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Dog 'heroes' donate blood, save canine lives, solve supply issues

Published: Wednesday, June 12 2013 1:06 p.m. MDT

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SALT LAKE CITY — The very first Utah canine blood bank is now saving dogs’ lives and solving local veterinary supply issues across the valley.

Until recently, Utah veterinarians would have to order canine blood products from out of state, which often caused limited access and supply. But now, Salt Lake City has a dog blood bank for all local veterinarians, thanks to Canine Blood Heroes.

The Idaho-based dog blood bank founded by veterinarian Adam Petersen hosted a recent dog blood typing clinic at Salt Lake City’s Advanced Veterinary Care. Dog owners brought in their furry family members as potential donors to the local doggy blood supply.

“We’re just really excited to have this program in Salt Lake — to have dogs saving other dogs’ lives, and that we’ll be able to provide the best medicine possible because the blood will be right here in Salt Lake,” said Advanced Veterinary Care’s hospital administrator, Anne Cordts.

If 16 to 20 of the 34 dogs whose owners offered their blood for testing this past weekend are determined to be appropriate donors, Salt Lake City should have a great start to its canine blood bank, said Petersen.

Dogs have blood types just like humans, and breeds like greyhounds, sight hounds, boxers, Doberman pincers and pit bulls commonly act as universal donors, Petersen said. Appropriate dog donors also need to be 1 to 7 years old, weigh more than 50 pounds and be free of disease.

As the local blood bank grows, Petersen said he expects the number of canine blood transfusions to double, due to the increase of treatment possibilities available to veterinarians with the blood supply easily at hand.

“The biggest problem we have in this country when it comes to blood transfusions is access,” Petersen said. “If you can give access to the veterinarians who don’t have it, you will find more blood will be used, more lives will be saved, and more animals will be treated for life-threatening conditions.”

Jeffery Simmons, an emergency and critical care doctor at Advanced Veterinary Care, said he was relieved when he found out about the new Utah dog blood bank, since delayed shipment and low supply issues have been problematic in the past.

“I can’t tell you how many times we are desperate in the middle of the night without blood, and so it’s very helpful just to know they’re going to be here,” Simmons said. “A lot of our cases come in with dire and sudden need for transfusions. … So, the ability to have that immediately available is going to benefit everyone.”

Both veterinarians and pet owners are benefiting from the blood bank in multiple ways. While veterinarians don’t have to pay as much for out-of-state shipping, each time a dog successfully donates blood, his or her owner will receive a $50 credit for veterinary care, Cordts said.

However, most dog owners participating in the program do so for humanitarian reasons: to save the lives of other dogs, Petersen said.

“It’s those owners that are very bonded to their animals, they take the life of these guys very seriously. They seem to be the ones most drawn to the program,” he said.

People owning dogs that match the universal donor breeds and are interested in the program are always encouraged to bring their dogs in to be tested for approval, Petersen said. Once the hospital approves roughly 24 dogs for blood donations, other approved dogs will be listed for future donations.

Pet owners interested in participating in the program can call Canine Blood Heroes at 208-346-2542 or email caninebloodheroes@gmail.com for more information.

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

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