The photo-lined "Wall of Heroes" at a San Ramon vet clinic commemorates some 80 dogs and cats as life-saving champs for their blood-donor contributions.
"They've saved numerous lives," said Margaret Urquhart, hospital administrator at which launched the blood-donor program about 10 years ago for its clients.
Whether due to accidents, scheduled surgeries or medical disorders, animals —akin to their human owners — often need blood transfusions, staffers said.
In general, veterinary hospitals access statewide blood providers for four-legged clientele's needs.
Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center, however, opted to create its own blood bank, saying freshly drawn, "whole" blood is best-suited for its patients, coupled with the instant access.
"Sometimes the interval between the need for blood and the time it becomes available from an outside blood bank can be the difference between life and death," said Dr. Franklin Utchen, a founding veterinarian at the clinic.
"With many conditions," he added, "early treatment is the key to survival."
Bishop Ranch Veterinary Clinic maintains separate feline and canine donor lists, as blood is matched to species, and then, much like human blood banks, to the animal's specific blood type.
Dogs' blood, in short, is either "negative" or "positive," explained registered vet technician Samantha Belmont, adding that it depends whether dogs test positive or negative for a certain antigen.
Dog donors' blood is then matched to recipient dogs, she said.
Cats' blood, meanwhile, is trickier.
Most cats are Type A. Exotic or purebred cats are often the more rare Type B. And some super-rare kitties weigh in as Type AB, Belmont said.
Cat-blood donations are typically used on an as-needed basis. "We call in donors as we need them," Belmont said.
The call for dogs' blood is greater, she said, with donations stored on site for up to 30 days.
Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center averages about one doggy donor a month.
The blood-drawing process takes about 30 minutes, sometimes requiring mild sedation of the animals, according to vet staff.
Pet owners, in addition to knowing their furry charges are helping others, are rewarded with complimentary physical exams, plus nail trims, for their dogs and cats, Belmont added.
Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center's blood program is for clients only, as donors and recipients are all clinic patients.
And there are requirements. Donor cats, for example, must be indoor only. Dogs need to weigh 70 pounds or more.
Bishop Ranch also takes plasma transfusions many times a year, storing on-site this "clear" part of blood, which contains compounds critical to treating certain life-threatening conditions, Utchen said.
For more information, contact Belmont at firstname.lastname@example.org.