In my pet first aid classes, I alert my students that a dog or cat with a serious arterial injury can bleed out and die in as little as five to seven minutes if on-the-scene first aid is rendered. These pets are immediately transported to the nearest veterinary clinic where the medical team does its best to save them.
In many cases, these pets need blood transfusions. Some pets also need blood transfusions during surgeries, after being injured in a vehicular accident, after being exposed to toxins or suffering from anemia.
But what I didn’t realize is that there is not a national central clearinghouse of donor blood from cats and dogs, and that shortages of certain blood types in veterinary hospitals can and do occur.
I reached out to the team at Mount Laurel Animal Hospital in New Jersey. The large veterinary center has about 70 veterinarians, 300 employees and provides primary care, emergency medicine, offers medical specialties plus an on-site pharmacy and a very successful blood bank.
“There are not many hospitals like ours that collect blood,” says Rob Mankowski, DVM. “Smaller hospitals often need to purchase from commercial blood banks or refer their patients to these places.”
Mount Laurel is saving countless lives of pets needing blood transfusions thanks to a group of about 25 dogs and six cats who regularly donate their blood. And, leading that effort is a very mellow, 95-pound Newfound Dog mix named Lagatha.
Lagatha was rescued as a pup about four years ago by Deborah Consiglo, a veterinary tech specialist in emergency and critical care medicine. She also is the operations director for the hospital’s blood bank. On a special salute to dog heroes of 2022, Lagatha was spotlighted in a television show airing on The CW.
Lagatha has donated blood to save nearly two dozen dogs in the past two years.
“She is such a chill dog and a very sweet dog,” says Deborah. “One dog named Oso came in with internal bleeding and needing life-saving surgery after being hit by a car. Lagatha and five other dogs donated blood during Oso’s stay here. Oso is now happy and healthy.”
The best candidates to be blood donor dogs are:
Between two and six years old
Weigh at least 55 pounds
Current on all needed vaccinations and flea/tick preventatives
Given thorough physical exams
Deemed healthy based on a comprehensive blood screening
Relaxed while lying on an exam table while the neck area is shaved, and blood is drawn.
“We are looking for calm-tempered dogs willing to be keeping still on their sides while we draw a unit of blood,” says Deborah. “The whole process from start to finish takes about 20 minutes. It is not so easy to have a donor cat stay still on his side for 10 minutes, so we usually need to sedate them.”
Donor pets reap lots of healthy treats and praise. At some animal blood donor centers, pet parents are given gift cards or credits for future veterinary care appointments.
There are many ways to give back to cats and dogs in need. Maybe your pet may prove to be a blood-donating hero like Lagatha.
((SIDEBAR)) What’s Your Pet’s Blood Type?
I am betting you know your blood type. Mine is B positive. But do you know the blood type for your dog or cat?
It may surprise you by the unique blood types in our companion animals. For dogs, the main blood types are known as DEA 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, DEA 4, DEA 3 and 5 plus DEA 7. DEA stands for dog erythrocyte antigen.
Of these, dogs with DEA 4 red blood cell proteins are deemed to be universal blood donors.
For cats, the main blood types are A and B, but there is also a rare type known as AB. But unlike in people and dogs, there is no universal donor in cats. In order to receive a blood transfusion, the donor’s blood must be compatible with the feline needing the transfusion.
Learn Pet First Aid
Learn more on ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting http://www.propethero.com. Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR – ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home page for more details.