The Human and Animal Blood Drives at NorthStar VETS

NorthStar VETS had successful human and animal blood drives in 2016 at each of its locations. The need for blood is year-round, but this story today will give you a lot of insight into the kind of good that comes from these events.

Why These Blood Drives are Important
Ellen and her dog, Orson, came to the NorthStar VETS blood drive in Robbinsville so that they could both donate blood. Orson, a three-year-old, was adopted from Greyhound Friends of New Jersey and Ellen has had him for about nine months. the NorthStar VETS blood donor program allows dogs and cats to donate blood to help other sick or injured pets. Ellen knows how important this is when she said, “When there’s a need for blood, it’s dire. When a pet is in need of emergency care, this is a great place for the pet to be. To be able to be a part of that and give back to the community and have a superhero give blood to help other animals is great.”

What the The NorthStar VETS Blood Bank for Dogs and Cats is About
Dr. Hammer, Medical Director for NorthStar VETS in Robbinsville and head of the NorthStar VETS Blood Bank for Dogs and Cats, explained the program. “Just like people need blood when their blood counts get low, so do cats and dogs. And cats and dogs actually get blood from other cats and dogs. Our blood donor program is a volunteer program where healthy cats and dogs give their blood so that we can use it for dogs and cats who are sick.”

The blood donor program is a simple two-step process, screening pets before they donate. Dr. Hammer continued. “The first part is the screening process where we make sure that your pet is up to date on vaccines, is healthy, weighs a certain amount, and is able to give a certain amount of blood. After that, we do an examination and an extensive blood screening panel on those pets and if everything looks good, then they become part of our blood donor program. At that point, we call people in on a regular basis to have their pet give blood. We store that blood until we need it, and then it goes to our sick patients.” Most breeds of dogs and cats can donate, as long as they are over 50 pounds for dogs and 10 pounds for cats.

greyhoundWhy We Love Greyhounds
Greyhounds have a number of unique qualities that make them ideal for this role. Dr. Hammer described them in this way, “They have a very calm temperament, they are very sweet animals, they also have a higher red blood cell count than your average dog. When we make a particular product called packed red blood cells, they have more of those red blood cells. They are also more likely to be universal donors, which means that their blood can be given to lots of different dogs with different blood types.”

What’s in it for the Donors
The program is free for donors, and pets get a number of benefits as well. Maria is with Greyhound Friends of New Jersey and has been an active participant in the program. She said, “First, they get a medical exam by a veterinarian every time they come here, they also get a discount on blood in the future should they need it, and when they’re done, they get this lovely bandana and a bag of treats. But obviously, the best part of them being a blood donor is that they’re saving lives. Our organization homes about 250 greyhounds a year, and now our dogs are paying it forward by donating blood and saving lives, and that’s really the best part.”

Paying Tribute to One of our Original Donors
Our June blood drive in Robbinsville was held in honor of Sonalee Abbate. Maria of Greyhound Friends of New Jersey, who knew Sonalee, told the story. “Sonalee was a pet of the Abbate family and she was an absolutely wonderful dog. She was actually part of the original Greyhound Friends of New Jersey and NorthStar VETS partnership, part of the original super heroes. Unfortunately, Sonalee passed about a month ago. She got the very best care, but unfortunately, she’s no longer with us and so NorthStar VETS decided to have this blood drive in memory of Sonalee. So we have a lot of greyhound owners who came down here today to have their dogs screened in memory of Sonalee. She will always be part of our organization, and she will always be part of our hearts.”

Thanks to these donations, NorthStar VETS can continue to provide world-class care to pets in need. Maria concluded, “I just want to thank NorthStar VETS. They provide absolutely amazing care for our greyhounds. They have the most wonderful staff, doctors, technicians and receptionists. We are very lucky and grateful to have the partnership between Greyhound Friends of New Jersey and NorthStar VETS.”

Blood DonorThe Red Cross is also an Important Part of the Drive
The American Red Cross hosts a blood drive for people at NorthStar VETS alongside the dog and cat blood drive, with dozens of donors stopping by. Omar Javier, with the American Red Cross, explained how important these drives are for people. “With one pint of blood, we can save up to three lives, because with each bag of blood we collect, we can use the platelets, we can use the red cells, and we can use the plasma. That could be three different lives saved from one donation.”

We caught up with Ellen after she and Orson made their donations. “Everything went really well today. I think Orson really enjoyed being around the staff, the people here are wonderful, really warm and caring and it was just a great experience for all of us.”

The NorthStar VETS Blood Bank for Dogs and Cats is always looking for new donors. To learn how you can get involved, visit

Kimberly Hammer, VMD, DACVIMKimberly Hammer, VMD, DACVIM
Dr. Hammer received her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2000. She spent a year at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine for a small animal internship and returned to the University of Pennsylvania for a two-year residency in small animal internal medicine. She earned board certification from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2004. She has a special interest in interventional radiology/endoscopy and minimally invasive procedures. Her other interests include endocrinology, gastroenterology and hematology. She currently serves as the medical adviser for the NorthStar VETS blood bank. She joined the NorthStar VETS team in September 2007.

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