Pet Points: Blood transfusions don't just help humans
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Veterinarians can usually tell from the sound of the client's voice how concerned the owner is about a pet. When my friend Robin called me at home and said her dog was not quite right, I told her we could see him first thing in the morning. When she called back, I knew her pet was in trouble. Arriving at her home, I took one look and knew her dog was in critical condition. His gums were white instead of pink.
A spleen tumor that ruptures is a common problem in older dogs. Although I and some other veterinarians do perform this surgery during regular hours, without my veterinary technicians at night I couldn't. We rushed off to the local emergency clinic. There was a good chance that the bleeding from the ruptured tumor would require a blood transfusion.
The tumor was removed successfully. My friend's pet recovered and was treated with chemotherapy and did well for months until the cancer returned.
According to Christine Guenther, a board-certified emergency and critical care specialist, the most common reasons for a transfusion are trauma, immune-mediated disease, rupture of the spleen and cancer. Pets tolerate blood transfusions well.
The two major blood types in dogs are positive and negative. Blood typing is always recommended, but unlike people and cats, dogs can receive either blood type for their first transfusion. Subsequent transfusions must be matched.
Pets can get either fresh whole blood or the blood can be separated into packed red blood cells and fresh frozen plasma, which can be stored long term. Red blood cells are used to stabilize critically ill anemic animals until they can generate their own blood. Plasma is commonly used for pets that have eaten rat poison or have liver disease or pancreatitis.
The animal blood bank at the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Ohio Township began more than a year ago and is now recruiting donor dogs to help save lives of their critically ill patients. All profits from the blood bank go to the Animal Care and Assistance Fund, which helps clients with financial need to provide specialty care for their pets. One donation can help save two lives, both for the pet needing blood and the other affording specialty care. Prior to the opening of a local blood bank, blood products were shipped in from a national blood bank. The veterinary center uses about 10-20 units of blood products every week.
The goal is to stabilize life-threatening conditions. Cats also have need for blood for trauma and diseases like feline leukemia virus and feline immunosuppressive virus. Currently, the animal blood bank at PVSEC is taking only canine donors.
A Halloween Blood Drive is scheduled for Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donor dogs are given a physical, a blood count and chemistry, a heartworm and tick bourn disease test. There is no fee for the tests prior to donation. Only a small blood sample for screening is taken at the donor testing event. Once the animal is qualified to donate, the owner would be called when a donation is needed in the future. Typically dogs donate every eight-12 weeks. If you cannot make the Halloween Blood Drive, you can also contact the animal blood bank to schedule a donor screening for another time.
Eligible dogs should be between 1 and 8 years old and over 50 pounds. Well-behaved dogs should be current on their vaccines and on both flea/tick control and heartworm prevention. Donor dogs must have never been given a transfusion in the past and not be pregnant or nursing. If interested, contact Jessica Balogh at 412-348-2588 or email email@example.com.
Give pets the gift of life and be a blood donor hero.
First Published September 29, 2012 12:00 am