Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Donor dogs

June 24, 2009


The Japan Animal Referral Medical Centre in Kawasaki is not your typical veterinary clinic, as canine patients aren’t just suffering from colds but often potentially terminal illnesses, which you can sense from their owners in the lobby.

No one is talking about how cute their dog is, and it’s a quiet, hospice-type environment. So when four energetic dogs bounded into the waiting room, quite a few people wondered what was going on.

The dogs weren’t there for treatment, but instead to help with treatment. Pets obviously are not volitional blood donors, but their owners offered their healthy pets to donate to other dogs in need.

With no commercial blood banks for dogs, and a still-opaque Japanese regulatory situation, all clinics can do is hope that donors like “Kinjiro”, a German Shepherd, come forward.

The current system for dog blood donations in Japan needs some work, and although human donors and agencies like the Red Cross have enough trouble with four major human blood types, dogs have at least twice that number, depending on what country is measuring. Clinics here are unable to obtain the blood needed for canine surgery and transfusions, and the executive director of the Kawasaki centre bemoaned the lack of a proper blood bank.

Better animal healthcare services in a country with a booming number of pets, and a gradually falling number of people, is likely as Tokyo alone has 450,000 registered dogs. To put that into perspective, Tokyo has more dogs than the Bahamas has people.

Japanese are now increasingly spending more on their pets, including healthcare.  When people say they’ve spent up $1,500 for their dog, it’s not surprising, as the expense is considered the same as if for a member of the family, potentially fostering the growth of a nascent pet insurance industry.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato

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