Healthbeat: Lifesaving Pets

September 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

If you have a dog or cat that's seriously injured and in need of blood, that blood would most likely come from another canine or cat. Like it is for humans, the need for life saving blood for pets is constant.

One dynamic duo is on a mission to help save other dogs. Ricky and Jill are canine blood donors.

About every eight weeks, they head to AETC or the Animal Emergency and Treatment Centers in Chicago to give up several units of their blood.

Their owner, Bonnie Bloom, believes the dogs sense they are doing something good and then something in the mail from the animal hospital made it that much more real to her.

"A card saying Jill saved two akitas with her blood," said Bloom.

AETC Veterinarian John Naeser says these blood donor dogs are part of a growing superhero team.

"About four lives are saved per donation," said Naeser.

Each unit of blood donated is divided into red blood cells and plasma. With advances being made in veterinary medicine, blood products can help treat all kinds of illnesses and injuries.

One little dog ate rat poison and is now getting donated plasma to help treat internal bleeding, and a puppy was able to fight off a dangerous dog virus with the help of a blood donation.

Animal blood donation has been around for years, but more clinics across the county are now setting up their own programs.

"We want a dog that's gregarious and wants to come in and get its blood drawn," said veterinarian Lee Harold.

Dogs have seven blood types, and about 40 percent are universal donors, making them ideal candidates. They also should be at least one year old, weigh 55 pounds, and have a pleasant personality.

Cats can donate, too. They need to be more than 10 pounds, be between one and seven years of age, and also have a good temperament.

All donors must be healthy and current on vaccinations.

"They actually are pretty tolerant of it. They sit still while we draw blood from them," said Naeser. "It's a pretty quick procedure, so they are pretty comfortable and they like the treat afterwards, so that makes it all worthwhile."

What's in it for the owner? Along with the satisfaction of helping others AETC offers a $25 credit for use in the hospital, and each donor dog gets free blood work worth about $400 each year.

So, the screening provides peace of mind that their furry friend is healthy, and just like human blood banks, the need is never-ending.

"We can never have enough donors," said Naeser.

Greyhounds are ideal donors because along with their sweet disposition, they are also known for their abundant blood volume.

Bonnie Bloom says it's only fitting that her rescue hounds are now helping others.

"To be able to know that you can just save other dogs just by, you know, a blood donation - it's just very rewarding on all ends," said Bloom.

Canine blood donations take about 20 minutes with little to no recovery time. Cats, unlike dogs, tend to need to be sedated.

And of course, while we're on the topic of blood donation, the American Red Cross reminds us that there is a desperate need for human donations.

3927 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, Ill.
American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

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