"Where blood banks become important is when you have an overwhelming demand for blood, such as in specialty practices that do a lot of surgery or see a lot of emergency cases," Mackin explained.
Midwest Animal Blood Services, in Stockbridge, Mich., is one such regional supplier of canine and feline blood for transfusion. According to director Dr. Anne Hale, Midwest regularly sponsors local doggy donor blood drives. The ideal donor is a healthy dog under 8 years of age, weighing over 50 pounds, with a friendly disposition. Owners typically bring the dog in to donate blood once or twice a year.
"We want to make sure that [the dogs] meet the criteria as far as weight and age, so that we aren't unduly stressing their systems," Hale said. Vaccinations must also be up-to-date and the dog must be free of fleas and ticks, she added.
"And, like all blood banks who let volunteer donors participate, we check the dog's red blood cell counts, we may check their electrolytes, and make sure they are healthy that day," Hale said. "We do a physical exam, we monitor their temperature before the event and make sure there's no predisposing problem that we can foresee."
Dogs are different from humans, Hale said, in that they lack natural antibodies that can trigger blood mismatch reactions. However, once any dog has received one transfusion, those antibodies will be created, rendering a second transfusion much riskier unless a good match is found.
"But there are also 'universal donors' -- their blood type allows them to safely match with 98 percent of dogs in the U.S., even on second transfusions," Hale added. Certain breeds -- boxers, German shepherds, greyhounds -- are most likely to turn up universal donors. But Hale stressed that dog blood-donor drives typically accept all younger, large-sized
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