If you love your pet, you hope they never get hurt. But, when accidents happen, or they need surgery, or treatment for infection, the outcome for your precious pooch or curious kitty may well depend on a blood transfusion.

Jax, one of the blood bank’s enthusiastic donors, and Indy, one of the pups who was saved thanks to blood donations from dogs like Jax—North American Veterinary Blood Bank

Luckily, there are blood and plasma donation programs for cats and dogs to help save the lives of their fellow animals in crisis.

“Many people do not realize the significant impact their dog could make,” Casey Mills of North American Veterinary Blood Bank told NBC.

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Did you know that dogs and cats actually have blood types that are specific to their species? Cats have three different blood types, and dogs have twelve, so a wide donor pool is needed. It’s worth noting that greyhounds seem to have a universal blood type, similar to O-negative in humans.

Each state has their own requirements and a screening process for animal blood and plasma donations, but asking your veterinarian about it is the first step.

Right now, there are only a few animal blood banks across North America: you can find them in the California cities of Dixon and Garden Grove; in Stockbridge, Michigan; in Richmond and Bristow, Virginia; and Annapolis, Maryland. If you live in one of these areas and your pet meets the criteria for donation, he or she could become a lifesaver. Not only that, it takes about 30 minutes and doesn’t require anesthesia.

The pets that donate are pampered and given lots of treats, and in return for their donations, their owners are often given discounts on exams and screenings—a nice bonus for the pocketbook.

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“[The animals are] always so excited when they come in the door to see us because they know we’re going to give them tons of peanut butter or Milk-Bones … whatever their little heart desires,” added Mills.

As the need for canine and feline blood continues to grow, you and your pet could become heroes to another pet and their family. As with human blood, it is by donation only, so the more people who know about the need, the better. Tell your animal-loving friends about how they can save lives and prevent the loss of a companion, and ask your vet during your next visit how you can get started with this very special kind of rescue.

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