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Blood Banks are Not Just for Humans
It seems that blood drives are going on everywhere all the time.
As a society we are aware that blood shortages are common at
hospitals around the country and that it is imperative that blood
is available for those who are injured or have to undergo surgery.
What we may not think of is that blood is also critical when
treating our family pets.
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences is more than aware of this need. In fact, they
have a blood bank that maintains an on-call list of available blood
donors for "fresh draw" components such as platelets and also
purchases and maintains a stock of other frozen/refrigerated
"It's important to have a supply of different blood components
available at all times because we are both a primary emergency
facility and a large referral facility," explains Mary Radcliffe,
Blood Bank Coordinator at Texas A&M's Small Animal Clinic ICU.
"We see high risk, critical cases which often require immediate
treatment. These types of patients may not even survive a 24-48
hour delay in receiving a particular component."
Volunteer blood donors are crucial to the supply the clinic has
on hand. Privately owned dogs and cats serve as blood donors, and a
friendly personality is a must.
"My dogs do search and rescue operations and are also blood
donors. It does require a time commitment because you have to bring
them in to the clinic if you are available when there is a need for
your dog's donation, but it is definitely worth it," notes Jaime
Greenway, a veterinary technician at Texas A&M University Small
Animal Clinic. "It makes me feel good that my dogs are not only
helping to find people, but are also helping other people's pets as
well." Both dogs and cats must be between one and six years of age,
spayed or neutered and in good health. Cats must weigh at least 12
lbs and dogs must weigh at least 55 lbs.
"Before accepting a dog or cat into the program they are blood
typed and then if they are suitable, they come in to the clinic for
a complete physical examination and blood draw to rule out any
medical problems," states Radcliffe. "They remain in the program
for approximately two years and may donate once every three
Right now there are 12 dogs and one cat that participate in the
program. All typing, testing and annual physical exams and
vaccinations for the donors are done at no charge to the owner.
"Between the commercial blood bank supplies which we purchase
and our volunteer donors we generally mange to cover our blood
needs, but holidays are always a particular concern. This is due to
the increased caseload as so many other facilities are closed,"
While the majority of the blood bank program's needs are
currently being met, many of the donor's owners are students who
graduate and move away with their pets. Also, as pets get older,
they may have to "retire" from the program based on age or they may
develop medical problems unrelated to being a donor that may force
them into "early retirement."
"I am always accepting new applications for the program," states
Radcliffe. "Interested people in the Bryan/College Station area can
contact me by email."
There are a variety of veterinary blood bank programs around the
country from universities to private clinics and commercial
businesses. If you are interested in volunteering your pet forone
of these programs, contact your veterinarian for more information
about what is available in your area.
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