The Veterinary Hospital at North Carolina State University is looking to expand the canine blood donor program and is offering incentives to owners whose dogs qualify as donors. NC State’s veterinary blood bank is necessary to ensure an adequate blood product supply for the many sick and injured dogs that are referred for specialty care or that are admitted to the Small Animal Emergency Service.
“In order to provide advanced quality care for our patients that require blood transfusions, we strive to maintain a reserve of blood products so that this life-saving measure is quickly available,” says Dr. Sarah Musulin, clinical assistant professor of emergency and critical care who manages the Canine Blood Bank in the Randall B. Terry, Jr. Companion Animal Veterinary Medical Center. “Our trauma and surgical patients create a demand, of course, as do those dogs referred to us because they are anemic or have bleeding disorders from medical conditions.”
The need for blood donations has grown with the increase in owners requesting life-saving measures for their animal companions. As a tertiary care facility, the Terry Center cares for the most seriously sick and injured dogs that are referred by private practice veterinarians
The blood bank coordinator, Alicia Ossi and her team collect and process whole blood donations and separate some units into components such as packed red blood cells and plasma for special storage. These blood products are available for use within the hospital clinics as well by area veterinarians.
The current canine donor pool is comprised of community owned dogs as well as personal pets of faculty and staff at the College of Veterinary Medicine. The donor program provides dog owners incentives such as comprehensive health care screenings including annual physical examinations, vaccinations and blood work to ensure that donors are healthy and free of infectious disease.
To be considered, donor dogs should be of excellent temperament, weigh more than 50 pounds, must be between the ages of one to five, have a clean health history, and should have the likelihood of remaining in the area so they can serve as donors for up to three years.
Following an initial screening that can be completed by telephone, donors will be blood typed and screened for infectious diseases such as any tick borne illnesses. Those who are evaluated as universal donors will then receive a comprehensive health care screening, which will include blood count, blood chemistry profile, a urine analysis, and a physical examination.
The dog may become a donor if tests reveal a healthy pet that is not overly stressed by the experience. The donation process, which is performed approximately every eight weeks for a maximum of three years, is painless and involves a local anesthetic. A mild sedative can also be applied if appropriate. The owner may be present for the donation, wait while the donation takes place or can return later in the day to pick up the pet.
“We only select dogs that are easy-going and not stressed by the process,” says Dr. Musulin. “It is very important to us that the donor and owner are comfortable. We follow up each donation with a treat of choice, like peanut butter and canned food. It’s a positive experience for both donor and owner. The donor receives excellent care and the owner has the satisfaction of knowing that the pet may help save the life of another dog.”
For more information:
NC State Canine Blood Donor Hall of Fame