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Collecting blood for animals-in-need

Doug Ramsay photo

After being bribed by a handful of dog treats, Braden, a 10-year-old retriever patiently lays on the exam table at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital as technician Samantha Mount (right) demonstrates how a blood donation collection procedure is done while Dr. Nina Griffin (left) and technician Sharlin Frisbee keep Braden still.

SNOHOMISH — In the U.S., it is estimated that every two seconds, someone is in need of a blood transfusion. It is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries, according to the American Red Cross. 
The family pet benefits from blood donations the same as people do, and pet blood donors are in high demand. 
“It is a huge benefit,” said Dr. Nina Griffin, manager of the blood donor program and ER doctor at Pilchuck Vet. “It helps save a lot of our patients’ lives and it’s a good way to contribute to those patients.”
Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital (PVH) is seeking eligible cats and dogs to join the blood donor program. Animals often require the blood of donors as much as humans do; the hospital has offered a blood bank for cats and dogs for more than 10 years.
One donation of blood from a healthy cat or dog can save the lives of up to three pets in need.
“Were always working at extending our donor pool,” Griffin said. “There are a lot of different requirements and a very thorough screening process that we do here. That’s overseen by our pathologists, Dr. Sally Lester.”
PVH has a pathologist on staff that helps run the donor program.
“I think we’re the only clinic for that matter that has the pathologist on staff to help us,” Griffin said.
The difference between humans and animals donating blood is the lack of gratification from the animal donor. Animals do not understand they are saving the lives of other pets, but there are incentives for joining the donor pool.
“There’s a lot of good benefits in the program,” Griffin said. “Overall, I think it’s mainly about saving the patient. In emergency cases, we use tons of plasma and tons of blood for those (patients) that need it.”
Animals in the donor program receive an annual exam and screening tests: Complete blood chemistry, blood count, urinalysis and a fecal parasite screening. The tests are free of charge if donors donate a minimum of three times per year.   
According to Griffin, the pre-donation screenings done at Pilchuck Vet are the most thorough she’s seen.
Requirements for the blood donor program include the following:
Dogs must be between 1-7 years-old and a minimum of 50 pounds. Cats must be between 1-7 years-old as well, live indoors and weigh a minimum of 10 pounds. Eligible donors must be up to date on vaccines, never had a blood transfusion, in good health, currently on flea preventative treatments and must be spayed or neutered with known reproductive history.
“We’re really lucky to be able to offer that here and have a pathologist that we can work with,” Griffin said.
The donated blood can be turned into two products, according to Griffin: packed red blood cells and fresh plasma.
The red blood cells can be used to help anemic pets that require a blood transfusion, for instance, if a cat was hit by a car or dogs that have immune diseases where their body’s attacking its own red blood cells. Plasma is what’s left after the blood is spun down. It holds the majority of healing properties and clotting factors that can be used when a pet has suffered a heat stroke or in certain toxicity cases, stated Griffin.
Interested pet owners can join the donor pool by contacting the small-animal department at 360-839-2921 or emailing for more information.


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