We’d only allow a few pets to feast on our blood. Is it a puppy? Sure. Is it a kitten? We’ll chat if you get rid of your attitude.
It’s a must for folks who keep leeches as pets. You shouldn’t acquire a tank full of leeches unless you’re prepared to give them huge quantities of blood, just like you shouldn’t get a dog for Christmas.
Yes, it turns out that keeping leeches as pets is a thing, and although some species can be fed blood from dead animals (like Angel from Buffy), it turns out that many pet owners (thanks to Science Alert for bringing this to our attention) will give their beloved pets their own heart juice.
While it may sound revolting, allowing leeches to drink human blood has been practiced for over 2,500 years. Leeches were used to drain blood in ancient medicine to cure everything from hemorrhoids to blood loss. For the most part, the scientific technique was proven to be ineffective (and actually dangerous, given the possibility of infection). It is, however, still utilized for specialized purposes today, for which medical leeches are raised.
“Leeches may be used to assist enhance blood flow in a region of tissue or a skin flap that has poor blood circulation in medicine, particularly cosmetic and reconstructive surgery,” the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom writes on its website.
“Clotted blood (congested blood) is removed from sensitive places by leeches, such as below a flap of skin or on a finger or toe.”
These folks, on the other hand, do it only to keep the leeches alive, with some feeding them individually and others inviting everyone to the same party.
While it appears to be unpleasant, leech owners believe that it is worth it because of how wonderful they are as pets and how strangely interesting they are. On rare occasions, it’s even adorable.
On Twitter, one entomology student said, “Spent my Saturday feeding H. verbana.” “I bled for nearly 18 hours while he just ate for around 20 minutes! Leeches are interesting creatures, but they’re not for the faint of heart!”
Furthermore, depending on the leech type, you may not need to feed them for up to six months.
“A leech bite may be nearly painless, lasting about twenty minutes or so until it’s got its full and releases its suckers, a procedure I remind you only has to be repeated once or twice a year,” writes Bogleech, a leech and horror site. “Many individuals have discovered that leeches can assist them ease pain or tension.”
Instead of… this, we recommend a squeezy ball.
There are risks associated with the technique.
“The leech poses a tiny risk of infection,” the NHS warns on its website, adding that doctors would often prescribe antibiotics during any leech treatment since “they have bacteria in their gut that helps them digest blood.”
Leeches further warn that blood may leak from the incision for several hours after the leech is removed, since they create a strong anticoagulant to prevent their host (in this case, their adoring owner) from clotting, allowing them to continue their feast.
So be cautious, or consider getting a puppy.