. One of its stops is at Great Falls Animal Hospital located off of Colvin Run Rd.
"In the past we've had a lot of great dog owners meet us out there," said Theresa Connelly, General Manager of EVBB.
However, due to people moving away, pets growing older and various other factors, the number of donors in Great Falls has declined.
"They're out there — we're just trying to find them," said Connelly.
The EVBB comes to Great Falls Animal Hospital every 7-8 weeks. Dogs must weigh at least 35lbs., and they must also past a health screening test. According to Connelly, this has a number of advantages for the owner because it enables them to get what would usually be costly tests done for free.
"There are a lot of great benefits for the dog," said Connelly.
Donors are pampered to the best of the EVBB staff's ability. In fact, they are treated so well that most dogs actually get excited at the site of the EVBB staff.
"My dogs think they are the cookie people," said Bracken-Penley. "She just loves seeing them and she gets so excited — it's a dog's fantasy come true."
While the dogs donate blood they are petted and cuddled by the vet technicians. When they are done, they are rewarded with a pile of treats that is hidden under the pillow on which they had been resting their head.
"And we're not talking regular old dog treats," said Bracken-Penley. "We're talking about really good, gourmet stuff."
If the EVBB staff feels that the dog is not enjoying the blood-letting process, they inform the owner.
"They don't want to do it if it is stressful for the dog," said Bracken-Penley.
To make the process easier for owners, Great Falls Animal Hospital allows the dogs to be dropped off in the morning and picked up in the evening.
"You can leave your pet with us if you have to work, and they get walked throughout the day," said Bracken-Penley.
The EVBB has been around for 13 years, and Great Falls Animal Hospital is one of its original sites. The donated blood is shipped all over the country to stock emergency clinics. The blood is used to treat a number of canine diseases, as well as canines who have been the victims of accidents.
"We're the primary blood bank, and we have a contract with, Cornell University," said Connelly.
The EVBB will be visiting both Great Falls Animal and Herndon Animal Hospital on Thursday, March 2.
*To make a blood donation appointment for your dog at either Great Falls Animal Hospital or Herndon Animal Hospital, please contact the EVBB at 1-800-949-EVBB (3822). For more information, visit their web site at www.evbb.com.