The summer is usually a time when blood banks make a push for donations.

A northern Ontario blood drive this weekend, however, is asking for contributions from a surprising group  of donors: man’s best friend.

The Espanola Animal Hospital is home to northern Ontario’s only animal blood bank, whose emergency reserves — and pool of emergency donors — is getting smaller.

Kali Holz, a surgery assistant at the hospital, said their site supplies patients and other hospitals in the region, and typically goes through three to five units a month.

That means they are always in need of more blood.

“Because patients are typically critical,” Holz said, “it’s hard to be ready.”

Pool of donors getting smaller

At one time, the donor pool consisted of the hospital staff’s pets. But they are getting too old to donate. The current group of emergency donors consists of two young labradors and a bulldog.

“Unless we all start getting new animals we’re going to need help,” Holz said.

Holz said traumatic injuries are the primary reason dogs need transfusions.

“Nasty dog-fighting, or dogs getting hit by cars,” Holz said, “and rat poison ingestions.”

Owners mind procedure more than dogs

Holz said the procedure is fairly straightforward.

“The site is shaved down to the skin, prepared aseptically, then a needle is inserted. The procedure takes 5-10 minutes.”

“[The dogs] don’t’ seem to mind at all,” Holz said.

“It’s usually the owner that cares more.”

The reward for being a good dog?

After they donate, the dogs are treated to some special dog food.

“They get a can of Hills A/D [a type of dog food] meant for animals that are critically ill and need nutrition.”

“We give it to prevent hypoglycemia, the equivalent of you getting a orange juice and cookies after donating blood.”

According to Holz, dogs can be grouped into either “positive” or “negative” blood types, so transfusing blood across breeds is possible.

“There isn’t a mastiff blood type or a chihuahua blood type,” she said, “they’re either positive or negative.”

The only requirements are that the donors have a calm demeanour, are between one and eight years old, under 30 kilograms, and not have heart worms.

If you (or your dog) wants to donate blood, follow this link to get directions to the blood bank.