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Saving lives . . . Banjo, pictured with veterinarian Sarah Boys after giving blood, is a regular blood donor. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

They say giving blood is one of the more fulfilling things you can do as a human being, but what about our four-legged friends?

Yes, dog-blood transfusions exist. Dogs, just like humans, need blood transfusions when they have lost a lot of blood or have an illness affecting their blood.

The Oamaru Veterinary Centre is asking local dog owners to register their pets as donors to help ill or injured canines.

Many on their register had become too old, or their owners had moved out of town, veterinarian Sarah Boys said.

“We’re down to about two or three dogs on [the register].”

Canine blood could only be stored for a month, so the centre did not have large amounts on hand if an emergency occurred.

Instead, it had a register of dogs able to donate, and called on the owners when blood was needed, she said.

“We generally don’t store blood, because it’s so intermittent when we need it. So we’ve got a list of people who we call.”

Requirements varied, but the Oamaru Veterinary Centre required healthy dogs aged between 2 and 7 years old and weighing at least 25kg.

“What we want is to add them to our register. We want them to give us a call so that we can get their details down and in the event we need them, we can call them.”

Poisoning caused by eating rat bait was one of the most common reason dogs needed donated blood, she said.

“[Or] when the immune system is destroying their bloods and for some surgeries – those are the main situations.”

Like humans, dogs had different types of blood, but, usually, any type was compatible for the first transfusion.

“Dogs that are donors get a very light sedation and we take their blood.

“They have to give 450ml regardless of size, so that’s why they have to be big.

“They bounce back very quickly.”

If you can add your dog to the register, phone the Oamaru Veterinary Centre on (03) 434-5666.