FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — More pets found homes during the pandemic and it has contributed to higher demand for blood donations for cats and dogs.

Northeast Indiana Veterinary Emergency Specialty (NIVES) Hospital has had a blood donation program for quite some time now. The increase in adoptions during the pandemic has led to a higher demand for pet blood transfusions, says emergency veterinarian Amanda Hilliard.

“We still have the same amount of donors, but unfortunately, the need has increased,” Hilliard said. “Our caseload has doubled, if not tripled some days. So we’re absolutely seeing more pets – with more pets come more problems.”

Coupled with that, more people have left the veterinarian industry, leaving some places short-staffed with extending wait times. NIVES typically serves a two-hour radius from their Maplecrest Road location but have seen people traveling even further as other vets see full rosters and, in some cases, wait times as high as 12 hours.

Blood transfusions are necessary for situations like when pets undergo serious trauma or ingest things they shouldn’t, like rat poison. Before your cat or dog can become a donor, they have to meet certain standards – like having a good temperament.

“We want them to be, very calm and relaxed while they’re here,” said Jenn Taylor, terminal medicine cardiology supervisor for NIVES. “There’s also some restrictions for age, so they need to be between one and eight years old. Cats need to be greater than ten pounds and dogs need to be greater than 55 pounds, and this is just because we’re taking a decent amount of blood that we’re going to be passing on to another pet and we just need to make sure that they’re big enough to be able to support that amount.”

If your pet passes the screening, they can give blood once every eight weeks. The process takes about 30-45 minutes and because dogs are giving a light sedative and cats are put under anesthesia, it is pain-free. Although donations should not hinder their activities, it is advised that pet donors relax for the rest of their day.

According to Taylor, NIVES has had a steady amount of regulars donating blood but they could use more. She said part of the problem is that many pet owners likely do not even know blood donation is an option for their pets.

“There’s always a good way for us to kind of reach out and let people know that this is an option,” said Taylor. “I think I find more and more that people didn’t even realize that this was a thing. Typically, unless they’re that pet that came that needed that blood transfusion, a lot of people don’t even know that it’s something that’s done in pets.”

Along with knowing your pet is helping an animal in need, Hilliard said that benefits go both ways with the donor program.

“You’re going to receive compensation and you’re going to get full yearly bloodwork,” said Hilliard. “This is going to include a lot of screening for infectious diseases, you’re going to get that heartworm check.”

You can inquire about letting your pet become a blood donor over on the NIVES website.