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Cats and dogs suffer from a number of conditions including hemorrhaging tumors, clotting disorders, parvo virus (dogs), panleukopenia (cats), ingestion of toxic substances, traumatic injury and immune system problems which require blood transfusion. Other reasons for blood transfusions are support for cancer treatment, and blood loss before, during and after a surgical procedure. We can save lives if we can have a ready supply of blood. There are 6 national canine blood banks with the closest one being in Stockbridge, Michigan. Most area clinics go there for blood or keep a donor dog on premises. We wanted to have blood immediately available at all hours of the day, so a canine blood bank was started at SVH on January 20, 2001. It’s the only K9 blood bank in NW Ohio.

In December 2004, due to the great success of our canine blood donor program, we expanded to add a resident colony of cats to our donor pool. Our ability to save lives is greatly enhanced by having typed and cross-matched blood and blood products on hand.

You should never allow your cat or dog to receive blood that has not been properly screened, typed and cross-matched. That is why the first step in donor screening is blood typing.  Each potential donor is then given a general health screen which includes a physical exam and testing for overall organ function and various diseases. The diseases cats are tested for are Mycoplasma Hemofelis (formerly Hemobartonella), Bartonella and Feline Heartworm Disease. The diseases dogs are tested for are Erlichia, Mycoplasma Hemocanis (formerly Hemobartonella), Von Willebrands, Leishmania, Canine Heartworm Disease and Babesia.

Once accepted, all donors must be kept current on vaccinations and heartworm prevention and cannot be on any medications other than heartworm preventative. Each donor can give blood every 30 days but we prefer to keep individual donations to 6 a year. We have learned that our testing and collection standards exceed those of some national and university vet school blood banks.

All of the members of our resident cat donor colony were rescued from “death row” at local humane shelters. When our Critical Care Team searches for cat donors they look for cats that are even tempered, between 1 and 8 years old and weigh at least 10 pounds. These cats live upstairs in the staff lounge. We also have a volunteer group, Cat Cuddlers’ that come every day to play, interact and enrich the donors’ lives. After being in the colony for 2-3 years, we adopt the cat to a suitable home.

All of our dog donors are loved family companions volunteered by their owners. To be a donor, a dog must be healthy, even tempered, between 1 and 5 years old and weigh at least 50 pounds. We are always accepting donor applications. A couple of times each year we have a blood donor screening drive.

Animal blood types are not the same as human blood types. Cats have 3 blood types: A (the most common), B and AB (the rarest). There is no universal cat blood type. For dogs, there are more than 12 recognized blood groups that are designated by numbers plus positive or negative for example 1, 2, 4, 1.1+, etc. This includes a universal type that can be donated to any dog. Although any dog could potentially be a universal donor, greyhounds tend to be heavily represented in this blood type.

Prior to every donation, to ensure the safety and health of the donor another physical exam and blood count are done. Since cats will not hold still long enough for a donation like their canine counterparts, they must be given a mild sedative to relax them for the procedure. A small area on the animal’s neck may be shaved and the blood is collected from the jugular vein by a Registered Veterinary Technician. We collect 60 mls. (2 ounces) from cats and 450 mls. (1 pint) from dogs. The process is not painful and does not jeopardize the animal’s health.

After the blood is collected it is processed into components like plasma or red blood cells, stored as whole blood, or if an emergency need exists the blood may be transfused directly to a patient.

Due to the limited amount of blood available from our donor cat colony, we do not provide blood for any cats other than our patients. Since we have a larger group of dog donors we will occasionally provide blood for dogs in need at other veterinary practices.

Our Critical Care Team is on call for collecting and transfusing blood anytime there is an emergency need, 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

Though we try not to call our donor families in the middle of the night, some emergency situations have required us to call in several donors late at night or early in the morning. We are very grateful that our families are willing to help.

Since the inception of our program we have collected enough blood products to help more than 100 dogs and at least 10 cats! Without the Critical Care Team and blood donor families we would not have been able to help so many dogs and cats in need.

The Critical Care team follows guidelines as put forth by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). Transfusion medicine requires additional specialized training. They must know what type of conditions require which blood product. They must also know how much the recipient will need and how fast they can give the transfusion without causing harm to the patient.

The Critical Care Team is responsible for reviewing applications and performing health screening on potential donors. They also collect, process and transfuse the blood products. Some of their other duties include monitoring donors’ annual wellness care, organizing blood drives and donor recognition ceremonies as well as caring for the resident cat donor colony.

The Critical Care Team is always available to answer questions. You can call the office at 419-885-4421 or email them atlaura@sylvaniavet.com

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