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Donor Dogs Give the Gift of Life
Date:4/18/2008

Four-legged heroes -- cats, too -- are maintaining the veterinary blood supply

FRIDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Like most of America's blood donors, JJ and Logan are unaware of exactly how many or whose lives they may have saved.

But over a three-year period, the two healthy Labradors donated blood more than a dozen times -- helping numerous canine patients survive surgeries and illnesses to play "fetch" another day.

The dogs' owner, Joanna Goriss of Deerfield Beach, Fla., has no regrets in volunteering her pets as blood donors for the nearby Sun States Animal Blood Bank, a nonprofit center serving Florida.

"You're helping out," she reasoned. "It's similar to giving blood as a person -- what benefit do you get for that? You're just doing a good thing."

And just as it is in human medicine, the demand for blood transfusions for veterinary procedures is very real, one expert said.

"There's a significant need," said Dr. Andrew Mackin, an associate professor and service chief of Small Animal Internal Medicine at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Severe injuries occasionally need blood transfusions, but more often dogs commonly need transfusions for different reasons," said Mackin, who is also past president of the Association of Veterinary Hematology and Transfusion Medicine. Those reasons include illnesses involving chronic anemia or clotting disorders, bone marrow diseases, and major surgeries such as removal of the spleen or a spinal surgery.

Too often, Mackin said, dogs also make the mistake of consuming rat bait containing the anticoagulant warfarin, which can lead to a massive loss of blood.

"So, there's a steady need for blood that is similar to the everyday need in people," he said.

That need is currently being met with a patchwork system that involves in-house transfusions performed at local clinics (some larger veter
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