Dogs saving dogs: See how man's best friend is saving lives

It’s hard to imagine the joy a dog feels when they get the OK to go for a car ride. But this isn’t just any joyride. This is a life-saving trip, and Douille the dog is the hero in this story.

We met Douille and his owner Katie Bratberg before COVID-19 hit last year. He is a regular at WVRC Veterinary Hospital in Waukesha, and he knows today is another big day.

Dr. Alexus Urbanik heads up WVRC’s blood donor program.

"It’s not something you would think about until your pet is in need," explained Dr. Urbanik. "Most people are really surprised."

Dogs, like humans, sometimes need a little help from a friend. In this case, it is another pooch’s blood.

Dr. Alexus Urbanik

"Trauma is a big one," said Dr. Urbanik. "Immune-mediated disease is another huge one especially with the changing of the seasons."

So where do vets get the blood they need for transfusions? They certainly cannot go to the American Red Cross for help. That is where heroes like Douille come in.

"Most of them don’t even feel the needle," explains Katie about her dog donating blood. "They do numb it a little just to kind of help out, but most of them don’t care. They like the snacks and the love and that’s about it."

Katie Bratberg

After taking a blood sample and running it in the lab to make sure the red blood cell count is adequate, it is time for the actual donation.

First, Dr. Urbanik shaves the area where the needle will be inserted and then gives it a good cleaning. The needle goes into the jugular vein while a scale measures how much blood is being collected.

Fast forward to this year, same process – same hero, but now the need for donors is even greater with less opportunity for public awareness.

"Getting out there and with the public at our pet expos our pet fairs, those are really big for us to kind of spread the word to make sure people have heard of us," said Dr. Urbanik. "So without doing those it’s been a little bit harder too."

After a bunch of treats and a ton of love, Douille is all done and his blood is ready to be used to help another dog that may not make it without it. 

"Seeing these animals able to go home with their families is worth it," said Katie. "At the end of the day, totally worth it."

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Dogs can donate blood about every eight weeks. Cats can donate as well although the process takes a little longer because they have to be sedated.

For more information or to register your pet to donate, visit wvrcwaukesha.ethosvet.com.

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