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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have or to volunteer your dog or cat.
I’m looking forward to your feedback!
Until next time……….