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Dogs on Call

Veterinary Clinic’s Team Of Greyhounds Saves Pets

Halfway through a walk, Julie Danner, a fourth-year veterinary-medicine student, removes Elmo's muzzle and lets him stretch out on the Quad with Officer. Most of MU's canine blood donors are retired race dogs who work with Vet Med before they're adopted by families.

There’s a handsome pack of greyhounds at MU’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital who help make happy endings. For sick pets, and the families that love them, these blood-donor dogs are lifesavers.

A blood transfusion from Elmo is credited with saving the life of Gunner Harrison, an AKC-registered chocolate Labrador who last Thanksgiving ate half a large bag of rat poison in the Harrisons' barn.

Frantic to save their beloved dog, the Harrisons rushed him from Hallsville to the veterinary hospital’s Small Animal Clinic, where veterinarians started the lethargic animal on an IV and vitamin K and gave him transfusions with plasma donated by Elmo.

To donate the blood, Elmo lay quietly on a stainless steel lab table for about 15 minutes, soothed by gentle voices, plenty of petting and the anticipation of a dog cookie. Like the rest of the team, he’s used to the donation process.

Retired racers 

The tall, muscular donor dogs are hard to miss. You may have seen these well-behaved greyhounds walking on campus. Veterinary students and volunteers exercise the dogs at least twice a day and enjoy showing them off on excursions to Francis Quadrangle.

Elmo, Officer, Munkee, Showman, Barone, Rowdy, Wilbur, Villain, Boo and Chopper came to Mizzou after their racing careers ended when they were 3 to 5 years old. Mizzou acquires nearly all its donor dogs from racetracks. The animals serve as blood donors for one to two years before being offered for adoption.

“We keep them until they find a home. They were committed to us; we’re committed to finding them a home. We’ve never had one we couldn’t place,” Cohn says.

Greyhounds make ideal blood donors. Many have a universal blood type that is unlikely to cause adverse reactions in transfusions, and they’re large enough to give a full unit of blood monthly. Their lean musculature and big, prominent veins make blood collecting easy, and because they’re bred to run, racing greyhounds produce a higher concentration of oxygen-carrying red blood cells than almost any other breed.

Find out more at the Mizzou Wire >>