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How Dogs Donate Blood

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jennifer Lindgren
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ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) - It is as essential to dogs and cats in a medical emergency as it is to humans: blood donation.

At animal hospitals and clinics, veterinarians need blood and plasma on hand to treat conditions such as heat stroke, cancer, and anemia.
The I-20 Animal Medical Center in Arlington is open 24/7 to take in emergency cases, from dogs with broken bones after being hit by a car, to those suffering from toxicity after ingesting rat bait.

Medical Director Cindi Welch, DVM, says the center orders blood through suppliers who ship deliveries, but the center also has a list of 30 or so dogs and 10 to 15 cats who act as volunteer donors in an emergency.

“Every month or two we try to rotate our donors so they’re not giving too much,” said Dr. Welch.

Lily, is a Labrador retriever owned by the center’s head vet tech, Tiffany.  By donating blood every few months as needed,

“People are kind of surprised to hear that we are able to provide this level of care where we provide transfusions to save their pets,” said Dr. Welch.

Dr. Welch says the actual process of donating blood is not uncomfortable for the patient.  While humans usually donate through veins in the arm, vets use veins in the dog’s neck.

“For us, we’d be horrified to think someone’s sticking a needle in our neck, but for dogs, it doesn’t seem to bother them at all,” Dr. Welch said.

And like humans, the donor dogs at the 1-20 Animal Medical Center get a treat after donation.

“We call it orange juice and a cookie, but it’s a can of dog food, that she gets after she’s been very brave,” said Dr. Welch.

The most important requirement, Dr. Welch says, is that the dog is pre-screened and healthy.

“Our pet donors have already signed up and been authorized to give blood. We know that they’re current on vaccinations, they’re on heartworm medication all the time, they have flea and tick control, and they’re young and healthy,” said Dr. Welch.

This medical center uses all volunteer donors, and the animals belong to staff members.  Client’s pets are not used as blood donors, Dr. Welch says.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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