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Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pets help Lake City blood bank save lives

Seattle Times staff reporter

Pet-blood donations


Animal Critical Care & Emergency Services is looking for dog blood donors. Dogs must be:

• Over 55 pounds

• Between the ages of 1 and 5

• Good-natured and healthy

• Screened for infectious diseases, heartworm and kidney or heart problems

For more information, call Animal Critical Care & Emergency Services, 206-364-1660.

Cory Reagan panicked as he steered his car through rush-hour traffic, his chocolate Labrador retriever, Beau, bleeding in the back seat after impaling himself in the throat while playing with a stick.

Reagan said he's lucky an Internet search directed him to an emergency-veterinary clinic in Seattle that specializes in injuries involving serious blood loss. Within 24 hours, staff members at the Lake City clinic gave 3-year-old Beau two transfusions of blood they had on hand.

"It was basically like a gunshot wound," Reagan said. "The volume of blood he lost was pretty unreal."

Beau is back home again chasing sticks, but the staff at the Animal Critical Care & Emergency Services clinic is desperately seeking dogs and cats willing to donate to its fledgling blood bank.

When the clinic opened in September 2003, the staff was determined to operate King County's only pet-blood bank there. Since the bank opened last June, the clinic has taken donations from 25 dogs and 23 cats — a total of 152 units, or 68,400 milliliters, of blood. A Staffordshire terrier owned by one veterinary technician has donated more than 30 times.

"The benefit of having our own bank is it allows us to always have blood on hand," said veterinarian Beth Davidow. "There are several national blood banks you can buy from, but they are on back-order."

Davidow said the clinic is trying to model the blood bank on one at Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland. According to its Web site, Dove Lewis provides enough blood for 1,000 dog and cat transfusions each year.

The Lake City bank isn't the first in Western Washington. Bellingham veterinarian Edmund Sullivan opened Northwest Veterinary Blood Bank three years ago. The Lake City and Bellingham banks remain the only ones in Western Washington, he said.

Before dogs and cats are allowed to donate to the Lake City blood bank, they must be tested for infectious diseases and can't be on any pain medications, said veterinarian Suzanne Endicott. The clinic has turned away nearly 20 dogs because they didn't meet the criteria.

Pet owners whose animals qualify are asked to bring their pets in every three months, or as often as every month, for at least three years.

"We want 12 donations per dog," Endicott said. "Each donation has the potential to save three lives. That's pretty significant."

Endicott said the bank is most desperate for dog donors because it seems to go through much more of their blood. In both dogs and cats, blood is drawn from the animals' necks; dogs aren't anesthetized for the procedure, but cats are.

Dogs have two major blood types: positive and negative. Endicott said positive is the most common. Cats' blood types are categorized as A and B, with A blood being the most common.

Late last month, the clinic desperately needed cat blood and had to ask a technician to volunteer her cat, Peeps.

The staff used 7-year-old Peeps' blood immediately to help a customer's elder house cat that was suffering from a barrage of health problems.

Judy Stoehr, of Ballard, said her cat had an abnormal cell count because of a kidney infection and pancreas problems. The cat, Cori, perked up almost immediately after receiving the transfusion, Stoehr said.

"She's always one that if you touch her she starts to purr. After the transfusion, she was much more alert and peppy," Stoehr said.

Like Reagan, Stoehr said that when offered a transfusion for her pet, she did not hesitate even though transfusions at the clinic can cost nearly $400.

"I felt I needed to give her the best chance to survive that I could," Stoehr said. "People are looking at their pets as part of the family."

Since the clinic opened two years ago, it has performed 270 transfusions; since January, 51 transfusions. Endicott said it's only a matter of time before the need for transfusions exceeds the amount of blood available at the large nationwide pet-blood banks.

When they aren't relying on their own bank, Animal Critical Care & Emergency Services purchases dog and cat blood from four major banks in the U.S.: two in California, one in Maryland and another in Michigan, Davidow said.

As he and his wife restrained one of their golden retrievers during her second blood draw last month, Bob Schrader of Mill Creek said, "We've had such a great time with these dogs that we felt like we could give something back."

After the nearly 10-minute procedure, Molly was lifted off the examination table, where Max, the couple's other retriever, sniffed at her. Both dogs were then given treats and plush chew toys, which all dog donors there receive after completing a blood draw.

"Judging from their personalities, they would want to give something back," Schrader said.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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