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Blood-giving dogs, owners take part in vet’s mission to help

When Tai Shan, a 3-year-old German shepherd, left the examination room wearing his brand new bandanna, everyone in the waiting room at Lincoln Heights Veterinary Clinic applauded him.

His owner, Karen Sanborn, just had him screened to see if he was a good candidate to donate canine blood to the Pet Emergency Clinic of Spokane.

“I thought it would be a good thing to do,” Sanborn said. Tai Shan is a patient at the clinic and she saw fliers about the Dog People Blood Drive, held Saturday afternoon.

This is the first time the veterinary clinic has hosted a blood drive, which benefits dogs in need of a transfusion in cases of trauma or poisoning. The event also aimed to spread the word that dog owners can sign up for such donations any time through the Pet Emergency Clinic.

Kate Gardner, a licensed veterinary technician at the emergency clinic, said if a dog does ingest rat poison, it can be up to two days before it starts showing symptoms. When that happens, a transfusion can help.

There are many canine blood types, and Gardner said they generally collect the five main types to store at the emergency clinic.

At the blood drive Saturday, dogs that came in were screened to see if they are good donor candidates. Not every dog can. They must be healthy, between 1 and 6 years old and weigh more than 60 pounds.

When they are screened, a little bit of blood is drawn for typing and screening. Technicians also shave a little bit of fur from the dog’s neck to see how they react to the clippers, and they check the dog’s temperament to see if the animal will sit still for 10 minutes.

When the dogs come back to donate blood, Gardner said, they often are sedated a little, as few are able to sit still long enough for the procedure.

The blood drive was organized by Jessica Osborne, an employee at Lincoln Heights who is training to become a veterinary practice manager. Part of the process of that is some sort of community outreach. She read about a clinic in New Jersey that held similar blood drives and knew the Pet Emergency Clinic accepts donations.

“My own dog donates,” Osborne said.

She teamed up with Inland Northwest Blood Center and brought the mobile donation center to the clinic so owners could donate along with their dogs.

Elizabeth Giles, marketing officer for INBC, said this was the first time they have teamed up with a vet clinic for a donation day, even though the center teams up with thousands of businesses every year to collect blood.

INBC serves more than 35 hospitals and medical centers within a 150-mile radius of Spokane and needs at least 200 donors every day to meet the needs of patients in the area.

The blood center does the same screening of blood before someone can donate, but Giles joked, “We don’t have to worry so much about disposition.”

A typical human donation can help up to three people. A typical canine donation can help up to four dogs, depending on the size of the dog.

The emergency clinic can store up to 20 units of canine blood. It’s used both for dogs brought into the emergency clinic and local clinics that need help with their own patients.

While the Pet Emergency Clinic can collect and store its own canine blood, it sends out for feline blood and keeps a small amount on hand just in case. Cats need to be heavily sedated before they can donate.

Nineteen dogs were signed up to be screened as donors Saturday. One of them, a 5-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback named Anky, is owned by Susan Wilkins.

Wilkins said Anky generally doesn’t like to go to the clinic but was sporting her donor bandanna anyway.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Wilkins said of the blood drive. “Think of how many lives it could save or help.”

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