Penn Vet saving lives with canine bloodmobile

The nation's only canine bloodmobile, operated by the University of Pennsylvania's Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital for Small Animals, is proving that offering pet owners more convenience can lead to more blood donations from their dogs.

According to, the animal bloodmobile has been in operation since 1991 and works with more than 200 regular canine blood donors. Around 2001, the organization moved into a new vehicle that was donated by a couple whose golden retriever had been saved by transfusions at the hospital. 

The bloodmobile visits locations such as veterinary hospitals and breed clubs on prearranged dates to collect blood two or three times a week, the school said on its website.

In addition to making it more convenient for owners to have their dogs available for blood donations, the bloodmobile rewards owners with either a 40-pound bag or case of canned dog food during each donation, plus a free yearly blood workup. The bloodmobile specifies that dogs can donate blood every six weeks, and owners must make their dogs available to donate three to four times a year.

To donate, dogs must undergo an initial 20-minute screening as well as meet certain criteria, including:

  • Weigh from 55 to 150 pounds
  • Be in excellent health and have all required shots
  • Be between the ages of 1 and 6, although dogs can stay in the program through age 8
  • Not be one of the few breeds the bloodmobile won't take blood from, such as pit bulls

Dog owner Burke Meyers, whose dog Holly donates to the bloodmobile on an ongoing basis, explained to why he chose to enroll Holly in the program and help other dogs in need of lifesaving blood.

"We [humans] give blood and it doesn't hurt. It makes me feel proud that this can save so many animals," Meyers said.