Local vet opens blood bank for pets

November 18, 2010 8:29:25 AM PST
A local vet opened a blood bank for pets, and for your best friend, it could be a matter of life or death. The blood is now kept on site, so it is available immediately.

But six years ago, it would not be that easy or fast. The doctors back then had to call the nearest pet blood bank, and that was in the Midwest. They then had to request blood to be sent by overnight mail.

"And they would ask us to tell the story of the pet so they could prioritize whether the need was there, or if someone needed the blood ahead of us," said Dr. Don Costlow, of the Newton Veterinary Hospital. "So we were at the mercy of them."

And in an emergency, time is critical. Your pet could be dying, while someone possibly hundreds of miles away is making a life-or-death decision to determine if your pet will get the blood.

Dr. Costlow decided none of his clients would ever hang in that balance again.

Chowder, a dog, is one of the hospital's blood donating champions. She's gentle and patient.

"It helps to have them well behaved, because just taking the blood from them, it makes it much easier," Dr. Costlow said.

The doctor and blood technician scoop the pooch up on the table, while a nurse feels for a vein. They then shave a small square of fur and disinfect the area.

"So when we collect the sample, we're not making it a dirty sample or putting any germs in it," so when we give it to the patient it's nice and sterile," the technician, Michelle, said.

They insert a needle, and Chowder is quickly filling a bag. Whole blood lasts about a month. Several of their clients are now on the donor list, like Australian Cattle Dog/Terrier mix Dakota, whose mom rescued her and her brother Dierks from a kill shelter in Virginia.

"I thought, I'm a blood donor for humans, let my little girl be a blood donor for dogs," owner Stacia Zelick said.

The blood products are stored at the hospital, which is the region's only pet blood bank within 60 or so miles. Cat blood is taken and kept there too. Since it is an emergency, 24-hour shelter, Dr. Costlow says they can't have too many pet donors and owners who sign them up.

CLICK HERE for more on the blood bank and how you can get involved!