If you’ve ever donated blood, you know the feeling:  lightheadedness (from the loss of blood), plus a strange sense of well-being (from knowing that you might’ve just helped save someone’s life). Don’t you want to give your dog that same sense of purpose?

Perhaps you, like me, didn’t know until today that canine blood banks are a thing. Well, they are — how else would sick and injured dogs get the blood transfusions they desperately need? — and the only one in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area is suffering a major shortage. Your dog might be able to help.

The Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank is one of only three major canine blood banks in the nation, and it’s the only one that gets 100 percent of its supplies from volunteers. (Most other canine blood banks keep a bunch of dogs that they care for and regularly draw from, which is depressing to think about.) But BRVBB’s dogs all live at home with their families, and donate blood every five to seven weeks. The procedure takes about 20 minutes, and the dogs aren’t sedated.

Blood shortages can mean that dogs with lifelong immune issues won’t get the transfusions they need, or that a puppy hit by a car might die while lingering on a veterinary waiting list. “Shortages are devastating when the bank has to tell a hospital asking for blood that there is none,” the BRVBB said in a press release.  “That means dogs needing life-saving blood won’t have any because their vets’ requests for blood are turned down.  As a last ditch effort they might turn to alternative donors who have not been screened for infectious diseases or even blood typed.”

Ideal donor dogs are healthy, between the ages of one and seven, and weighs around 35 pounds or more. The next blood drive in Baltimore will be held on July 27.  Contact BRVBB to register.