One of my daughters owns these dogs (currently and formerly) and works at the Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Colorado, which operates blood banks for dogs and cats. (More about cats next month!) And thus I learned about blood donor dogs.

Which Dogs Can Donate?

There’s no particular breed for blood donor dogs, but not just any dog off the street can donate. These requirements apply generally for donor dogs, not specific to Wheat Ridge:

  • Be between 1 and 8 years old.*
  • Weigh 50 pounds or more.**
  • Be healthy (based on a complete physical exam and blood work).
  • Be friendly, calm, and have a good disposition.
  • Be on year-round heart worm, tick, and flea preventatives.
  • Be current on Rabies and DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza) vaccines.
    • Dogs may require additional vaccines specific to a geographic location.
  • Some veterinarians allow blood donor dogs with chronic medications, assessed on a case-by-case basis.
    • Contact your local blood bank for a list of permitted medications.
  • Not be on a raw diet due to concern for salmonella transmission via transfusion.
  • Not have received a blood transfusion, or (for some programs) have no history of pregnancy.
(Note: Yumee’s doughnut of shame is entirely unrelated to his blood donation activities.)

*Retirement typically occurs on or around a pet’s 8th birthday. However, some exceptions may apply based on the discretion of a licensed veterinarian.

**Some blood banks have the ability to collect smaller units from 40-pound dogs. Contact your local blood bank regarding your pet’s enrollment.

I applaud all donor dogs! I happen to especially like Yumee, Bernadette, and Bruce because they are such lovable and loving pets. Not small animals, they nevertheless think they should be lap dogs. Whenever possible, they cuddle with humans and with each other as well.



They—and donor dogs in general—love being loved on by clinic staff, with lots of belly rubs and praise. Just as humans get juice and cookies after donating, blood donor dogs often receive treats after, as well.

Although some places maintain kennels of donor dogs, it’s common for donors to be the pets of a particular practice’s staff and clients.

The Wheat Ridge bank began with a kennel of rescued greyhounds. The dogs received full veterinary treatment, and after a year as a blood donor, stood ready for adoption. When HB1146 outlawed greyhound racing in Colorado in 2014, members of the community stepped in. Today, Wheat Ridge relies on pets of employees and clients.

When a Dog Donates Blood, Exactly What Happens?

Technicians gently placed the donor on his or her side atop comfortable bedding and soothe them while cleaning and prepping the area on and around the jugular vein. A dog’s jugular vein is prominent, accessible, and generally not sensitive to the needle.

Once the technician has sterilized and, if necessary, clipped or shaved, the area, they then draw blood through a needle into a sterile collection set.

Dogs with big neck veins make drawing blood easy.


Greyhounds have great necks and veins!
(Note: Bernadette’s cone of shame is entirely unrelated to her blood donation activities.)

Donating blood does not adversely affect most dogs. Unlike humans, dogs have a mobile reservoir of red blood cells in their spleens and can replace 1/3 of the donated blood immediately. They will regenerate the rest of the blood cells within a couple of days.

Although your dog can safely give blood every 30 to 45 days, blood donor dogs typically make a donation every 60 to 90 days. Dogs weighing at least 40 pounds can safely donate a half pint of blood every 4 to 6 weeks (see above). Dogs weighing over 50 pounds typically donate a pint of blood every 8 weeks.

Bruce Lee was a super donor. He donated a pint of blood every 6-8 weeks for seven years. You can do the math! Besides being a frequent donor, he was ideal overall. He’d jump up on the table, lie quietly, and wag his tail throughout the procedure!

Because of the great need for canine blood products, most banks encourage a dog to donate at least four times a year. Most veterinarians check to ensure that donors have an adequate red blood cell concentration before drawing blood. Like with humans, canine blood banks don’t want anemic donors!

Fortunately, most dogs never need a blood transfusion, but for those that do, it can be lifesaving. Many dogs need blood transfusions for surgeries. Also, for diseases where there is ongoing blood loss or destruction of blood cells, the dog may need repeated blood transfusions.

Canine Blood Types

Researchers separate blood donor dogs into at least 13 blood groups based on antigens, and dogs can have multiple blood types simultaneously. (The existence of these antigens mean that dogs that have received blood transfusions can no longer act as canine blood donors.) Veterinarians use the dog erythrocyte antigen (DEA) system. Ideally, transfusions should be between typed and crossmatched individuals.

Fortunately, about 1 in 15 dogs have “universal” donor blood, meaning they can donate to either positive or negative recipients.

About 70% of Greyhounds are universal donors. Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Pit Bulls are other breeds more likely than average to be universal donors.

Dogs that need transfusions usually receive blood components. Laboratories separate whole blood into several useful forms; pRBCs, fresh-frozen plasma (FFP), frozen plasma for long-term storage, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), platelet concentrate, and cryoprecipitate.

Each component has multiple uses. For example:’

  • RBCs (red blood cells) are used for patients with acute chronic hemorrhage, hemolysis, renal disease, and bone marrow disorders.
  • FFP (plasma) contains clotting factors and albumen, and is used to treat bleeding due to anticoagulant rodenticide toxicity, liver failure, or congenital clotting deficiencies.
  • Cryopreccipitate (platelets) can be used in the treatment of some hemophilia and as a topical hemostatic in surgery.

When a dog donates blood, it is rescuing three fellow canines!

There was a national shortage of canine blood for transfusions during the pandemic, and demand usually goes up during the summer. To encourage donations, sometimes clinics and communities spotlight superhero dogs. For example, the Wheat Ridge newsletter once featured Bruce Lee as a super-donor. Local media noticed and spotlighted his blood donor heroism as well!

And when not donating blood, donor dogs just do what dogs do!


Bottom line: Dog blood donors are always welcome! Is your pet a candidate? Find a canine blood bank near you!


Cats and dogs have notoriously different needs and characteristics, but either can be good models for characters. 

The first large dogs appeared in Russia about 15,000 years ago. There were smaller dogs in Western Europe at about the same time, and other wolves were domesticated in China a little later. Modern dogs are mostly a mixture of all three types.  Worldwide, there are 360 recognized breeds, not counting those being created but not yet recognized.

There are 40 recognized cat breeds.  Domesticated cats have been around since 3600 B.C., 2000 years before Egypt’s pharaohs.

Question: Is your character from an old/first family? A pillar of society? A mix of different cultures and upbringings? 


Speed: On average, cats run 50 kph and dogs run 32 kph.  In other words, house cats can run at a speed of 30 miles per hour.

Flexibility: Cats have free-floating bones (clavicles) which allows them to move more freely, making them more flexible.  Cats are able to get through any openings they can get their heads through.

Appetite: Dogs win hands-down in eating contests, sometime gorging a whole meal in just a couple of bites; cats tend to eat more gracefully, and slowly.  (FYI, this is because cats cannot move their jaws horizontally; they can only  open and close.)

Agility: Unlike dogs, cats are able to jump (up to six times its length) and climb, which aids them in hunting and makes it easier to flee from danger. Their sharp, retractable claws provide a distinct advantage when it comes to catching prey and defending themselves from bigger predators. Because of this, cats have no need to work together to care for themselves. It also makes them territorial. 

Balance: Most female cats prefer using their right paw, while males are more likely to be “left-pawed”.

Lifespan: Cats live 25% longer than dogs (15 vs. 12 years).

Question: Are your characters’ strengths and/or weaknesses more cat-like or more dog-like?

Brain Power

Memory: Research under controlled laboratory conditions have demonstrated that both dogs and cats exhibit what’s called episodic memory—i.e., their brains make possible the conscious recollection of events as they were previously experienced. It’s a rare trait in animals.

Cats have a longer-term memory than dogs, especially when they learn by actually doing rather than simply seeing.

Training: Dogs are generally the easier of the two to train. A dog’s pack mentality makes him ready to follow a leader and makes him generally more obedient by nature.  You can teach an old dog new tricks. Although eager puppies soak up information (just like human children), dogs can learn at any age (also like humans).

Cats can be trained, but not as thoroughly as dogs. It requires a lot of patience and consistent practice to get past their willful nature. With cats, it’s best to focus training on establishing boundaries.

A cat’s cerebral cortex (the part of the brain in charge of cognitive information processing) has 300 million neurons. That’s almost double a dog’s.

Emotion: A cat’s brain is 90% more similar to a human’s than to a dog’s. Cats and humans have nearly identical sections of the brain that control emotion.

Dogs don’t feel guilty. They might look guilty at having done something wrong, it’s just their reaction to being reprimanded. Over the millennia, dogs have evolved to mimic human facial expressions to ingratiate themselves and get more treats. However, dogs do feel intense affection for their favorite people. Researchers demonstrated that dogs’ heart rates increase when their owners speak to them or call their name.

Dreaming: Both cats and dogs dream, as evidenced by brainwave patterns similar to humans.

Questions: Is your character more a pack animal or a loner? What are his/her strongest brain functions?

Character/ Personality

Pack or Solitary: Dogs are hardwired with pack instinct that generally makes them social, friendly, and all too happy to belong to a group. Dogs instinctively go wherever their pack goes, which makes them more readily accepting of new experiences, such as travel or moving. Dogs are good followers.

By contrast, with the exception of lions, most cats in the wild are solitary nocturnal hunters. Cats have no need to work together to thrive.  As solitary animals, they are okay alone all day.  Their independence may make them seem aloof.  Cats can be content as long as they have the essentials.  They do enjoy social interaction, though.

Stimulation: Cats would do much better in COVID lockdown or other confinement than dogs!

Dogs need lots of stimulation, fresh air and regular exercise.  Dogs enjoy days out and traveling.  Dogs often tend to be more expensive to care for than a cat (food, toys, accessories, grooming, etc.).

Schedule: Dogs are diurnal; cats are nocturnal and like to roam the house at night. Cats sleep 70% of the times.

Question: what is hard-wired in your character?


Body Language: A cat’s whiskers pointed forward is a sign of inquiry or curiosity; pointed back is a sign of fright/not wanting whatever is coming its way.

The way a dog wags its tail can tell you its mood. It’s suggested a wag to the right means happy and to the left means frightened. Low wags indicate they’re insecure.

Within a pack, dogs communicate almost entirely through body language. Much of this body language can be copied by humans to communicate with dogs, including eye contact, head position, torso angle, and invading or conceding personal space.

Vocalization: Dogs are able to understand 200 words, the same number as a two-year-old human.

Cats make more than 100 different sounds whereas dogs make around 10. The basenji is the only breed of dog that can’t bark. However, they can yodel!

One study indicated that hungry cats ‘meow’ in the same frequency as a crying baby, hitting the human brain right in the obnoxious evolutionary hindbrain (especially in the middle of the night).

Question: Does your character communicate (send and/or receive) better with verbal, non-verbal, or paraverbal skills?


Smell: A dog’s sense of smell is up to 100,000 times more than humans.  Bloodhounds are able to trace scents that are over 300 hours old.

Vision: Cats see more colors than dogs do.  Dogs see primarily on a blue and yellow scale; they can’t tell the difference between green and red.  Visual acuity is better for dogs, but cats see better in the dark.

Cats’ whiskers help them detect motion changes.

Hearing: Cats can hear almost a full octave higher than dogs (sounds as high as 64 kHz), and both can hear in the ultrasonic level.  Hearing is the strongest of a cat’s senses. 

The ability of a cat to find its way home is called “psi-travelling.” Experts think cats either use the angle of the sunlight to find their way or that cats have magnetized cells in their brains that act as compasses.

Question: Which of your characters’ senses are most highly developed? Did that come naturally? Was it/them honed on purpose?

Bottom line: Considering your characters’ physical and psychological traits will contribute to a richer, more compelling character.

W.H.O. Let the Dogs Out?

These dogs are better at social distancing than most humans I know.

Today’s blog entry was written by Kathleen Corcoran, a local harpist, teacher, writer, editor, favorite auntie, turtle lover, and dutiful servant of a fluffy tyrant masquerading as a dog.

By this point, most of us have seen something in our lives change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we understand (at least a bit) why things have changed. Our animal companions just see that the humans’ behaviors are suddenly different.

“Humans are staying in these circles, so I guess I’ll stay in a circle. Do I get treats now?”

Despite various quarantine and lockdown orders around the world, animals dependent on humans still need care. Many zoos and animal parks house animals that cannot be released into the wild because they were born in captivity, they are still recovering from injuries, their homes have been destroyed, or other circumstances that prevent them being able to thrive. Animal shelters, zoos, rescue and rehabilitation centers, and emergency veterinarians have adjusted to provide food, socialization, attention, playtime, and everything else to keep their charges happy.

Zoos have closed to the public, but zookeepers are still reporting for work. Some keepers have temporarily moved into the zoos themselves to be closer to their charges and to avoid any chance of carrying any infections into the zoo or home to their families. They’re camping in the cafeterias and staying in veterinary isolation huts.

In Cornwall, England, four keepers at Paradise Park have moved into the original house of the family that owned the property. Other keepers rotate in and out to assist, maintaining a strict schedule so that they are not in the zoo at the same time.

Without visitors around all the time, zookeepers have more freedom to take animals to visit their friends in other areas of the parks.

Because most zoos are making do with skeleton crews, keepers don’t have as much time as they’d like to play with the animals in their care. Many animals have been taking their own tours around zoos to see each other and keep each other entertained. (That doesn’t mean that bunnies have been jumping into the lion pens to say hello.)

The tamer animals have been allowed to wander the parks freely while there are no visitors. Territorial animals like geese have taken over bridges and tried to block keepers from crossing to feed other animals. Many zookeepers report that the more social animals still follow them around during rounds, without any leads or harness.

Some animals have left the zoo altogether and gone to explore the world. Peacocks from the Bronx Zoo took a stroll through Prospect Park.

Police in a closed park in Houston helped a gaggle of ducklings find their way back to their mother.

This cockatoo learned how to sing “Row row row your boat” and loves to sing along with kids who come by her enclosure. Without her backup singers, she has started humming to herself in the quiet. Zookeepers report that they can sometimes hear her start the song by herself but trail off sadly when no one joins in.

Without visitors to interact with, many animals are behaving differently. Keepers try to give each animal extra attention during feeding and rounds, but it’s hard to replace a steady stream of admirers. Some animals miss the interaction and get very excited to see anyone. Other animals feel more comfortable without an audience and venture out of hiding spaces more regularly.

Zookeepers come up with activities to keep animals entertained and socialized. Gorillas who regularly mirror gestures and pose for selfies with visitors are shown videos of people talking to them. Leopards at Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY have to “hunt” for food in cardboard tubes to keep teeth and jaws strong.

Polar bear cubs at Ouwehands Zoo Rhenen in Holland didn’t have to worry about public crowds when they left the maternity den for the first time.

Snakes, alligators, stingrays, etc. haven’t shown any sign that they’ve even noticed a change. However, one zookeeper noticed that some types of fish have become very attention-seeking.

Veterinarians at the Dubai Camel Hospital in Abu Dhabi have kept their enclosures open to treat their patients. After surgery, the very large patients need plenty of space and lots of help to get over that first hump in their recovery. (Ha! I crack myself up!)

Q: Where does the 800 lb gorilla sit for surgery?
A: Wherever the anesthesiologist wants.

Most veterinarians are only open for emergency cases to lessen the chances of spreading COVID-19. The CDC has confirmed that two pet cats have tested positive for COVID-19, but both showed mild symptoms and are expected to make a full recovery. Updated guidelines for interacting with cats and dogs have been posted on the CDC website. Although pets cannot become infected, there is a chance that they could spread virus surviving in droplets on their fur or paws.

There have been no reports of tortoises catching or spreading the virus, which makes them the perfect quarantine buddies!

One of the positive side effects of this awful pandemic has been the emptying of animal shelters. All over the world, people are adopting or fostering quarantine buddies. Shelter managers warn that permanent adoption may not be the best choice for families who will not have the time and resources to continue to care for pets when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Some pets are not excited about constant supervision.

Some shelters are offering to cover food or vet bills for adopted or fostered pets as an incentive. While we’re all stuck inside, what could be better than spending extra quality time with our favorite furry buddies? They must be loving it, too. People home all day!

Mental health experts recommend furry, feathery, or scaly companions to mitigate the feelings of loneliness and depression some people are bound to develop while self-isolating. Pets can also be a huge help to parents trying to keep children entertained while they are out of school and have no place to run off all that energy.

Depending on the intelligence and motivation of the pet you adopt or foster, they may be able to help you complete some of your work at home.

Therapy dogs who can no longer visit patients in hospitals and nursing homes are sharing their affection and calm over video.

Some therapy dogs are so calm, they sleep through their own swearing-in ceremonies. This is Brody, the newest and sleepiest member of the Bristol, RI police force.

Several localities are under extremely strict lockdown measures that residents are only allowed outside for specific errands, such as walking the dog. If walking the dog is the only opportunity you have for going outside, you might as well do it in style.

Don’t put a facemask on your dog. It doesn’t help anything, and it annoys the dog.

While the zoos and aquariums are closed and everyone is staying home, take a virtual trip. Many parks and zoos have installed virtual tours and live-feeds of animals. These are a few of my favorites.

The World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. All dogs previously held in quarantine will now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out!
Who? Who? Who?who!