Calling all Superhero Dogs and Cats 

November 29, 2016 

From the Desk of Dr. Voorheis

Now that we are moved in to our fantastic new hospital and starting to settle a bit, I thought it was time to “revive” my blog efforts and a timelier topic there couldn’t be! Have you ever wondered what would happen if your dog or cat needed a blood transfusion? Did you even know that this is possible? Maybe you have been faced with this situation or perhaps you’ve known someone who has. It’s a serious crossroads in an animal’s life and when blood is needed to support an animal in dire need of transfusion, time is of the essence. So, I’ve decided that I would write this blog about blood transfusions and blood donation and provide some background about why we do transfusions and how they work. I’ll also be enlisting your help toward the end of this blog, so please stay tuned.

Most people are unaware that animals sometimes require blood transfusions. You might wonder why an animal would need blood, There are several instances where an animal would need blood or at least a component of blood. Component you ask? Well, blood is made up of several different components. We will talk about that next. For now, let’s talk about why an animal would need a blood transfusion.



There are many indications for transfusion. The most common reason is anemia, which can be caused by many different factors, and yet many anemic animals do not need to be transfused. Factors to consider include the cause and chronicity of the anemia, quantity and rapidity of blood loss and existing co-illnesses. Now we need to talk about those components that make up “blood”. Blood is composed of Red Blood Cells (RBC), White Blood Cells (WBC), Platelets and a liquid called Plasma.

Depending on the patient’s need, transfusions may be FWB (fresh whole blood) or WB (whole blood). FWB has clotting factors and platelets that may be needed in a given situation. From time collected, FWB needs to be administered within 24 hours, or it is called WB. WB may be stored (refrigerated) for up to 35 days prior to use. We also use pRBC (packed red blood cells) instead of WB.


You’re probably familiar with the Red Cross and the blood donation drives that they do to collect for the human blood bank. You’ve probably heard about “blood type” and “being a match” for blood transfusions and even bone marrow donation. But does this apply to dogs and cats too? You bet! Under normal circumstances, we type and crossmatch our patients with our donors. So, is a dog’s blood different from a cat’s blood? Good question, and the answer is yes! Let’s talk about Canine and Feline blood groups.


Blood groups are based on the presence of particular antigens on the surfaces of red cell membranes. At least a dozen blood group systems have been recognized but the three most important clinically are dog erythrocyte antigens (DEA) 1.1, 1.2, and 7. Dogs, unlike humans, do not have naturally occurring antibodies against blood group antigens. Therefore, they can only acquire them after receiving a transfusion or after pregnancy.  Transfusion reactions can occur if blood positive for DEA 1.1, 1.2 or 7 is transfused, so donor dogs should be negative for those antigens. However, in practice, clinically relevant acute hemolytic transfusion reactions are extremely rare in dogs. Transfusion of blood from a donor who has not been typed and has never been pregnant to a recipient, independent of their blood types is generally safe.

Blood groups in cats include type A, B, and AB. Cats tested in the United States have almost exclusively been type A. The prevalence of type B cats varies from region to region and among breeds. Breeds in which 15 to 30% of the cats are type B include Abyssinian, Birman, Himalayan, Persian, Scottish Fold, and Somali. Breeds in which more than 30% of cats are type B include British Shorthair, and the Devon Rex. Fatal transfusion reactions can occur in type B cats receiving type A blood. It is best if cats are typed and cross matched before being transfused.



 So why all this talk about blood transfusions? The answer is fairly simple. We need donors. Dog and cat donors. We need superhero cats and dogs who are ready, sometimes on short notice, to save another dog or cat ‘s life. Some of our clients have heard of an organization called Hemopet, which is a nonprofit blood bank and animal rescue in Garden Grove. When veterinarians need to buy blood from Hemopet, we are charged $400.00 which is not a very affordable option for our clients. So, what we are looking to do is to build a blood donor bank of our own. Our practice has always been so family oriented and our clients have always been so loyal and so considerate and gracious with each other, that we thought it would be a perfect match (pun intended)! In years past, we kept a couple of great dogs as transfusion dogs here at the hospital. They were treated as hospital pets and were walked daily, brushed, groomed and given lots and lots of TLC. One of the last of the donor dogs is currently living out her life with my crew in the Voorheis household. Chelsea has donated blood to dogs in need more than 100 times in her lifetime. At age 12 I think she has done enough and she’s been living with me for over a year. With our practice growing so rapidly, we need to be ready to serve our clients with a fresh blood supply when it’s needed.


So, I am trying to gauge interest in developing a team of donor dogs and cats. I’d like to have 50 dogs and 20 cats on our donor list. We would pay for getting your dog or cat’s blood typed. We would also pay for an in house CBC (Complete Blood Count) which tells us about your pet’s overall health. We wouldn’t call often, but we would like to know if there is any interest in having your dog or cat donate blood and be part of a special and select group that save lives. I would say the we would probably draw from 4 dogs every three weeks; with the dogs that had donated last being rotated to bottom of volunteer list. The dogs that donate q 3 weeks – their blood would be used as WB (whole blood donation) – the rest would be on a list that staff would call in the event we had need for FWB (fresh whole blood). This group of dogs and cats will receive recognition on our website and in the lobby with photographs. We are also creating bumper stickers for the pet parents of these special dogs and cats. Being a blood donor is a big deal and we know pet parents will be very proud to sport a bumper sticker that says “my dog/cat saves lives by donating blood to animals in need”.

A donor dog needs to be 70 lbs in size or greater and no more than 8 years old. A donor cat needs to be at least 10 lbs and no more than 8 years old. Cats would be typed as well at no charge and then a call for a WB unit donation would come once every 3 weeks if we had a group of say 20 cats. With those numbers, the chance of a call comes once a year.

So, who’s in? What do you think? Those who are interested can send an email to   with any questions you may have or to volunteer your dog or cat.

I’m looking forward to your feedback!

Until next time……….

Dr. Voorheis

Musings, Coyotes and Snakes

Musings, Coyotes and Snakes

June 19, 2014

From the Desk of Dr. Voorheis


As I sit here typing and wondering about writer’s block, I am also reflecting at the success of the blog over these first six months. The blog has (so far) accomplished exactly what I intended for it to do. I will acknowledge it is still a work in progress and I haven’t exactly been consistent with it over the past few weeks, but overall I am pleased with the effort. Some topics I have tackled have been a bit more intense than I had originally planned, but I think most have been right on target. I’ve also been able to get a little more personal and invite you all to get a glimpse of a different side of Dr. Voorheis. Those entries seem to be the most popular. So I’m reminded of Sally Field……you like me…you really, really like me! I crack myself up!

Looking forward, upcoming topics will include pain management, gastrointestinal disease with a focus on IBD, pancreatitis, gastric dilatation-volvulus, physical rehabilitation, diabetes mellitus and an extra special one on cancer. On a personal note, look for an upcoming topic on “aquaponic gardening” which is another passion of mine. I will also update everyone very soon on the progress of our new building, a project which has been two years in the planning and is getting closer and closer to fruition. Of course, this does take a great deal of my time and thus the delayed blogs of late. I can’t blame all the delays on critter care. I will say that the new building will be something to behold and I know you will all enjoy it a great deal!

 This week I have a shorter blog than those of recent weeks. I actually have a couple of warnings for all the WBAH pet parents. As you know, we are in the midst of a drought here in Southern California. This will not be a blog to lecture you about conserving water. I will leave that to your own common sense. So I won’t mention things like switching to native landscapes and sweeping the driveway instead of washing it down etc. No, this blog is a reminder that we share our suburban lives with wild animals. How does that tie in with a blog written by a veterinarian? Well, the wild animals that normally do not impact us too much are leaving the hills in search of water and food. Sadly, cats and dogs qualify as a food source. This week alone, we have had 4 animals attacked by coyotes. It is beginning to feel like coyote attacks are coming close to outnumbering dog bite wounds. Coyotes do not attack to win a fight and wander off. They attack with the intent to make a meal of your dog or cat. I suspect we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. As I drive through Whittier, there is always a sign or two about a missing dog or cat. Sadly, a significant number of these missing cats and small dogs have probably fallen victim to being carried off by a coyote. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal hunters but MANY daytime attacks have been documented as well. In fact, a rather old documentary shown on public television many years ago showed that coyotes around Griffith Park in Los Angeles have long adapted their lifestyle to suburban life in the communities surrounding the park. They begin their hunt as people leave for work. Most of our Whittier area coyote attacks are in the evening and over night, but not all of them are.


Prevention of coyote attacks:

1. Cats – Keep your cats inside – this one is foolproof. Indoor cats do not get eaten by coyotes. For those cats that must go outside or remain indoor/outdoor cats, please understand there is a risk. I’m not saying all cats must be kept inside. I’m saying that there is risk for a cat to be outside. The longer the cat is outside, the risk will of course increase. Cats that spend the night outside are in the highest risk group. In Whittier, the risk is greatest up near the hills. The neighborhoods surrounding Uptown Whittier, Friendly Hills and La Serna HS are probably at the highest risk. However, we have seen coyote attacks in neighborhoods below Whittier Blvd as well. Coyotes are not adverse to trotting down our streets. They can easily use the green beltway as a conduit to cross busy streets and access neighborhoods you would not think they can get to.

2. Dogs – the smaller the dog, the greater the risk. The highest risk dogs are dogs under 20 to 25 lbs. Small dogs might think they are tough, but are no match for a coyote. Most coyote attacks on dogs are small dogs being attacked in their backyard at night. Coyotes have no difficulty hopping a 5 foot fence. Many clients think their dogs are safe in their own backyard but that is where most attacks occur.  Keep an eye on your small dogs when they are out in the backyard. On that final trip outside at night to go potty, go with your dog. Don’t leave food outside, pet or human. If you feed outdoors, feed only what the dog can eat in a few minutes then pick up the uneaten food. If your dog is leaving food in the dish, you may be feeding too much. That’s a subject for another blog which I believe I have already written. Remember the nutrition blog? The point is that uneaten food will attract wildlife. Everything from ants to possums, raccoons and coyotes. Always leash walk all dogs. Don’t let small dogs walk off leash.  As a matter of fact, don’t let big dogs walk off leash either.

A number of years ago, we had clients who lived just off a golf course. They enjoyed strolling in the evening with their small dogs on the fairway that was near their home. As the two small dogs scampered ahead of them, no more than 100 feet from the owners, a coyote dashed out from the bushes lining the fairway, grabbed one of the dog’s and took off. They never saw their dog again. Don’t let this happen to you. If a coyote grabs your pet and you witness it, do all possible to make a lot of noise. Yell, scream and give chase because there is a chance that the animal will drop your pet. We have had a number of clients save their dog’s lives by chasing the coyote off. Now, I am not advocating getting into a physical confrontation with a coyote but sometimes startling the coyote will make them drop their prey. Treatment is obviously based by what and where the damage is on your critter.



This spring has also produced the greatest number of rattlesnake bites we have seen in a number of years.  It is estimated that about 150,000 dogs and cats are bitten by snakes each year in this country. The vast majority of these snake bites (99%) are bites by Crotalidae. By what? Pit vipers. The family Crotalidae includes rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins. In our neck of the woods, it’s the Western Diamondback rattlesnake.

The venom is a complex mix of bioactive enzymes and peptides. Some of these enzymes aid in spreading the venom through the tissues. Other enzymes in the venom lead to coagulopathies (clotting problems) and tissue necrosis. The venom damages small blood vessels called capillaries and causes them to leak red blood cells and plasma. This accounts for the swelling and bruising. Snake bitten dogs suffer from clotting problems (coagulopathies), low platelet numbers (more bleeding problems), pain (snake bites are PAINFUL), and renal failure. If the dog is unfortunate enough to be bitten by the Mohave Green rattlesnake we can add neurotoxicity to the mix as well.

The severity of the signs directly correlates to the amount of venom introduced into the dog or cat. Snakes have control over how much venom they release. The more they feel threatened the more they release. Most snake bites occur on the head and face. Dogs frequently investigate with their nose. Curiously, cats will often be bitten either on the face or the front feet, because they also investigate with their feet. The symptoms include fang marks (sometimes hidden under the hair coat), swelling, edema and considerable pain. We will also see redness and bruising. Did I mention pain? Swelling worsens with time. Upon presentation at the animal hospital, we will run laboratory work, including clotting profiles. These may need to be repeated depending on response to therapy. Treatment includes treatment for shock, fluid support, and pain management. The cornerstone of treatment is antivenin which works by neutralizing venom. The sooner it is administered the better. That is not to say a dog that doesn’t receive antivenin won’t survive. Many still do survive, but the best chance for survival is administering antivenin as soon as possible. Other medication may be used at the discretion of the treating veterinarian depending on severity of signs.

copperheadsnake                     diamondbackrattlesnake

Copperhead Snake                                                                       Diamondback Rattlesnake


Water Moccasin Snake

Prevention of Snake Bites:

Keep dogs on leashes and closely supervised when in or near known or prime snake habitats. Cats are safest inside if you live in areas of high snake density. If you hunt with your dog in areas where rattlesnakes are known to be in abundance, enroll in a snake avoidance class. There is also a rattlesnake toxoid vaccination. Two doses are given about one month apart. We still don’t know just how effective this vaccination is. By that I mean if your dog has been vaccinated and gets bitten by a rattlesnake, I would not take that to mean you don’t have to rush your dog to a veterinarian. I would still advise immediate emergency treatment. The hope with the vaccination is that the dog would have less severe symptoms than one who had not received the vaccination.

 Well, that’s all I’ve got for this week’s blog. Certainly shorter reading than the renal failure treatise I wrote. Until next time……..

 Dr. Voorheis